SHARING THE LOAD

From the beginning, you and your partner need to work out who does what. You can vary this to suit but, if the load is shared, it becomes possible to carry.

Sallyanne, mother of a handicapped little girl ‘The way we got through those bad months, with a sick baby, cold weather and a terrible house, was to help each other continually. My husband would sleep in another room and get a good night’s sleep. Baby Susan would wake up and have a feed perhaps six times a night. I could comfort her back to sleep by having her in my arms. When she awoke fully about 6 am, I would be exhausted from light and broken sleep, and my husband would come in and get her and change her, play with her and give her breakfast while I slept. He’d also supervise the other kids getting fed and ready for the day. Just when he was ready to leave for work, he’d wake me and I’d take over again. By then the baby would be ready for a mid-morning nap, so I could clean up the house, have a shower and eat some breakfast in peace.’

Wendy, 35 ‘When my husband Rob gets home from work, there is a time he takes with our son Jackson that I really enjoy. He plays with Jackson and they have a bath together. I can get tea and still have a bit of time to myself. We eat, then Jackson goes off to sleep and Rob and I have a couple of hours to be together and unwind.’

We once asked husbands in a couples’ com-munication group what they remember doing to help. Here are their suggestions:

– Bring home take-away food.

– Do the ironing — ‘I’m an Iron Man!’.

– Clean up the house when mother and baby collapse into sleep.

– Pick up as you go along. Tidy as you walk and never add to mess in the kitchen or dining room.

– Do a late-night laundry shift.

– Organise family members as baby-sitters.

– Play with or take out older children.

– Guard against unwanted visitors and diplomatically fend off intrusions.

– Buy an answering machine, so you can choose who to speak to.

– And finally.. .’We were older parents, and had always said that a baby would just have to fit into our routines, that there was no need for disruption in our lives. We wouldn’t let our lives revolve around a baby like these younger couples seemed to. Ha! The baby would just never sleep at night and had colic the whole time, and would scream with discomfort after a feed. The only thing that calmed him down was to walk with him over my shoulder for hours on end. When I stopped walking, he started screaming again. If I put him down, he woke up. I just want everyone to know that walking around the inner suburbs at 3 am with a bundle slung over my shoulder is what I want to be doing. This baby has not changed my life!’ (Much laughter from the group.)