A conversation starter and communication tool to help new parents share the ups and downs of life with a new baby brings humour and honesty to the table. Elouise (Ele) Quigan, writer and creator of It Would Really Help Me If You… shares a Q & A with WOMAN.
This isn’t just another parenting book – can you describe what’s special about it?
It Would Really Help Me If You… is an illustrated flipbook for new parents. It lets you mix-and-match words and images to express what’s going on, how you’re feeling about it – and the one thing that would really help right now.
Basically, it’s a low-stress way to ask for help when that’s the last thing you feel like doing. I designed it to be easy to leaf through and lovely to look at, and to stand somewhere it will be easily seen and used.
What sparked this invention?
Becoming a parent is such a sudden shift. It’s a challenging time, and you’re learning so fast. There’s a huge focus on the baby in those early weeks and months, but I think it’s equally important to make sure those who are looking after the baby have what they need.
In my case, I had antenatal depression, followed by a traumatic birth which resulted in surgery. For weeks I could barely shuffle around the house, but I was still trying to be a good host and put on a brave show for visitors. It would have been so much easier, for me and everyone else, if I’d had some guidance on how to actively ask for support.
Comparing notes later with other parents, I found that while everyone finds their own path through those whirlwind months, we all wish we’d asked for more help at the time. The thing is, people do want to help, but they aren’t always sure how. Plus for new parents, it can be hard to know what you need, let alone ask for it. So I was keen to figure out some friendly nudges to help everyone figure it out.
How did you come up with the idea of a flipbook?
I’m a firm believer in understanding and accepting your feelings, rather than trying to change them – so the idea of flippable options that help you home in on what’s going on feelings-wise came pretty quickly. The real light-bulb moment was adding the one simple little thing that would really help right now.
Focusing on a straightforward request helps shift a potentially stressful and vulnerable conversation towards a non-confrontational and more supportive one. And hopefully that opens the door to more communication, once you’re all feeling more settled.
By help, do you mean hands-on help, or emotional support, or both?
All of the above! Tangible offers like food or housework help are always welcome. And something as simple as someone holding the baby while you take a shower can be both a practical help and an emotional relief. It’s all about making sure the caregivers are also being cared for.
One thing I’ve noticed is that so many well-meaning new-baby gifts are baby-related objects – looking at you, breastfeeding cookies and endless muslin wraps! Whereas, a conversation or even a little space away from the baby can be all it takes to remind you that you’re still your own person, and that’s an important gift, too.
What was your hardest moment as a new parent?
When my eldest was about six weeks old, he was miserable from vaccinations, and I was still physically recovering from surgery. It was my birthday, and my darling (and, to be fair, sleep-deprived) husband gave me… a box of peppermint tea. We laugh about it now, but at the time what I really needed was something, anything, that said: “You’ve got this, I see you, and you’re doing great – what do you need?” Peppermint tea just wasn’t it.
Things got even harder when, less than six months later I found out I was pregnant with baby number two! I remember trying to get my tiny child to play “sleeping cats on the floor” because I had terrible all-day morning sickness, and all I wanted to do was lie down.
Two babies, 15 months apart, amid lockdowns, loneliness, redundancy, and trying to get back to work, even part-time, all took a major toll on my mental health. I emerged even more determined to make it easier for others in similar situations to get the help they need.
Tell us about the flipping cute illustrations that go with the scenarios?
I wanted it to feel authentic and local, and a little quirky and irreverent. So I was delighted to find an amazing illustrator in Wellington, Laura Bee, who got exactly what I was aiming at. I’m really proud to have a product that’s invented, designed and printed in Aotearoa.
I’ve also included some blank pages so you can draw or write some of your own scenarios and solutions – which is bound to immortalise a few classic family tales for later.
What’s next in your flipbook future?
Babies do grow, so by popular request I’m currently embarking on research for versions for the next ages up. Beyond the parenting realm, I can see immense potential in my “Flip, Feel, Focus” approach for other conversations in all sorts of contexts. Watch this space!