Annette is very organised – everything in her life is planned and has its place. “My world is very put together,” she says. At only 30-years-old, Annette is in her second term as a Napier City councillor.
Elected when she was 25, she’s the youngest woman ever elected to the city’s council, is still the youngest councillor in Hawke’s Bay. She’s also the first woman to have a baby as a sitting Napier City councillor. Annette also works in environmental regulation for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, from which she’s currently on maternity leave.
“I have a very busy life. I love my work, I love being a councillor and I love being a mum. I love it all and everything gets the amount of attention it should.”
However, when baby Holly arrived in February this year to join her two-year-old “tornado” of a brother, Daniel, Annette found her usually organised and well-planned life seriously challenged.
“I had to have c-section because of a pregnancy-related condition and Holly was three weeks early. After five days in hospital we came home and for the first two weeks, with my husband Greg off work, everything was sort of okay. But Holly developed reflux and colic issues, which meant for the first four weeks of her life she woke up every 45 minutes. I could only sleep in blocks of 30-minutes, if I was lucky.
In the midst of it all, the first week Greg went back to work Daniel got sick and had to miss daycare. “That meant I couldn’t catch up on any sleep as planned. It all culminated in what was probably the worst week of my life: I hadn’t had any sleep for three-and-a-half weeks, I had baby who wouldn’t stop screaming and wouldn’t sleep, and a sick toddler who still had all his energy but couldn’t go to daycare,” she says.
“My poor husband would come home each night to a complete disaster and me in tears. I was always on the edge of losing it – and I’m not a cryer. I had such an overwhelming feeling of failure.”
Then a student midwife told Annette about Bellyful. “I wasn’t sure I’d be eligible, so we looked at the Bellyful website and applied. It still felt a bit inappropriate to ask for help so I got Greg to send the application. I neededn’t have worried. Within an hour or so someone from my local Bellyful called and said they’d pop around tomorrow. And they did – they dropped off a couple of meals that became a dinner and two lunches.”
Those two meals may sound like a small thing but Annette says it took a load off. “I kept the dinner in the freezer until I’d had a day where eating had completely gone off the radar – a day when the only thing I could focus on was consoling this new person in our lives.
“Being able to take a meal out of the freezer meant I felt like I’d achieved something for the day, even if it wasn’t really me who’d achieved it. It meant that for one day Greg didn’t have to come home from work and make dinner as well. It was one thing less to worry about – one less thing to face in my day. I was so grateful.”
Words by Lee-Anne Duncan of Community Comms Collective
Photos by Sally Hannah Photographer