Taupō mum Tina Gillies has her hands full looking after daughter Darcy, 3, and son Rory, 6 months, but her life was even more difficult than most new mothers'.
"I had a 9mm herniated disc in my back that was putting pressure on a nerve root and I was in quite a lot of pain," Tina says. "Rory was 6 or 8 weeks old and I was sitting on the couch in tears and in pain because I could hardly lift my tiny little baby."
Tina has some local family support and an "amazing" partner but needed more help.
She got in touch with Village Aunties, a Taupō not-for-profit group that connects families with babies with an "Aunty" - a volunteer who supports caregivers with baby care, helping with other children or doing light housework and providing a listening ear where needed. Families can receive up to 12 hours of help.
Volunteer Aunty Juleigh Buchan turned out to be the answer to Tina's prayers. Tina says Juleigh is a perfect fit.
"She will look after the kids while I have a shower or if it's been a really tough night she will let me have a nap as well."
Juleigh, a nurse who has moved into social work, volunteered to be a Village Aunty because she wanted to do something with young families. She is passionate about the important early days of a child's life and loves babies, so being able to help with Rory is a bonus.
"I often get to feed him and cuddle him and rock him and put him to sleep, and sometimes we sit here and watch movies with the kids. It's just to give Tina some time.
"The first time, [Tina] went and had a wonderful long shower without worrying about the kids. We [the Aunties] do different things at different places but here, Tina was happy for me to look after the kids while she did things like vacuuming, doing dishes, folding washing."
Tina says as well as Juleigh being "a godsend", having company means a lot.
"It's very isolating having a new baby so just having that consistent adult conversation is quite nice."
Village Aunties was set up by Leah White and Sarah Dempsey and it has just celebrated its second anniversary.
"It was Sarah's brainwave and she came to me and said, 'What do you think?' and I said, 'It sounds amazing, let's do it,' and we've just done it," says Leah.
Leah is a physiotherapist specialising in pelvic health and Sarah works at Stepping Stones Childcare, where she was meeting lots of new mothers with little or no support.
"They just needed a listening ear or help with the housework and I did the research and realised there was a little bit of a gap between what the midwives do and what Plunket do.
"In our society now we don't live with big extended families. Taupō is a place where people often move for a better lifestyle, but they leave their family and friend supports behind and not everyone has their mum just down the road.
"Alongside all that sits the first 1000 days [of a baby's life] and that's based on our philosophy of children receiving the best care in the best environment and all the love in their first 1000 days from conception to 3 years old."
Village Aunties' philosophy is that everyone with a new baby can do with a little bit of help. Anyone can refer to Village Aunties and the only criteria is that baby has to be under 6 months.
The Aunties support the primary caregiver, not just mothers. Every Aunty has first aid training and they are not a babysitter so are not alone with the baby or children. Instead, they will look after baby so the caregiver can have a nap or a shower, entertain toddlers so mum can focus on baby or vice versa, lend a hand with light housework such as hanging out washing or cooking - whatever helps best. Sometimes it's just some social connection that is most helpful.
"The whole idea of the village is that these people will get help and in turn when they have time and space and energy in their lives, they'll help, and that grows the village."
Village Aunties has supported 77 local families so far with practical support. There are 10 volunteer Aunties at present and a voluntary co-ordinator but more volunteers would be welcome.
"We encourage our volunteers to take on one family at a time," says Sarah. "Not every family uses all their hours and they use them differently. So, it might be a couple of hours on a Tuesday afternoon. Another Aunty helped a family while the husband worked on shift so whenever he wasn't there, the Aunty could help. Sometimes it's the bed, bath and dinner shift."
So the Aunties don't get overloaded they're encouraged to only do what is manageable. But even a little bit can make a big difference and the Aunties generally find the work very satisfying, with some saying they get more joy out of it than the families.
Both Sarah and Leah say it's important that families and Aunties build trust so there is a "no judgment, no advice" policy.
"We are not going to give people advice on breast versus bottle or immunisations, it's just support."
Not that judgment is ever a problem, Sarah adds.
"The people that approach us to become volunteers are not the judgy sort, they come from a real place of love and care."
Village Aunties does some fundraising to cover costs and is grateful for the support of Taupō Soroptimists, The Source and community grants.