Beautiful mama Aaliyah sat down with us to open up about her struggles with postpartum depression, preeclampsia and how to incorporate Te Reo Maori into your pepi’s life.
I live in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) with my husband, Ben and our adventurous one year old, Leo.
I am Māori, Chinese-Samoan, Tongan, European and French. Ben is Māori and European. And
Leo is a yummy fruit salad of all those ethnicities put together.
We enjoy simply, just being together. We love teaching Leo Te Reo Māori as both Ben and I never grew up learning the language, so I guess you could say we are learning it together.
How does your typical day look? Are you a stay at home parent/juggling work/kindy?
A typical day…. hmmm… Usually Ben gets up first, does his morning routine and then will
grab Leo when he wakes up and bring him to me for Leo’s morning boobie. We then have
breakfast, have a little kanikani (dance) together before Ben runs off to work. And then Leo
and I party all day…. KIDDING! I wish.
I am a content creator, photographer, social media manager and more… so I juggle all that while spending time with Leo. He is an amazing sleeper so he naps from 12:30-3:30pm and that’s the time I am able to get a lot of work done. I try to be as present as I can be with him, while he’s awake. Once he’s awake, we have play time and start getting dinner ready. We have dinner, then straight into the shower
because Leo loves to share his food with the floor, his face and everywhere else. And then
bottle time for Leo, story time and then bed time. Ben and I will clean together and slowly make our way to bed. And that’s a typical day for us.
Journey to conceiving and pregnancy
So for two years, we tried for Leo. It was a lot. Doctors suspected I had endometriosis and
kept putting me on different drugs and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. It was so
disheartening because the world made it out to be such an easy task (to get pregnant) but
yet we were two years in and nothing. We then hit a huge bump in our marriage and
separated, for a lot of different reasons… and infertility was definitely a contributor towards
that. Once we worked on ourselves and got back together we decided to try again for a
baby… this time we were so conscious of our prayers and our thoughts and intentions, but
we also didn’t hold any pressure within ourselves. And by divine timing or whatever you will
call it, we were blessed with conceiving naturally. I guess you could say that it was a surprise,
especially after trying for two years but it also just felt ‘right’.
How was your pregnancy?
Let’s just say, I would rather do labour all over again but not the pregnancy. Most of my
pregnancy was a mission. At times I felt beautiful, but most of the time I felt like a whale.
People were telling me “You look like you’re ready to pop” around the halfway mark and it
was really upsetting me. I loved my bump though. Rubbing my puku, and connecting with my
son via my womb was something unexplainable.
Did you find out the gender of your child?
We found out the gender at the scan, just Ben and I. I thought we were having a girl and I was prepared for that, but when they said he was a boy, we were so over the moon. Ben ran up and down the hallway screaming “I’m going to have a mini ALL BLACK!!” We rang our family chats and let them know via video call. We were in and out of lockdowns during my pregnancy so we didn’t want to waste money on
doing anything elaborate.
Did you practice hypnobirthing, read books, use apps or use a pregnancy journal?
I journal a lot. I have always been like that since I was little so I have several journals but I did have a journal for my son throughout my pregnancy. I did a lot of research on hypnobirthing, breathing techniques and anything natural. My midwives were advocates for natural births, so that was super helpful too. I had my dream midwife down here in Kirikiriroa for half of my pregnancy and then she had a family emergency and had to let me go. So we decided to live in Auckland with my parents, as we were waiting for our home to be built. Luckily I found yet another dream midwife up in Auckland and I can’t see myself birthing without her now. My midwife picked up on my blood pressure and we found out I had preeclampsia towards the end of my pregnancy. I was monitored closely and was at the hospital frequently. It wasn’t fun but I knew I was safe and in the right place.
Since I was being monitored for my preeclampsia, I was in and out of hospital. They
realised at 37 weeks that the baby wasn’t growing too well and my body was starting to freak
out. So I went in for a check up on a Tuesday, they told me the news and said I was booked in
for an induction on the Thursday. As I was getting ready to leave, the doctor came in and said
“Your bloods didn’t read too well. We are going to induce you now.”
Now that I was so used to these check ups, I even told Ben not to come and didn’t bring anything with me. I started to freak out. I felt like I wasn’t even asked if I was okay with that choice… it all happened so
fast and before I knew it I was induced via balloon method. I was alone. I tried calling Ben but I was already freaking out. Ben was frantically trying to get the baby bag, and hospital bag together. He managed to come in, but nothing was really happening. I was contracting on and off but it wasn’t consistent. The next day they monitored me, and still it was on and off.
Thursday morning came and they decided to break my waters manually. The process continued to move
slowly, but I started to focus on my breathing as contractions started coming along. They decided to let me in the pool to labour as the contractions were getting stronger. I loved being in the pool, and at one point my mum said “you’re doing really well” and I thought to myself “maybe I will be able to birth in the pool” but as soon as I thought that the nurse came running in telling me to get out of the pool safely, as my bloods came back dangerously low and that I needed some help to get the labour going faster. They ended up giving me an epidural and oxytocin to get things going.
The doctor came in to see me and she said “you can opt for a C-section now or you can risk you and your baby’s health” I instantly requested for the C-section but my midwife and my amazing husband advocated for me, knowing that I really didn’t want to go down the avenue of having a C-section. My incredible midwife requested that they give me an hour to see how things go and I agreed. It’s really important to have your support teams advocate for you when you are in labour. Because I was given an “easy” option in a time of stress, but my support team knew my birth plan and wanted to respect my wishes. Leading up to that point I wasn’t really dilating and contractions were strong. The epidural took some of the edge of the contractions but I could still feel pressure. My midwife requested that everyone leave the room to give me some rest, and all the lights to be turned off.
I remember being so scared, but needing to sleep. For 45 minutes I slept on and off while
feeling the pressure. Ben was continuously by my side and was praying like crazy that both
the baby and I would be safe. 45 minutes were up and my midwife warned me “If you
haven’t dilated we need to prepare you for a C-section” so I was feeling nervous about what
was about to happen. She checked me, looked up at me and said “You are 9 and a half
centimeters” And I remember crying happy tears and ben asking “wait what does that mean”
And I said “IT MEANS I CAN PUSH”
We got ready and I pushed for 15 minutes and Ben caught Leo. He popped him on my chest with the guidance of our amazing midwife.
Birth recovery was brutal. I was traumatised by certain things and some things you just can’t
prepare for. My baby blues came in hard and eventually spiralled into Postpartum Depression. I’m still working through it. I wouldn’t have made it through that first week if it wasn’t for my best friend, my mama, my biological mama and my hubby.
Were there any things relating to your culture that you did during your pregnancy and birth that
you’d like to share?
From the beginning, I knew I wanted to use a muka tie which is a natural alternative
instead of using the plastic umbilical cord clamp. It’s made out of harakeke (flax) and has
natural healing properties to help with the healing of pēpi’s pito (bellybutton) which we
found to be true. Leo’s pito healed beautifully and it came off quickly. If we had time to
prepare I would have loved to have had Ben cut Leo’s umbilical cord with a pounamu. I also
really wanted to take Leo’s whenua (placenta) to his Dad’s land up north and bury it up there
but unfortunately the hospital misplaced and accidentally disposed of the placenta. But we
would love to consider that for the next pepi.
How did you choose your child’s name and does it have a meaning to you?
Leo comes from the name Leopold from my french ancestry. His middle names are his great
grandfather’s names too. The middle names are super special as when Ben and I got married
we found out that our grandfathers were actually really good friends and they died the same
year, same month and 10 days apart. And we feel like us coming together was divine
intervention from our grandfathers. We also felt their presence at the birth, so that’s why we
chose their names for Leo’s middle names.
Te Reo Māori
Growing up, did your parents speak te reo or teach you? Did this influence your decision to
incorporate te reo as a parent?
My parents never taught me Te Reo, and I think their parents didn’t teach them so it wasn’t a
normal thing in my whanau. Growing up though, I was always told I was “plastic” and it hurt.
So I knew I wanted to teach my children their language/languages. It’s my children’s right to
know where they come from, including the language. So I will do anything I can to try and
help Leo learn Te Reo.
How did you start incorporating Māori language into your child’s interactions? Why is it important to
you to speak te reo with your pepi?
We have started off with simple Te Reo around the house, objects, commands etc. We have
basic baby books in Te Reo as well. Another thing we try to do, is when there is a funeral, or
occasion at the marae we try to take him with us so he learns to love the marae and not be
afraid of his culture. I was so scared growing up and even now, because I feel like I wasn’t
exposed to it enough. But I hope to make that change for my son.
For those trying to incorporate Māori languages into their everyday life, what would be the first 3-5
phrases that are easy to learn and use in day to day life?
- I think the most obvious to start with would be “kia ora” and learning how to pronounce it
correctly. Make sure you find a Māori friend you trust that can help you with your
pronunciation. I say trust, because it can be scary being corrected, so finding the right person
to guide you through it would be important.
- The next phrase would be “Mōrena” which is good morning.
- Lastly “Pōmārie” which is goodnight. Once you have that perfected and ingrained in your mind then you could go onto more phrases etc.
What are some practices that make it easier to learn the Māori language, are there any books or wall
charts that you use or could recommend?
Kids books are the best place to start in my opinion. They are super simple and easy to follow. Kids books also help the adults reading them learn at the same time.
Are there any other ways you are teaching your son about your family’s culture?
Mainly marae visits, time with whanau and having conversations with him about his whanau
and continuing to encourage him to be proud of who he is. We also love to watch kapa haka
and sing waiata (songs) with Leo.
Is your parenting different to how you thought it would be? Is there anything you thought you’d
‘never do’ and after having children, have completely changed your mind on?
I definitely thought I would do things a little differently. My Postpartum Anxiety and
Depression has played a role in the way I parent. And I am trying to work through that, with
therapy and trying to create healthy habits both mentally and physically. I never wanted TV
to be such a big thing, but for the first year the TV was there to occupy Leo. I hate to admit it,
but it was a time and a season I am not proud of but it’s how I got by. But now I have less TV
time for Leo and we are getting there. Also making baby food/kids food can be super time
consuming but I’m still learning tricks here and there. Motherhood is such a rollercoaster!
What would your top 3-5 parenting tips be for a new parent?
- Be easy on yourself – there’s no manual for parenting.
- Try not to compare your situation to anyone else’s.
- Make sure you have time for yourself to recharge. Being a parent can be overwhelming, so
remember to fill your cup when you need to.
- Changing nappies… pop the clean nappy underneath before you change the dirty nappy out.. So if there are any last minute explosions or water fountains, you can quickly cover it up so it’s not in your face or on the ground. SO far, I have never had any accidents on me since we’ve had Leo.
What is the most helpful advice you can offer to other parents and what advice has someone passed
down to you that you’ll always remember?
- As long as you are trying, you are winning.
- And sleep when the baby sleeps, the dishes can wait!
How has having children affected your relationship, what challenges has it brought?
Relationships in all aspects are affected in my opinion. I look at everything differently now.
We have also recently bought our first home, so that stress as well as being first time parents
has been a lot to process. We are just trying to find our feet as parents so there are a lot of
ups and downs including disagreements.
Have you loved seeing your partner become a parent, has anything surprised you about their parenting style?
Seeing my husband become a father has been something I can’t explain. Especially those first couple of weeks, I fell in love all over again. There’s something special about creating a little human, half of yourself and half of the human you love. Ben is definitely the less strict parent, and I am the authoritative one. But we have fun together. We love watching Leo grow and discover new things.
If this has helped you, would you consider sharing your story to help others too? Please submit your details through this form. Whether your story is about trying to conceive, pregnancy, surrogacy, loss or parenthood, we would love to hear from you.