Life Event: new baby

Suddenly there is a small human for which you are responsible. The idea seems cute and fun and happy – but interrupted sleep is a torture technique. Hear the stories of two sets of new parents.

Agnes & Bernard A

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school?  Why did you like it?
A – It’s probably out of print now, but I remember loving An Alien at St Wilfred’s, by Adrian Plass.  It’s a little paperback about an alien that comes to a church in England in the middle of nowhere for a few weeks, and hangs out with a small group of people.  I love the way the characters are all so broken, yet they are able to love and support each other and to grow together.

B – I enjoyed reading the Deltora Quest books by Emily Rodda. I enjoyed the adventure, and the mythology of the books.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
We had (our first) baby.
What’s it like?
A – Insanely amazing.  The first week (birth, hospital time, coming home) was incredibly intense, but we’ve settled in now and life has a new normal.
B – It’s good. There’s a cuddly little baby who falls asleep on you!

What was a helpful thing someone did at that time?
People at church set up a meal roster, so we didn’t have to cook for about two months!  When friends and family had low expectations but still kept in touch.  One friend sent a message saying, “Hey congrats!  I have something for you.  Would love to stop and chat if that works, but am totally happy to drop it at the door if that’s what works best for you.”  Another came over and when offered a drink, got up and made tea for us both, found the biscuits, and even refilled the empty sugar bowl!  A family member from out of town was in town for a week and came over deliberately to sweep and vacuum and hang out washing and do dishes, not just to sit and cuddle the baby.
What was an unhelpful thing someone did at that time?
There were a couple of things that were really irritating.  Someone turned up on the doorstep unannounced, the day after we got home from the hospital.  My (mummy’s) emotional rollercoaster was too intense to let them in.  Also, there were a few people that spoke as though they understood our situation – things didn’t all go as hoped during the birth, and there were people afterwards who didn’t recognise that grieving for what I’d wanted was ok to do.
What would you want the people around you to know?
The first few days after bub is born are emotionally intense: don’t expect much, and tread lightly in whatever you’re doing/saying.  And while eventually parents will be only too glad to pass the baby over so they can get something done, in those first few weeks that’s probably not the case.  Mummy sometimes found it hard even to give up baby cuddles so that daddy could have a go! (Never mind grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other visitors!)
What ways could we love you in your present season?
Expect that things are a little bit different (sometimes it’s harder to get out of the house) but keep inviting us to stuff.  We know what will work and what won’t, and it may not be what you expect.

Agnes & Bernard B

What is a book or TV show you enjoyed in primary school? Why did you like it?
I loved reading the Anne of Green Gables series and reread the books almost every Summer holiday in High School. I loved the characters and really enjoyed journeying with them through the different stages and challenges of life.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
We welcomed a baby girl into our family 🙂 It was a fairly gruelling labour that ended with an emergency cesarean and later blood clots!

What’s it like?
It is an equally beautiful and harrowing experience! The beautiful side is easy to imagine, but I didn’t expect it to be so hard – physically, mentally, emotionally.

The sleep-deprivation hits you hard and the first few weeks (months?!) are a blur. We were surviving in a zombie-like state: feed, burp, sleep, pump, change nappy… and repeat. In this state, it was quite easy to feel overwhelmed and I was emotionally quite fragile. I felt small things much deeper than usual, simple tasks felt overwhelming and there didn’t seem to be any relief in sight.

Friends have told me about crying everyday for the first weeks and I never understood it until I found myself at the end of every long day (during the ‘witching hour’), feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, holding a crying baby and trying desperately to settle her.

This felt like the new norm and I often found myself thinking about how easy life was before, how much had changed and wondering if I’ll ever feel normal again.

And the fact is, no, things won’t ever feel ‘normal’ again – at least not as we had known.

Our whole life has been changed forever by this little life. Going out will no longer be a simple ‘get up and go out’. Going to sleep won’t be a simple ‘go to sleep and wake up in the morning’. Social outings will now be restricted by place, length and time. Even our identities have been completely transformed.

But it is a beautiful thing to watch our baby transform and grow each day. She brings us so much joy and we can’t imagine life without her.

What was a helpful thing someone did at that time?
Our family, friends and church were so lovely in how they practically served us. There were food rosters and food drop offs. Our laundry was taken care of. We had overnight help a couple of times a week so I could get some sleep. Friends even offered to clean our house!

What was an unhelpful thing someone did at that time?
Advice is good and helpful but only at the right time. In the early weeks and months, I felt a bit overwhelmed by everyone’s different opinions on everything – often unsolicited. These usually left me feeling discouraged or stressed because our baby wasn’t doing this or that, or I wasn’t following this method or that method. Over time, as I grew more confident in my understanding of our baby, I was better prepared in filtering these opinions.

What would you want the people around you to know?
My world shrunk so much from being in a very hands-on ministry to staying at home most days with our little girl. I found being a new mum quite lonely. There were initially lots of visits, but these waned as baby grew. I often felt housebound, I didn’t have the energy to initiate and I wasn’t able to emotionally connect with people with the same depth as before. Over time I felt forgotten and alone.

What ways could we love you in your present season?
Even small gestures like a message through the week would be a great reminder that I’m loved and not forgotten! Visits or outings would be even better 🙂 Being invited to events, even if I’m unlikely to be able to attend, is a lovely way of feeling included. And for Christians, reminding me that my identity is in Jesus, to keep trusting God and love Him.

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