Parenting News

Julie Anne Genter's sustainable approach to raising baby Joaquin

''Women should be able to make important decisions and continue their work, yet still be mothers," says the Green Party MP and Women's Minister. "It's about reorganising our thoughts around all that."

By Sophie Neville

When Julie Anne Genter cycled to hospital for the birth of her first child, her Green Party co-leader James Shaw publicly joked about her "on-brand" method of travel. But four months on, there's no doubt the green theme is continuing, with the 38-year-old embracing an environmentally conscious approach to raising her darling little boy Joaquin.

"We are definitely trying our best," smiles the passionate Women's Minister as she hands her baby boy to partner Peter Nunns for a cuddle.

"We're mainly using reusable nappies, and we try to take a spray bottle of water and cloths instead of using disposable wipes. But we're also realistic – there are times when it's not convenient and we have to do what works."

After three months of maternity leave, Julie Anne is excited about being back in the Beehive, where she is also Associate Minister for Transport and Health.

Her economist partner Peter, 32, has taken unpaid leave and will be Joaquin's full-time carer for at least the next six months. But with the US-born, Auckland-based politician often able to have her baby and his dad at work with her, she's the first to admit she's in a privileged position.

"My colleagues have been incredibly supportive," she tells.

"Peter can bring the baby to me in cabinet committees so I can feed and no-one has batted an eyelid. Women should be able to make important decisions and continue their work, yet still be mothers. It's about reorganising our thoughts around all that."

It's been a blissful few months for Julie Anne and Peter, whose journey to parenthood wasn't easy.

After two miscarriages and several years of trying to conceive, they were blown away when they discovered Julie Anne was expecting. Her announcement came soon after the news that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also having a baby.

Meet Joaquin Genter Nunns
Born: August 1, 2018
Weight: 3.4kg
Meet Joaquin Genter Nunns
Born: August 1, 2018
Weight: 3.4kg

"There must have been something in the water," she jokes as she sits down with Woman's Day to share her emotional birth story.

While the MP had always dreamed of a natural home birth, that wasn't to be after going two weeks over her due date. Doctors decided it was safest to induce labour at Auckland Hospital.

"I had a birthing pool set up at home for a month because I'd been sure he'd be early – I didn't quite get that part right," laughs Julie Anne. "I was pretty bummed about having to go to the hospital, but my family brought plants and put music on, and we slept on a futon on the floor."

But even Julie Anne's induction took a long time – it wasn't until two days later that her contractions began in earnest. "The pain was unbelievable," she recalls.

And after hours of intense labour, the baby showed signs of distress, so Julie Anne was rushed to theatre. While the forceps delivery, complete with a spinal block, was far from the natural birth she'd wanted, she was delighted to meet her bonny little boy.

"No words can describe that first time you see your baby – it was total love. He was very alert and bobbing his head, and it really felt like I knew his personality in that moment."

Immediately, they settled on the name Joaquin, after the San Joaquin river in California.

"It is a familiar and beautiful name that we both love," she explains. "As soon as we met him, it just felt right."

After a few days, Julie Anne and Peter were delighted to take their little boy home to their rented Auckland flat, but the new mum admits the first month was harder than she ever could have imagined.

"There's the sleep deprivation, which I don't think anyone can prepare you for, the pain of the recovery and that feeling of worry about whether everything is OK. It was overwhelming at times."

And like many new mums, breastfeeding didn't come as easily as she'd hoped. Julie Anne is trying hard not to beat herself up over giving Joaquin top-ups with formula, but she admits she's not immune to "mum guilt".

"I'd never judge anyone else, but somehow I found giving him formula much more anxiety-producing than I thought. It's really not rational because he's perfectly happy and healthy."

And recently, Joaquin has started refusing to take a bottle, which is particularly bad timing given his dedicated mum has returned to work! Her first day back included a speaking engagement, during which Joaquin screamed for 30 minutes straight.

"Peter's theory is that Joaquin just wants to be in control," says Julie Anne, who tells us they're now giving him milk in a sippy cup when Mum's not around to feed. "On the whole, he's a happy little guy. He lets us know when he needs something and he's easy to settle."

With Parliament heading into its summer break, Julie Anne and Peter will spend Christmas packing up to move to Wellington. But there's no doubt they'll
find plenty of time to relax with their little man.

"It's just so lovely watching him grow and change. He's smiling a lot and talking a lot. It's pretty awesome."

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