Baby whis­perer SHAR­LENE POOLE ex­plains how im­por­tant it is to ac­cept of­fers of help when rais­ing a child – some­thing she found she needed too, fol­low­ing the birth of her own baby

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS -

Baby whis­perer Shar­lene Poole on ac­cept­ing help­ing hands

IN TRAV­EL­LING AROUND THE world, work­ing in around 12 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, I’ve dis­cov­ered that ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers’ roles in car­ing for a baby are para­mount to rais­ing a child. And it is one of the most im­por­tant, val­ued and re­spected roles when it comes to the ar­rival of a baby. In Asian coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly, any new par­ent would not dream of bring­ing a new baby into this world with­out hav­ing a grand­par­ent there, of­ten liv­ing with them or stay­ing close by. They bring a wealth of knowl­edge that has been passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. Here in New Zealand, and in many Western coun­tries, the grand­par­ents’ in­volve­ment and sup­port is var­ied. We have such a vast range of cul­tures and sit­u­a­tions that there is no tra­di­tional way of do­ing things. Over my 25 years in the in­dus­try I have seen a grad­ual shift to less fam­ily sup­port and guid­ance. This is partly due to liv­ing in dif­fer­ent towns or coun­tries, and with many grand­par­ents choos­ing to stay in work for longer pe­ri­ods, they tend to be less avail­able. I have also ob­served that many new par­ents seek more ad­vice and sup­port out­side of the fam­ily and there seems to be an ‘I can do it on my own’ at­ti­tude or ex­pec­ta­tion.

Fam­ily sup­port

Hav­ing daily sup­port, no mat­ter how ca­pa­ble we are, is so im­por­tant and now hav­ing had a baby my­self I can see it from an­other per­spec­tive. I know how won­der­ful it is when you have the right per­son/peo­ple around, whether that be fam­ily or very close friends. It is in sim­ple things like mak­ing meals, fold­ing wash­ing or just chang­ing your baby’s nappy that make you re­alise how vi­tal it is to have an ex­tra help­ing hand in those early days. For me, I had broth­ers who came and of­fered help – a work­ing bee day in my gar­den, chop­ping wood and prun­ing trees – and Mum and my friends filled my freezer with meals for the days when I just wasn’t able to pre­pare some­thing nu­tri­tious. You can be in­cred­i­bly in­de­pen­dent and do ev­ery­thing on your own, but when you bring a baby, or ba­bies, into the world, you re­ally need to think about the whole fam­ily. Look­ing after your­self so you can be the best mother you can pos­si­bly be means giv­ing your­self time to sleep, eat well and bond with your baby. Only then can you think about your part­ner’s and other chil­dren’s needs, as well as the rest of the fam­ily. This is where, if pos­si­ble, al­low­ing fam­ily or close friends into your life in the early weeks, months or years with a baby or chil­dren can bring har­mony and peace through the time and love they can spare, giv­ing you more time to con­cen­trate on more im­por­tant, im­me­di­ate things. It can be hard for some women, as I have ob­served in my ca­reer. You may be used to do­ing it all on your own, not hav­ing to ask for help, be­ing to­tally in con­trol, and to be hon­est, I am one of those women!

Let­ting the help in

Since leav­ing home at 16 years of age, I have trav­elled, worked and lived alone, so I felt to­tally ca­pa­ble. But luck­ily for me, I have also seen how much this in­de­pen­dence can work against you when you’re sleep-de­prived or sim­ply phys­i­cally un­able to do much, like after a c-sec­tion. This kind of in­ter­ven­tion, can make some women feel like they are not in con­trol. So when I had to have my c-sec­tion four weeks ago, I had to al­low help. I had to sit and let fam­ily and my close friends do things for me. As hard as it may have been, when I look at the big pic­ture, it al­lowed me to eat well, to en­hance my milk pro­duc­tion, to rest and bond with my baby and it also gave me a pos­i­tive and peace­ful en­vi­ron­ment be­cause my house was kept tidy and clean, which is very im­por­tant to me and my men­tal health! My mother did not of­fer ad­vice un­less it was needed – that has been a learned skill be­tween us. We have learned to com­mu­ni­cate with each

You can be in­cred­i­bly in­de­pen­dent and do ev­ery­thing on your own, but when you bring a baby, or ba­bies, into the world, you re­ally need to think about the whole fam­ily

other: I have been hon­est and she has been able to take no­tice of what I like in terms of ad­vice and help. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key when it comes to the older gen­er­a­tion help­ing us. It is nat­u­ral for them to of­fer ad­vice but it is up to us to com­mu­ni­cate what type of help we need, rather than get­ting up­set and an­gry with un­wanted sug­ges­tions. In say­ing that, while some of the ad­vice from the older gen­er­a­tions might be out of date, it is al­ways worth lis­ten­ing to. There are of­ten gems of wis­dom within, and we just need to fil­ter what might be help­ful and what might be out­dated. Along­side the won­der­ful sup­port that fam­ily can of­fer, the bonus is that ba­bies and chil­dren can have spe­cial re­la­tion­ships with ex­tended fam­ily or friends, cre­at­ing trust, bonds and love out­side of their par­ents. I al­ways had both sets of grand­par­ents dur­ing my early child­hood, learn­ing skills and his­tory from them, as well as hav­ing love that was just as great but dif­fer­ent and ma­ture, con­sis­tent and less anx­ious. Sup­port doesn’t have to come from fam­ily ei­ther, it just needs to be some­one who is trust­ing and lov­ing. I play an ‘aunty’ role to many chil­dren, chil­dren who live away from fam­ily and with whom I love to share mem­o­rable mo­ments that will im­pact their growth and learn­ing for the fu­ture. Shar­lene Poole is an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed baby ad­vi­sor. Trained as an early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor, Shar­lene worked as a ma­ter­nity nurse in many coun­tries be­fore re­turn­ing to New Zealand and set­ting up her busi­ness Lit­tle Mir­a­cles. Her suc­cess in work­ing with fam­i­lies in their own homes has earned her the ti­tle of New Zealand’s Baby Whis­perer.

Five ways to ac­cept help

1 Start say­ing yes. This is the first step and can take some prac­tise.

2 Ban­ish any feel­ings of guilt about say­ing “Yes please”. Peo­ple of­fer to help be­cause they want to feel use­ful. “Yes please, a meal for the freezer would be won­der­ful.”

3 Don’t feel as though you are ad­mit­ting fail­ure by ac­cept­ing help. It may come as a sur­prise, but you can’t ac­tu­ally do ev­ery­thing and no one ex­pects you to. “Yes please, it would be great if you could vac­uum.”

4 Help comes in many forms. Un­til you’re car­ing for your new­born you will have no idea how tricky the sim­plest tasks can be­come. “Yes please, could you watch the baby while I have a shower.”

5 Hand your baby over. Some­times, just let­ting some­one else hold them for a while gives you a break.

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