Breastfeeding wasn’t easy for new working mum Jenni Kaifa. Without husband Mo’s support, and his extended leave from work, it might not have worked at all. By Brendon Smith.
Walking down the long drive to Mo and Jenni’s house in West Auckland, trees envelope the overhead space and it seems a long way from the traffic or crowds. Rocks sit among the hills and the sound of running water isn’t far away. That’s part of what attracted them to this house: peace, quiet and a form of escape from their busy jobs.
Jenni had worked hard to gain her highly respected role. Mo had also worked hard and had accumulated over ten weeks of leave.
In more ways than one the timing was perfect. The first person to hear their baby news was Mo’s mum – just before she left them, God bless her.
At a career peak and busy like never before, Jenni was able to work right up to the weeks before baby was due. Mo went to all of the obstetrician meetings. He was very involved and both remained calm. The well informed couple did not bother with ante-natal classes; Mo has plenty of young ones in his family, while Jenni was reading voraciously and swapping parenting magazines with work colleagues.
Mo remembers saying to his momentarily worried fiancé, ‘Even if this gets tricky, I know you’re going to be a great mum!’ Their pregnancy was relaxed and healthy, which is supposed to mean baby will arrive relaxed and healthy, right? Being over 30, Jenni knew that she’d better check in with a good doctor to cover all bases.
All was going well and then, at 33 weeks, thinking baby’s growth rate had slowed the doctor recommended a Caesarian. Just before term, on 14th March 2011, beautiful Liberty was born.
Both Mo and Jenni had great relationships with their mothers, so Liberty has all her grandmas’ names and most of the family elders said it was about time the typical late 30’s modern couple had their first child! Jenni was told she had made a perfect choice as all good Tongan boys were devoted to their families and apparently even do their share of household chores.
After a few days in Auckland maternity ward, the happy Kaifa family came back to the tranquil bush setting and cosy house. Late nights and long hours became the norm and both new parents reflected on how their parents must have coped with them as babies.
At times, when the effort of breastfeeding and lack of sleep were all a bit too much, Mo would tell Jenni how much he loved her, how she had a real mother’s touch and held baby warmly. He helped and did lots of the baby chores, but he warned her: ‘Don’t get any ideas of going back to work too soon, we’re going to need each other to do this properly’.
Mo was right and Jenni persisted with breastfeeding, despite quite severe discomfort. But, as Liberty was nearly three kg when born, her appetite demanded more. They supplemented her food and Liberty was soon back on track, plus she had mum and dad meal times now.
This allowed Jenni to resume a shortened working schedule. As Mo had eight more weeks off work, he needed to make the most of his daughter time. Almost all bath times and night feeds have been his domain.
A local midwife from the Holistic Babies group helped out, explaining the delicacies of baby appetites and appeasing the back at work mum. Knowing they were not alone was part of the answer and local ‘new parent’ groups could be a place to network.
Fathers are often only as involved with their children as mothers let them. In Mo’s background, however, as Jenni well knew, is plenty of time caring for
children. In Mo’s immediate family there are no less than 14 siblings, so Mo and Jenni are finally ‘in the club’. Not only did Jenni appreciate the in-house experience, she had no hesitation using it.
With a keen posse of family babysitters eager to help, Liberty will not be needing any actual ‘daycare’ for some time yet. Mo and Jenni attend family get-togethers and even one night out without baby! Mo has been described as a genuine romantic, even if it took him a year to propose!
Yes, maternity may be tricky, but Jenni is lucky. Mo knows his first job is to love his baby’s mother. He says he really believes in love, even if he knows there are going to be hiccups….
He has also noticed the change in Jenni’s work habits. For her first few cases, Jenni left the house, worked most of the day, then hurried home to catch up on mum fun. More recently Mo gets a call at least once a day, not just for him, but for mum to check in with baby.
With his return to work, Mo is going to miss his long days with his beautiful Liberty.
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