24 Jun 2018

Returning home: Taking baby steps into motherhood

3:34 pm on 24 June 2018

Opinion - Week one: Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford have left hospital with their baby daughter and returned home. What next?

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

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford with their daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Saving the nation from graphic detail about the birth was your first mum-win. Tick.

Your head wants to hit the pillow, the baby needs a feed and Clarke is trying to remember where he parked the car.

Being practically almost a neighbour, you can take it from me that even on the short drive from Auckland's maternity unit to Sandringham there's room for disaster.

The first time my husband and I took this coming-of-age trip was eight years ago, yet it feels like yesterday. A combination of stitches (mine and not the laughing kind) and a crying baby took the gloss off our homecoming.

Any new parents heading home with a new baby would surely feel comforted by the knowledge a security detail is in close range and will be for the foreseeable future. It's the ultimate backup.

But how does a diplomatic security team prepare to protect a prime minister and her newborn? What's their code-name for the new baby? Have they done reconnaissance on highchairs at the local café?

Jacinda Ardern is the third female to lead our country and the first to be sworn in while pregnant. Jacindamania gave way to Jacindababymania when she announced the pregnancy last year, which has been reported on by more than 800 news outlets around the world.

Although the TAB couldn't take bets on baby names, one sure bet is whatever name they choose will be in the top 10 baby names next year.

Watch the PM's departure from hospital:

The world has watched while New Zealand debated whether a PM can also be a new mum. It's 2018 and the answer is yes, she can.

Her experience as a new mum will be as ordinary as mine, and as extraordinary as someone whose cat tried to send US President Donald Trump a message. (She first spoke to President Trump on speakerphone at her home and Clarke had to take away their cat because it was loudly meowing in the background.)

The bloopers continue with kids, one of mine once shouted to have his bottom wiped as I took a call from an editor (I have an open file of audio bloopers recorded during interviews to taunt my children with in later life).

This week we may be spared the birthing detail but for parents there's a camaraderie in a shared experience. We want to hear it's a wonderful time getting to know your baby, but it's also an intense and exhausting time.

We also want to hear the extraordinary anecdotes - will Clarke send a body guard out for nappies and rash cream? Which world leaders will wish them well?

The reality is, the first week with a newborn in the house is a blur of night waking, feeding, burping, crying (likely everyone) and nappies.

Clarke will want to go fishing on day three (even if she says yes, Clarke, don't go).

I wandered into motherhood somewhat blindly. I had no idea newborns could make so much mess.

My first experience of mayhem was on about day two in maternity care when I lifted my baby's little feet up to change his nappy, and a jet of runny poo exploded from his tiny bottom and splattered me and one entire side of the hospital room.

All my clothes and everything around me were marked - the curtains, the chair, the wall. It was about 2am, I had had exactly zero sleep, and I pushed the red button to call the midwife. She took one look and moved us to a clean room.

Now has that security detail factored in that scenario?

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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