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Illustration: Toby Morris for The Spinoff
Illustration: Toby Morris for The Spinoff

ParentsJune 21, 2018

Emily Writes: Dear Jacinda and Clarke

Illustration: Toby Morris for The Spinoff
Illustration: Toby Morris for The Spinoff

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford have just announced the safe arrival of their baby girl. She arrived at 4.45pm, weighing 3.31kg (7.3lb). Our parents editor sends her congratulations to the new parents. 

Dear Jacinda and Clarke,

I know open letters are naff but here we are. As we are a parenting section y’all knew we were going to write something. Trying to work out what, was the thing. You’ll be overloaded with advice over the coming … ummm … 18 years, so I figured I’d ditch any advice and just talk to you both.

As I write this, I have three babies sitting on the couch watching Octonauts. My son’s best friend stayed over and while they didn’t go to sleep until 10pm, meaning I didn’t get to watch terrible reality TV, sneaking in to see them holding hands while they slept made it worth it. I mention this because it really does feel like yesterday that I was in your shoes.

I remember our baby just four days old, in the car, my husband sitting with him, while I went to the supermarket to grab something. I remember walking the aisles and thinking, “I just had a baby. Do I look the same? Am I the same?”

I wondered if anyone could tell. It felt like there had been a shift, but was it visible?

Everyone will know you’ve had your baby and I hope you see that as a blessing. You are about to enter an unknown world that holds so much beauty, and along the way you’ll build your village. That people will know you’ve started your journey might mean you’re less isolated.

In the supermarket, I hope the smiles and waves you get are a reminder that your village is larger than most. From our bedrooms in the dark, willing our children to sleep, there will be many mothers and fathers thinking of you both and these steps you’re taking with your new baby.

Mothers-in-waiting will urge you on as they rub their bellies and imagine the life you’re beginning now. New dads, desperately waiting to feel a kick and wondering what the future looks like – I’m sure will hold you in their thoughts.

The hope-to-be mums and dads who know every baby is a blessing, that sometimes it feels as if it’s easier to catch a star than to hold a life – they will hold you dear.

The wonderful aunties and uncles and those with no calling to children, or those who just found it wasn’t to be, but who love and cherish the little ones around them will send a little wish in your direction. They’ll hope that you too have a support network of friends and whānau to help raise your baby.

Only the most loathsome and miserable begrudge a new family being born (so fuck them).

None of us can do this on our own.

I hope in the coming days you’re lost in wonder at your baby. Time moves so slowly and yet each stage moves on so quickly. Yesterday, my husband and I used to play Rock Paper Scissors over who got to push the buggy with our brand new baby inside. Today that no-longer-a-baby is insisting he should have ice cream for breakfast.

Times flies by and some days you’ll feel like nothing is right. The key to that balance is that balance is a myth. None of us can master everything – love will see us through when it comes to our parenting. We all have days when we think we’re failing. But then suddenly they’re almost six and everything can be fixed with that board game where you roll the dice and a plastic contraption hurls whipped cream all over your ruined couch.

You’ll be exhausted. But then they’ll say daddy or mama or cat and you’ll grab the camera and try to get them to say it again so you can send it to your family, friends, everyone you know while resisting the urge to say “LOOK AT THIS BABY!” Hopefully you will be surrounded by people as delighted by your child as you are (that’s quite easy to do I must say). They won’t say it again on camera. They’ll save it for 3am when you’re thinking you can’t go on. And you’ll go on.

Jacinda, when I met you years ago, you spoke about the women in your whānau who have inspired you. It inspired me, and the room of women listening to you, as well. All we can hope for in life is to change our corner of the world, to do something that helps another one of us continue. You have changed more than a corner, and already the example you are to your child is inspiring. But ultimately, I believe you’ll be inspired by your child more than anything. One thing I’ve found in being a mother that has surprised me is how much I learn from my children. I see the world the way they do, and my desire to create a world deserving of them is a powerful force in my life. You already seemed to have this drive, but I’m thrilled that parliament will have another reminder of how important it is to centre our next generation, to create a New Zealand that serves and encourages and provides for all of our tamariki.

Clarke, congratulations, what a lucky baby to have their dad at home, but also, how lucky you are to have this opportunity. I would say there’s no greater joy than being a stay-at-home parent but none of us think that when we are knee deep in poop. But, in the morning when they wake, and you’re exhausted beyond measure, your baby will smile at just the right time. All gums and dimples and you’ll feel like everything is perfect in the world. It might be fleeting but there will be moments like this so often, not losing them and always finding the joy is what helps stay-at-home parents along.

Together, you’ll do this (I’m sorry) and it will be as ordinary and extraordinary as you expect while also being more fulfilling than you thought possible. Today, congratulations. There’s nothing more precious than a new baby.

Love from Emily, and all the parents of The Spinoff Parents.

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