We’re just over two weeks into the blur of adapting to life as a family of four. As I’ve had my hands a little tied, this week’s blog comes courtesy of the (ever patient) husband, who shares his thoughts from a man’s perspective on the birth, fatherhood and ever increasing responsibility…
The last two weeks have been….interesting. The two weeks before the birth of my new son Henry were spent on my own in Dubai, working and enjoying the visit of one of my best friends. It also gave me time to reflect and somewhat prepare for the weeks to come, when my family would swell from my wonderful wife and nearly 3 year old daughter to welcome a fourth member – who we had left as a surprise until the big day!!
On returning back to the UK, everything was pretty much in place ahead of the big event. I am lucky to have a very supportive and fun family who were already rejoicing about the birth of my sister in law’s (Cheryl’s sister’s) second child, a beautiful boy – born just before I arrived back. When I started to settle in, my sister in law, the newborn and her 4.5 year old arrived to stay at my in laws with all of us for a few days, preparing us a little for what would soon lie ahead of us! (Read: slight chaos). With just days to go until my wonderful yet understandably hormonal wife was to give birth, the blood pressure levels did rocket slightly north. But it was ok, I remained pretty steadfast and prepared. (For the most part.)
As a ‘modern’ man, I have to deal with a lot of things – my family, my job, planning for the future, baldness, whether I am too bloated or if it is the ‘slow-down in my metabolism signalling a permanent belly’ kind of bloat. Whether I’m getting nights out, not going out too much, playing some golf or not playing too much golf and finding a balance that doesn’t throw the wife off – but all in all I have a great life. I share this with my beautiful partner who is wonderfully supportive, but as the final stages of pregnancy and the early stages of ‘post partum’ (a phrase which I am all too familiar with) ensue, my ‘modern’ man is truly tested to the limits.
“How the f**k did that just come out of there??” I thought as I watched my son emerge into the world, an experience that left me blubbering like the incapacitated idiot – a fish well out of water next to the birthing pool. The day of birth is amazing and seeing the intensity firsthand of what mums have to go through is belittling for any man – I am humbled, overjoyed, overwhelmed and elated all at once. Having a son, Henry, is a real joy and I am already starting to think of playing football with him and of course whether he might be the next Rory McIlroy, as well as hoping that Molly will be a good big sister.
The new arrival signalled a change in the family demographic, again all this is easier for Dad to cope with than Mum. All of a sudden Molly and I had to team up. She crawled into my bed at 3am, I took her to the park and I was patching her knee up when she fell. Mum, who had once never been too busy for her, had other things to do. This is another tough thing for Mum – all of a sudden number one has had to take a bit of a back seat and this is definitely an emotional time for both Mum and ‘baby’ number one. Molly has been an angel with her little brother – calling him (in an ever developing Ulster accent – “wee pet”) and nick-naming him Henry Hugglemonster after one of her favourite CBeebies cartoons. But the new arrival is felt, and we’ve all had to field an extra few tantrums and tears (Molly’s, Henry’s and indeed Mum’s). I found myself having to be stronger than ever – if only to keep the already frayed emotions from reaching boiling point.
As I tried to settle my head, it dawns on you the added responsibility that you have. Thoughts of being able get back to exercise and thinking about working over the summer come almost guiltily to the forefront of my mind, with the knowledge that it is much easier for me to ‘step away’ from the chaos than it is for my wife. Getting out and about is a military operation in which I’ve learned to just say ‘yes’ and gather up the various paraphernalia that is required when travelling with two under 3. As a man, you learn not to question whether something is really necessary – just nod, pick it up and wait cheerfully for the next command. Also, don’t comment too much on the outfits the wife is wearing especially in this interim period when her body is still settling back post pregnancy – she can sense any distaste at 10 paces.
Having children has also been a real test of our relationship – a test of how we work together and how we can manage to ride the rough with the smooth. Becoming a parent is like a baptism of fire – it throws you in the deep end to see if you’ll sink or embrace the challenge. Nearly three years on, we’ve waded through many a storm, but thankfully are still as strong, if not stronger than ever. But it’s not easy. The main thing we’ve had to learn is that life is not a competition – it’s not about who got the most sleep last night. It’s not about who has done the most work around the house, or who has put in the most effort with the kids. It’s about working as a team.
So here’s to embracing the chaos, as my wife would say, and you know what? I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I just might need the odd pint or two with the lads, or maybe a morning on the golf course to remain fresh and ready for my fatherly duties.