The First Couple looked radiant and couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces today as they made their first public appearance with newborn daughter Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood alongside partner Clarke Gayford and cradled the 3-day-old baby girl as she slept soundly despite the 50-odd media in attendance.
The family took time to thank well wishers and share the name of their first child as they left Auckland City Hospital after the birth on Thursday at 4.45pm.
Adern, glowing with motherhood, said it was a pleasure to finally introduce their little one to New Zealand and shared the chosen name for the first time since the birth.
She said, like most parents, they went through a struggle of trying to decide on the name, but settled on Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, with Ardern acting as a middle name and Gayford the surname.
“For a matter of months we kept a short list of names and we wanted to wait until the baby arrived to really see which one felt like it really worked,” she said.
“But we chose Neve because we just liked it and when we met her we thought she looked like she suited the name.”
Ardern said the name meant bright and radiant, as well as snow, which they thought suited the time of year – being Matariki and winter solstice.
They also chose Te Aroha in tribute to the amount of love the baby had been shown.
“All of the names we were gifted along the way, I thought how do I reflect the generosity particularly from all of the iwi who gifted us names.
“Te Aroha seemed to be a way that we could show that love and generosity. It is also the place where all my family are from and I grew up under that mountain,” she said of her Waikato roots.
Ardern reflected on the first time she got to hold her newborn daughter, saying it happened to quickly but was “pretty special”.
“The team were very generous in allowing us to hold onto her for quite a while before she had to be whipped away,” she said.
Gayford chimed in at this point and said he wouldn’t forget the look on Ardern’s face in that moment.
“It was all a bit of a blur for the both of us but she had obviously been through so much and finally the moment arrived and she looked absolutely stunned and very happy,” he said.
Ardern said the family were all doing really well since, despite being sleep deprived.
She went on to thank everyone at Auckland City Hospital for the “kindness, warmth, and care” they had shown the family throughout their stay.
“From the midwives, to the nurses, even the people we saw less of – the security team who have been with us, the comms team here at the hospital, the people who came and cleaned our room and gave us food. The kindness has been really overwhelming.”
Having spent time being cared for within the public health system amidst a time where there is a lot of industrial action in the sector, Ardern said she continued to feel that the people who work in our public health system are “absolutely wonderful”.
“We experienced that first hand, and at multiple times in the middle of the night, and I believed that before and I believe that now.
“Of course we need to make sure that in all of the things we do, whether it’s a pay round or a health policy, we reflect the value of that workforce,” she said.
Ardern also thanked members of the public who had sent messages of kindness and best wishes.
“To me in those moments and those messages we just saw a reflection of just how open and generous New Zealanders are, and that has been the case all the way through.”
When asked about special or memorable gifts, Ardern said the knitted gifts were some of her favourites.
“Someone actually sent me a picture of their mother-in-law, who I have never met, sitting in front of the television on their La-Z-Boy knitting us a hat.
“Seeing that person in the act, and then sending something to us, was absolutely beautiful so those moments have mattered as much to us as any of those lovely messages of support from around the world.”
She also received “mind-blowing” messages from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Queen. “That is certainly not something you expect,” she said.
Going forward, Ardern has six weeks’ maternity leave which she said would be spent like any other new parents, learning the nuances, the way that baby Neve wants to work and figuring things out as they go.
The new mother chose not to comment on what the family were choosing to do with the placenta, but acknowledge the incredible gesture from Ngāpuhi to bury it at Waitangi.
After fronting the media, the Prime Minister then went back to her hospital room where she then addressed the public via a live video on her Facebook page.
In this quick take before the family left the hospital, Ardern again thanked the public and hospital for all their support.
“From the moment we walk in the doors, which was something like 5.30am in the morning on Thursday, to the time to baby arrived, to the time we have been here in this room – the care has been so wonderful.
“We couldn’t have had a better start.”
During her six weeks of maternity leave, Winston Peters will be filling in as acting prime minister.
When Ardern returns to work, Gayford will then step in as fulltime stay-at-home father.
Ardern acknowledged that giving birth while being a Prime Minister was a very rare occurrence globally, and that Gayford acting as stay-at-home father was also uncommon.
She said she hoped in time those sorts of choices would be more accepted.