Former What Now presenter Carolyn Keep welcomes miracle baby: ‘I’m so in love’
It only takes a glimpse at Carolyn Keep’s face to see how besotted she is with her 2-month-old son, Jasper James.
The former What Now presenter and Dancing With The Stars contestant is rugged up at home on a cold morning, little Jasper feeding peacefully, his doting mother gently stroking his soft, downy hair. As his long eyelashes flutter and he drifts off to sleep on her lap, Carolyn still can’t quite believe he’s real.
“I know so many mums find it really hard getting up for their babies in the middle of the night and I feel for them, but I’m just so in love,” the 40-year-old says, her eyes welling up. “I sit there and I’m like, ‘I’d never sleep again – I just want to be near you.’ Because he wasn’t even meant to be here.”
Turns out Jasper likes to surprise. Carolyn (née Taylor) and husband Wes, 40, had not expected to be able to have a baby after the TV presenter, MC and media personality was told, at the age of 36, that she was infertile and peri-menopausal, with too few eggs to conceive naturally.
When her younger sister, Joanna, offered to donate her eggs to help, the couple made plans to undergo IVF. But Jasper beat them to it with a positive test on Carolyn’s 40th birthday sending them into ecstatic shock.
Then, just over 36 weeks into what had been a dream pregnancy, she woke at 4am to find her waters had broken. “My gut feeling was that he’d come a bit early,” tells Carolyn, who was herself born six weeks before her due date and suspects her petite stature led the baby to run out of room to grow.
After a brief check-up at hospital, where everything was deemed fine, Carolyn was sent home to wait, so she and Wes did what anyone going into labour would do…
“I had one week left of work and Wes was in the middle of all these renovations around the house. He was like, ‘I thought I had three more weekends! Babe, do you mind if I make a bit of noise? Next time we’re home, I won’t be able to’.”
As Wes hammered the last few planks into the deck he’d built at the house they rent from Carolyn’s dad, the mum-to-be tried to dash off as many work emails as possible, her contractions growing more frequent by the minute.
Eventually, they returned to hospital, where the midwife discovered Carolyn’s waters hadn’t completely broken and the baby wasn’t facing the optimal way for an easy birth, putting to bed their plans for a Zen water birth.
But after just a few complications, 30 hours afterher first waters broke Carolyn delivered their baby boy, with Wes so intent on remembering the moment he snapped photos throughout. In fact, Wes was so busy capturing the moment on film, he almost missed his chance to grab Jasper as soon as he came into the world.
Then it was Carolyn’s turn to feel Jasper’s tiny body on hers, to take in his fair hair and fine-featured face that had looked so squashed in the pregnancy scans. She recalls, “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s here! He’s here!’ I was so euphoric that he was actually here and safe.”
A blissful four days at Birthcare followed, then it was time to bring their miracle baby home. Having never been a great sleeper herself, Carolyn wasn’t fazed by the prospect of night feeds. But there were tough times to follow.
“I left Birthcare feeling good,” she shares. “Then a couple of days into things at home, I felt something was off.”
Sensing Jasper’s latch wasn’t strong and that he wasn’t feeding well, coupled with her suspicions she wasn’t producing enough milk, Carolyn and Wes engaged a lactation specialist.
“He was quite weak and because he was so tiny, he wasn’t a strong feeder,” says Carolyn. “So between the two of us, we were a bit of a fail.
“That’s been the heartbreak area for me because you really want to be able to give your child everything they need. I just assumed ignorantly that because the pregnancy had gone so well, it would just continue.”
Carolyn’s specialist reminded her that despite carrying a healthy baby to term, her perimenopausal condition was likely playing havoc with her milk supply.
“There’s this innate thing where you need to exist to make your baby’s life as lovely as possible as they get used to being here and when the one thing you can’t do is feed them, it’s really hard. I was devastated by that.”
Carolyn persevered with the breastfeeding for six weeks, with formula top-ups where needed, but even her specialist was surprised she was still trying. Now that they’re supplementing Jasper’s feeds with bottles, things are much easier – and Wes gets to experience that invaluable bonding time too.
However, like many babies, Jasper has a sensitive tummy, which means feeds can cause him discomfort. Thankfully, Wes’ sister is a naturopath and has guided Carolyn to temporarily cut out dairy, gluten and a few cruciferous vegetables from her diet to see if it makes a difference.
The plan now is to enjoy every minute with their miracle bundle, with Carolyn taking maternity leave from her communications and marketing role at the Parnell Business Association.
Wes’ sales job – working in the trauma division for Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies – means he’s often on call, but Carolyn says he’s been an amazing, hands-on father. Once Jasper had become accustomed to the bottle, he encouraged Carolyn to go out and enjoy a friend’s birthday.
“I got all glammed up in my makeup and put a dress on, and I lasted an hour,” she laughs. “I just wanted to go home to my boys!”
Jasper’s conception came at a significant time for the couple, who separated briefly when it was discovered they might not ever have children, before realising they wanted to stay married with or without kids.
The pair have hit the usual speed bumps most new parents face, like the fatigue, the disagreements on why the baby might be crying and the mess – much of it captured on Carolyn’s Instagram profile @carolyntaylor_.
But Jasper has solidified just how much they both care about the same things. Carolyn explains, “It’s wonderful because Wes has always wanted to be a dad and I’ve always wanted to be a mum, but I talked myself out of it just so I could cope with not being one.
“I mean, you want to live a happy life and it wouldn’t be a bad life without kids – it would just be different. But to be able to watch Wes with Jasper, it’s pretty special. He’s just awesome with him. I can’t imagine being a solo mum or having a partner who isn’t engaged.”
While Carolyn’s happy to be hunkering down for now, her dad calling in for cuddles with his grandson from his place just across the road, TV viewers will still get to see the gregarious star jet-setting around the country when she hosts travel show How To Holiday on Choice TV, screening later this year.
Like the journeys the show promotes, Carolyn says she always thought she would be the type to encourage her child to go off and have their own adventures. “Like, get on your skateboard and go!” she says, laughing.
“I was always wary of being a ‘cotton wool parent’, but there’s this quote that having a child is like having your heart outside of your body. I always thought it was dramatic. Now I cry when I say that quote because that’s exactly how it feels!”
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