2 Jul 2018

Settling in: Sleep deprivation hits the red

12:14 pm on 2 July 2018

Opinion - Week two: All is quiet in Sandringham where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford are enjoying some privacy with their newborn girl.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford with their daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford.

The new family of three leaving Auckland Hospital last Sunday Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Amidst the rain and hail there's been at least one primo fishing day and I wager Clarke looked outside wistfully but decided not to mention it.

The security team housed close by might be wishing they were back in former Prime Minister John Key's pool room about now, where there were year-round barbeques.

Instead they're intercepting calls from people asking if Clarke has any nappy changing advice.

The arrival of our First Baby girl, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, hit headlines around the world and gifts and congratulations flowed in from all corners of the globe including from the Queen.

A prime minister having a baby while in office is news, no doubt about it. New Zealand was the bright spot amidst a global hangover.

Last Sunday when the new family-of-three left Auckland Hospital, media filmed and waved them goodbye. It was time to let them be.

Jacinda Ardern's office signalled the rules of engagement early on, saying they want their privacy respected in these first six weeks, with the promise of one round of media interviews close to the time she returns to work.

Until then, it's in the nation's best interest to check their social media accounts regularly - even baby Neve has an Instagram account, unauthorised by her parents.

The prime miniature's arrival was like a fairy tale for my children, so why not make it real for them?

We were on our way home from swimming lessons one day when I asked if they'd like to drive by the prime minister's baby's house. It's actually kind-of on the way, I said, taking the detour.

But I couldn't locate the house. There were no paparazzi waiting outside in the drizzling rain, no media vans in sight. It was a normal suburban street of not much interest.

The kids were disappointed but I felt relieved. That's how it should be here in New Zealand, where a prime minister can have a baby and be left alone to read the daily Cabinet papers between feeding, burping and sleeping.

I hoped Jacinda and Clarke and Neve were all asleep. Any mother knows sleep is a sought-after but elusive currency.

Jacinda was duty bound to mothers to mention sleep in her first public appearance and she didn't disappoint: "We just wanted to say thank you, and we're all doing really well - sleep deprived, but super well."

Week two with a newborn is when sleep deprivation hits the red and you know it's not going to inch out for a long time.

Like many parents, we had an alarm set every three hours of the night as an alert to feed each of our three babies (now 8, 6 and 4 years old) just in case they or I slept through.

For our firstborn, perhaps because it was all so new, I'd wake in the night in a state of delusion, dreaming I'd forgotten to put him back in his cot, and start looking under the covers in a panic. If I'd had a fitbit sleep tracker back then it would've crashed.

Week two is also a good time to practice getting out of the house with a baby and visiting family is by far the safest option.

We made this pilgrimage to my parents' place for dinner, and I remember packing all the baby gear. We didn't take ourselves a change of clothes but we should have.

When you haven't mastered burping your baby, I guess the gas has to come out the other way. I should've known this, having experienced it in hospital.

But it was my husband's turn to change the nappy. He lifted up our son's little bottom and the movement propelled the gas out (on this note, surely pilates classes are 90 percent fart). A super-charged torrent of runny poo squirted from his tiny bottom. My husband had to wear my dad's clothes home.

Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford's social media accounts have been quiet on the baby front lately, but then there's only so much you want to share with the world.

Amy Williams is an Auckland-based journalist and mum of three young kids. In between the school and kindy runs, she writes about topics ranging from business to lifestyle.

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