Whether it’s the first time or the seventh, bringing home a new baby really gets you in the feels. It is the most amazing journey; at once exciting, terrifying, euphoric, teary, heartwarming, scary and both emotionally & physically exhausting. In a nutshell, you’re having the most horrifically wonderful time of your life.
And then things get real.
Who would have thought the addition of such a tiny human, who has a lot of really positive attributes – like eyes which are disproportionately big, and staying put wherever you set them down – could also cause you so much anguish?
The moment you place your little bundle of love into the car capsule you suddenly don’t have the support from the hospital staff: those lovely nurses who are quite happy to keep an eye on your baby while you have a shower, or those delightful trolley ladies who set a cup of tea beside your bed or a hot meal on your tray. Your world is turned on its head and suddenly it’s all up to you and your partner.
If you’re lucky.
The thing is, not everyone’s partner is able to take time off work. And even if they can, not everyone’s partner falls into the ‘helpful’ category. At the end of the day, they’re probably just as lost and full of doubts as you are. I was.
I’ve been in the situation where, due to our location and being new to town, a baby had come into our lives without much support once we arrived home. It was hard.
Because, of course, the same things happen whether you have support or not: the baby needs feeding at stupid o’clock, phones ring just as you finally get them to sleep, sleep for the parents seems as elusive as sex for the parents, mum’s boobies can get mastitis, rashes and fevers sometimes happen, coffees go cold and suddenly the dump truck decides this is the month to start its run an hour earlier than the previous three years.
The difference a support network, a team of ‘Nightwatchmen’ if you will, can make, is the difference between an old black and white TV and a high definition plasma. It might be the same show screening, but with the latter you’ll know which Wiggle is which, without having to look too closely.
So while I experienced raising a baby without much backup, I’ve also had six kids with the full and willing support from a team of Nightwatchmen.
I know which experience was better.
Meals arrived, older children were taken out or for sleepovers, babysitting was an option, washing miraculously folded itself, the grass never got longer than three fingers high, and a loaf of bread was only a phone call away.
And it doesn’t have to be family giving support. Not by a long shot. The old expression, it takes a village to raise a child, doesn’t say anything about blood relations.
While it’s a little off topic, recently when Tracey was languishing about in hospital being all ‘look at me I’m nearly dying’ (so needy) our families absolutely stepped up, but so did our communities. So did our village; our Nightwatchmen.
Once again, meals arrived, older children were taken out or for sleepovers, babysitting was an option, washing miraculously folded itself, the grass never got longer than three fingers high, and a loaf of bread was still only a phone call away.
Another thing I learned was it’s hard to ask for help, so don’t wait until people open their mouths. Step up and be the Nightwatchmen they need.
But the question is just how can you help someone who’s set about raising a mini-them without barging in like Marie Barone? I recently asked the question on my blog and the responses show it’s amazingly simple.
These are some of the comments people made about their own experiences on the receiving end of wonderful:
“My mum ‘dobbed’ me into my best friend saying she was worried I was locking myself in. So my beautiful best friend invited us around for dinner and had lots of cuddles with Little Mr so hubby and I could eat dinner together.”
“They came over and cleaned my house while I was in hospital.”
“One of my friends was a midwife. I got really bad mastitis in the second and third weeks of breastfeeding – I was expressing pus. She came around and expressed for me. Lol. It was so weird, but so fantastic. She showed me how to hand express to gently massage the lumps out without increasing supply. It helped so much.”
“A lady from church came over every Saturday morning for several months and washed all our dishes and mopped the kitchen floor. She would even sometimes play with the toddlers to give me a chance to lie down and rest. I think it’s the small things that are the most helpful.”
“My first child had severe reflux and would only sleep if held upright on me. I went to my parents house every day and they took turns holding my son upright while he slept so that I could sleep.”
“Friends that ran my other two around so I could stay home with bub were a blessing.”
“My 17yr old nephew come to stay at our house to look after my 3yr old son. They played all day and slept in our double bed. He got soaked when my son wet the bed. But he just changed the sheets and they went back to sleep.”
“My mum and dad commuted together and, after the birth of my son, would drop in and help me out for half an hour at witching hour every weeknight on their way home.”
“Basically I was unofficially adopted into a Maori family when I was in my early Teens and they continue to this day to be a great support.”
“When I had my first, my lovely 6 year old neighbour took it upon himself to walk our dog and pick up the poop from the back yard each afternoon.”
“Food on the doorstep was awesome. Visitors who arrived with a pot of soup, noticed we were resting, put pot in fridge, did a few dishes and left – totally awesome.”
“We had a bubs 2 weeks ago, and the way our family had pulled together to make our eldest feel like it is the best thing in the world has been amazing. He’s gone on days out with his grandparents, received gifts and just generally received an enormous amount of attention at a time when we are struggling to give him as much as he needs. It’s been amazing!”
“Some of my colleagues took turns bringing food. And some friends just held my daughter so I could shower.”
“My mothers group bought us about five nights of hot meals around dinner time. My mum came over and hung out my washing and washed my dishes. Friends came over with milk and bread.”
“Mum used to take our son when he was a baby on Sunday’s to give me a break.”
“My mum was my savior, not only was she on call if i had any problems but would come after work everyday to take bub so I could shower, eat, clean, have a cup of tea, talk to another adult or just be a normal human for a few hours a day. Bub is 4 in May and still goes to Nanny’s every fortnight Friday night to Sunday arvo. They have such an amazing relationship because of it, and I get to have quality time with my partner.”
“Our wonderful church family (we don’t live close to family) dropped meals around for the first 4 weeks.”
“We had twins first, so gifts of food were the best! For subsequent children, friends and family who showed up to clean were the most gratefully received.”
“My husband’s brilliant executive assistant made us go out for a date night when our first was 6 weeks old. She and her husband babysat for us and it was the most thoughtful, amazing gift.”
Sometimes it’s as simple as being available for a chat, or delivering a decent cup of coffee. Sometimes it’s being a shoulder or an additional set of hands. With any community, be it friends, family, work, local or online, you get out what you put in.
I’d suggest when the chance arrives, whatever you think you might be able to do, go ahead and actually do it.
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“Raising a family on little more than laughs.”