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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Pop CultureFebruary 5, 2024

Call the midwife: Fresh leads in Shortland Street’s mystery baby search

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

There has been a new development in the curious case of Shortland Street’s missing baby. Alex Casey reports.

Last week a global search was launched to find the baby who appeared in the very first episode of Shortland Street, with the hopes that they might return to Ferndale in a cameo role. With very little go on apart from the episode air date and the evidence presented in the episode itself, we deduced that the baby was likely born in February or March of 1992, possibly on the North Shore of Auckland, and possibly has dark hair. 

Although we are yet to hear from the baby itself, there have been a few developments. One source revealed that their son was Baby Lucas, son of Nick and Waverley in 2000. Not the baby of interest but a baby of interest nonetheless. Someone else said they remembered a friend posting about being the Shortland Street baby, but that they were born in April, not February or March. A very promising lead, especially given the haziness around shoot dates. 

Tidbits aside, the biggest development came when the baby’s midwife shared her personal account of the historic shoot. Mary Clark was the midwife who appeared in the episode and delivered the mystery baby into the arms of Lisa Stanton. She was also working as a real midwife at the time at North Shore hospital in the delivery suite, and played a pivotal role in casting the mystery baby. 

“I took a somewhat odd phone call one day when I was on duty from a woman wanting to know if this was a place where she could find a new born baby,” Clark explained. “She went on to explain that she was casting for a new TV show and the first episode was to include a birth scene.” Describing herself as “always up for a challenge and some novelty”, Clark enquired around the postnatal ward and soon found a mother and baby girl who were about to head home. 

The mother was apprehensive about going into a shoot environment alone with such a young baby, and asked if Clark would go with her. The answer? “Absolutely yes!” 

Due to her expertise, Clark was in hot demand on set, which she recalled looked remarkably like a real hospital ward. The director at the time, Brian Lennane, asked her to coach actor Anne Cathie how to execute a believable birth. The makeup department asked for her assistance in making the baby look as fresh as can be, and when the other actors were nervous about dropping the baby, it became clear that Clark should just appear onscreen. 

She remembered only one part of the scene that wasn’t true-to-life. “When I suggested that a woman having a breech baby would not be delivered in a clinic and would definitely be transferred to a tertiary hospital, the director told me that this was TV and we didn’t need to let reality interfere with a good story.” Nevertheless, she had a “fun day” and, perhaps most importantly, “nobody dropped the baby.” 

Mary Clark, then and now

After they finished filming the scene, Temuera Morrison thanked her profusely for helping to make the scene look believable, joking that “the show might get canned next week” if it didn’t. “I don’t imagine that he would have foreseen the show’s current longevity,” said Clark. “Sadly I am still waiting for my call back to continue my acting career, but I have used this fun fact about my life in every silly group ‘ice breaker’ session I have ever done.”

And with that, she left one more clue: “I remember her and her mum as delightful and very patient on the day.” The plot thickens: are you a delightful and patient baby with an equally delightful and patient mum? Born in February, March or April in 1992 at North Shore hospital? Possibly dark hair, possibly a Pisces, possibly with a penchant for the limelight? If so, email publicity@southpacificpictures.com or send them a message here on Facebook. 

Shortland Street returns tonight, Monday February 5 at 7pm on TVNZ2.

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