Who else can say they’ve had Jackson Five’s ‘Can you feel it?’ bursting out the speakers whilst their partner undergoes a caesarean?! Stuart of Three times daddy can! Here he reflects on late night roaming around Asda, getting black poo all over the place, catching vomit with his bare hands (skills) and being covered in wee … enjoy the read!
- How did you feel during your partners pregnancy? Pregnancy isn’t kind to my wife. With our first child, almost as soon as we found out she was pregnant the nausea and vomiting began. I barely saw her for the first six months – she would struggle to work, struggle home from work and then go straight to bed. I was blamed (jokingly, at least I hope so anyway) for inflicting such horror on her and it was difficult to not feel a bit guilty that she had to do the physical part of things alone. Not only did I start to feel pretty lonely in the evenings when she had retreated to bed, but also incredibly useless. I couldn’t help her other than keep the house in reasonable order and supply her with whatever food she could manage to keep down. Usually, this was bland pasta and chopped tomatoes and that obviously got boring quickly.You would think that being constantly sick for such a long time would be enough to put her off wanting another child ever again. You would be wrong. Four years with pregnancy number two the sickness was even worse. Still not to be deterred, pregnancy number three happened another four years later and the sickness was worse yet again. As for me, I found the pregnancies easier. Having kids already meant that I was preoccupied most of the time and even my wife had to soldier on with the school run while I was at work. Any self-doubt from the first pregnancy had given way to logistical worries – such as where on Earth can we fit three kids in our house/car/life.
- How did you feel during labour? Despite having three kids, we’ve never actually experienced the ticking time-bomb of labour. All three children were born via caesareans with the dates scheduled in and plans made around them. Our first, however, was the most difficult. We were at the hospital ready to go and were told the operation was to be delayed by 24 hours. Although just a day, the wait to meet my first son felt like forever. The next day we were the first ones in and whisked straight into theatre. They played music such as New Kids on the Block’s ‘The Right Stuff’ and the Jackson Five’s ‘Can you feel it?’ which my wife doesn’t remember but she was a bit busy being drugged and cut open. I enjoyed it though. I got to spend a whole hour hugging our new baby while my wife was in recovery and although we just sat there on our own, it is one of the fondest memories I have.Our second was far, far more straightforward and was like nipping out for dinner. The hospital staff were amazing (no music though) and I even got chatting to the anaesthetist about how great going to the local tip was. By the third, we thought we were old hands at the whole caesarean section business. Unfortunately, my wife’s body had other ideas and the fact that it was her third made it far more complicated for the surgeons. The operation took twice as long as the other two and the baby had trouble breathing afterwards. On the one hand, I was worried about him, as I watched the midwives gather around helping him breathe, and on the other, I was trying to reassure my wife who was still having her insides being stitched up that he was ok.
- How did you find the early days with your newborn? Having caesareans for all three children obviously meant a longer period of recovery for my wife. There were some things she either couldn’t physically do or would they would just tire her out a lot quicker. The first child, fine – she could stay in bed for as long as she liked while I took him to sit in front of a ‘Lethal Weapon’ marathon. For the second? Ok, slightly inconvenient as I had to do ‘child-friendly’ stuff while still being able to look after a baby. By the third? Right kids, entertain/fend for yourself while I look after the baby. And play quietly. Outside.Looking back it is funny just how underprepared I was with the first child despite thinking I was prepared. I was the epitome of ‘all the gear no idea’. We had all the nappies, clothes, muslins, bottles, sterilising stuff, but when he arrived none of it seemed quite right. Clothes were the wrong size, we never had enough muslins and he didn’t like the formula. Even the steriliser ended up being swapped. We had practised changing nappies in an NCT class but it is nothing like a changing a tiny screeching baby who managed to get the black poo all over the place. All I can say is thank goodness for 24-hour supermarkets – one of the most calming experiences of the early days was roaming around a deserted Asda at 3am looking for cotton wool, formula and clean baby vests. You should try it.Our other two felt far less stressful and I think it simply came from knowing what things we would really need and what worked for us. I had the confidence of knowing that I had gone through everything already and I that I could trust my own instincts rather than trust what we read in a book or what the health visitor told us.
- What would you change about your partner during pregnancy/labour and babies early days? I’m not looking for brownie points but I wouldn’t change a thing. She had to go through nine months of sickness which finished off with her belly being cut open and doctors rummaging around in there like they were washing the dishes. Would I want to go through that? Not a chance.
- What were your main concerns before you became a parent? I found the idea of becoming a dad completely terrifying. I felt completely inadequate and unprepared in just about every possible way – mentally, socially, financially, physically. I was 28 at the time, and still felt like a boy. Surely I shouldn’t be allowed to have kids? Knowing that we would be having a son seemed to make matters worse – I felt like he would need me to be his hero, to set an example of what a ‘real man’ was supposed to be and I could only envisage disappointment.
- How has parenthood changed you? It’s surprised me how the things I used to think were important don’t bother me at all since becoming a dad. Parenthood has given me a new perspective on what really matters in life – like Bin Day, having a good clothes washing routine and having plenty of loft and shed space. And knowing that there is another life out there that needs you, of course. Maybe it’s just me getting old but now that I’ve caught vomit in my hand, been covered in wee and scrubbed poo out of the carpet, what people think about me doesn’t make me as anxious as it used to. I’m also much better at negotiating as our eldest is an expert in picking out any loopholes in my reasoning. I also seem to be worse at playing Fifa on the Xbox, as I’m regularly beaten by an 8-year-old.
- What did you think of your partner’s body during pregnancy? I was amazed by how she was able to grow a little person to be honest. I think she carried them extremely well, even if it was a little creepy watching the baby squirm under the skin like it was going to burst out Alien-style. If anything I wish I cherished it during the second and third pregnancies as much as I did during the first. Unfortunately, having changed jobs and houses in between babies meant I seemed to have less and less time at home during the pregnancies.
- Did you support your partner in pregnancy- ie; stop drinking or eating things that ‘aren’t allowed’? Pepsi Max and brie. That was about it (at home anyway). I don’t drink masses of alcohol so quitting that was easy. It didn’t feel like I was forced to do anything different and if I did, it just felt normal rather than like I was making a grandiose gesture of support. I just tried to be there to help – to pull her up hills, carry bags or let her have lie ins while I looked after the other kids.
- Was there one thing that you were always in trouble for? Baby names. I’m awful at picking them, discussing them or even suggesting them. It is easily the most challenging thing about having kids – choosing a label for them that will stay with them FOREVER! My wife, on the other hand, loves it and she was frequently annoyed at my naming impotence. We have managed to have three kids with three names we love and I can take absolutely zero credit.I also couldn’t keep up with the household rearrangement, adjustments, tidying up that occurred during the ‘nesting phase’. It wasn’t that I was slow (I think) it’s just that I’m a bit of a perfectionist and wanted to complete a DIY job perfectly before starting another. I’ve learned that perfectionism and kids aren’t necessarily compatible!
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