Five Week Storm

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The year 2020 will be memorable for many of us. My partner, Nelleke, and I had an especially memorable event in October with the arrival of Nina, our first child. We brought her home from a hospital birth in Halifax and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our distant families couldn’t come to visit us.

Frankly, I found the first five weeks with our newborn baby a frightening and bewildering experience. I used the word “awful” to describe it in my diary. We were caring for a newborn without having enough experience or training to know what we should be doing. There were troubles we knew not how to handle, and there was nobody with experience in our household or next door to come over and share advice and give us a sense of whether we were doing this right. YouTube videos could only help so much, especially in terms of emotional support. Our earlier hope that Nelleke’s parents would be able to come and help us was off the table because of travel restrictions.

We had challenges with breastfeeding that we struggled to cope with. The stress and worry that our sweet little one was not eating enough, coupled with the extreme lack of sleep, made it difficult to think clearly. Thankfully we were able to get help with an excellent lactation consultant, and we called on the public health nurse for advice. Facetime with Nelleke’s parents in the Netherlands gave us a lifeline as well. And we are so grateful that friends from Treehouse Village and others helped keep us going.

We got through this with a lot of help. At the start of the sixth week we witnessed what felt like a miracle as Nina got the hang of breastfeeding and began to consistently get enough to eat. We feel like we are in calmer waters now, having sailed through the storm.

This time of distress really showed us the value of a cohousing community. The houses haven’t even been built yet, and already the people in Treehouse Village really stepped up to help us. Members of our cohousing community sent us their support, love, food, baby equipment, clothing, and advice from their experience. During a lull in the COVID-19 numbers, we were able to see some of the nearer members in person to share stories from the trenches of parenthood and be assured that we were not alone and we were going to be all right. It was exactly what we needed.

The joys and challenges of parenting are going to continue and evolve for us as Nina grows. I feel a thousand times better knowing that we are going to navigate those ups and downs within a caring cohousing community. And if we have learned a few tips along the way, we are glad to share them with the next new parents.

Read Caitlin’s story: Neighbours before neighbourhood.

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