My Fatherhood Journey
My Journey Into Fatherhood
Earlier this week, my wife gave birth to our second child, a beautiful little girl, complementing our 20 month old son. As I sit here and she sleeps in her crib close by, it got me thinking about my journey in to fatherhood and I wanted to put down some of these feelings in words. I don't expect this hub to be an in depth, factually based hub, in many ways it is a "selfish" description about what defines me today, my two kids!
I have to admit that as a younger man, I had never really thought about having children. I guess that it was something I always expected to occur, but had never really thought about what it would feel like to be a parent. Having become a parent though I doubt that even years of planning and thinking about parenthood could have prepared me for the reality of what is by far the greatest thing I have ever done!
The one thing to note with my story is that I am a British man living in the UK, using the NHS for every step of our pregnancies. Obviously in other parts of the world then there may be different processes but hopefully that won't detract.
Pregnancy Number One
An Emotional Roller-coaster!
In May 2012 our lives were turned upside down forever when our son was born. However this was just the end of a year of ever changing emotions that had started in July 2011. We had been married for a couple years and were ready to start a family, however, this isn't as easy as popping down the shops to pick up a baby. We were probably keeping the pregnancy test manufacturers in business but nothing was happening until one Friday night the test showed positive. I won't lie, I freaked out quite a bit, all of a sudden I didn't feel old enough or responsible enough to consider being a Dad. Unfortunately, at our age about 10% of pregnancies end with a miscarriage and just 12 hours after finding out we were pregnant, the dream was over.
We were obviously gutted but in a strange way this upset was the best thing that could have happened for me mentally. We hadn't even had time to get used to the idea so for me (and I can't talk for my wife), I didn't really feel great loss. However, just two months later when we had another positive test, I was ready!
When you find out that you are pregnant there is often a thought process of who do we tell. Especially considering we had already had the misfortune to suffer a miscarriage we didn't want to tell too many people and eagerly awaited our 12 week scan to see our baby for the first time. I was bursting at the seams, ready to scream and shout from the roof tops. As we saw the grainy black and white image on the sonogram on the screen I went through a range of emotions but to this day I forget what they were as I can only remember the feeling I left that room with. One of being punched so hard in my stomach. At our scan the hospital also did a Nuchal Scan to test for genetic illnesses. I had never even considered that our child could be suffering from one of these illnesses but as we sat there and the sonographer called for a second opinion, it started to become obvious that something was amiss and very soon it was confirmed. Whilst they couldn't say for sure, the signs were that our baby could be very disabled. We were taken to a private room and a specialist midwife explained the situation and what we could expect but I was in a daze and I'm not afraid to admit there were a lot of tears that night.
However, we weren't willing to give up without finding out more so over the next couple of months we had various other tests and scans to tick off various possible causes of this high reading until just a few days before Christmas, we were given the all clear. It was the greatest Christmas present ever! To this day no-one has ever been able to explain why there was such a high reading as our son has been born perfectly healthy. Was it just a simple error on the part of the sonographer, I don't think we'll ever know.
By this time we were almost half way through the pregnancy but now it suddenly felt real and we started to prepare for the birth, buying cribs/prams/clothes and every other item that you can imagine. We also joined up to our local NCT Group to meet people in a very similar situation to us and also learn about how the birth would happen. Like many people today, we had lived in our house for a few years but barely knew our next door neighbours, let alone people who were of a similar age, also having first children. Joining the NCT class was the best thing for this and we are still in really close contact with almost everyone out of that group, especially as several of us have moved on to Baby #2. We also read quite a few books and I have listed a couple below which we found particularly useful!
Whilst you can read every book under the sun and go to loads of classes, there is nothing that can come close to describing how it actually feels when you get that phone call from your wife to say Labour has started. I was at work an hour from home and we still had another 4 days until the due date but contractions had started so I shot home. What everyone can tell you but you don't believe, is that this can take a while! We went for a few walks around the local neighbourhood and my wife had a nice warm bath but nothing was really moving too quickly. In the early hours of the following morning we headed up to the hospital but even as we arrived at 4am, we had another 14hrs until our little boy was born.
It is weird how your memory can play tricks on you with some parts of the birth seeming to have taken hours and other flown by. Prior to baby #2 we sat down with a trained midwife and reviewed our notes and were able to see a clearer picture. I won't go in to all of the details but as our boy was back to back and rather large (he was 10lb13 when born!) he got stuck and all of a sudden we were being rushed down to theatre, me getting dressed in over-sized scrubs to be there for the birth. Fortunately we didn't end up needing a C-section and to this day I can remember the feeling as I saw my son for the first time. We had deliberately never found out the sex of the baby so as the doctor picked him up and said "It's a Boy!", I descended in to floods of tears of happiness. The relief of the tough few months prior having passed, the endurance of the labour and the emotions of our lives changing for the first time were all mixed up together. However, obviously having the baby is only the start!
Books To Read When You Are Expecting
There are quite literally thousands of books out there about what to expect when you are expecting and every couple will have there favourites. However, the below two are ones I would personally recommend checking out!
As the name suggest this is a book that goes through your pregnancy day by day with hints/tips/advice as well as facts about what is actually happening. Coupled with in depth ultrasound images it is a great build up to what you can expect as you get closer to the big day. What we used to do was read a page together each night before going to bed, both to find out more but also to get our baby used to the sounds of our voices through the womb, something many resources say is a good idea.
The second book that I would suggest is very much written with Dad's in mind, as you may guess from the title! The author of the book wrote (and still writes today) a blog by the same title that outlined his journey through his wife's 2nd pregnancy. This has then been compiled into this book. I was given it as a present by my brother-in-law who happened to be an old classmate of the author and I enjoyed reading every page, regulalry laughing my head off! Some people will probably find parts of the book a bit offensive as it is very 'blokey' but if you are a Dad expecting then I really suggest checking this book out, I plan on giving as a gift to all my friends as/when they have children.
Pregnancy Number Two
Return Of The Bump!
We had always known that we didn't want to stop at one child but I have to admit that when we found out we were pregnant again before our son had turned one, it was a bit sooner than we had expected. My wife had not been back at work for that long after her maternity leave had ended. However, following the concerns we had had with our pregnancy, we were obviously quite concerned. We hadn't told that many people prior to the 12wk scan with number one but this time, told even fewer people just in case.
At 9 weeks our fears seemed to have been realised again when one night, it looked like we were miscarrying again. Unlike the last time, this time we had had plenty of time to get used to the idea of being pregnant and it was like we had been steam rolled again. I didn't sleep at all that night and the following morning we headed to the doctors expecting confirmation of the worst. He sent us up to the hospital for an ultrasound and I couldn't even look at the screen as we sat in the room. Imagine our surprise when the sonographer said, "The baby is fine!". Apparently it is more common than you would imagine to have a subchorionic hemorrage but we were still worried yet relieved at this stage.
Three weeks later we were back at the hospital for our 12 week scan. With the scare of a few weeks before and also the memories of the 12 week scan with our son, we approached with trepidation. With our first I had been sending an email countdown to my wife, this time I just felt sick. I shouldn't have though, the scan was fine and we could start to plan for the arrival for number two.
There is a part of you that thinks that you have been through this before so it should be the same again but this wasn't to be the case! With our first, following the scares we had had regular ultrasound scans to ensure everything was progressing normally, this time round we could go a couple of months without seeing any health professionals. It was also strange as for most of the pregnancy, it almost didn't feel real. I think having a toddler running amok focuses your mind separately quite a bit. For example with our first pregnancy we read the Day by Day book shown above each night, this time of an evening I would sit down and read books about the Cold War or South Africa on my kindle! However, this shouldn't be confused at all with not caring.
Another example of this was the fact that I started planning in my mind a "baby-moon" just before Christmas as this is what we had done with our first. However, this time round the baby was due in January so that was out!
As we moved in to December it suddenly started to dawn on us that the baby could arrive at any time and I found myself rapidly trying to ensure I had contingencies at work planned and also that we had items in ready. As before we hadn't found out the sex so we couldn't go mad on pink or blue but our minds were now focused and in now time we had moved our son in to a new room and re-setup the nursery!
Over Christmas we waited to see if the baby would arrive early, crossing our fingers she wouldn't be too early. Because our son had been 4 days early we had just assumed she would be as well but as each day ticked past and we went past the equivalent date and towards the actual due date, nothing seemed to be happening. Indeed, I found myself rushing to do some pre-work for a training course that I was one but had never assumed I would attend due to paternity leave! The due date came and we were starting to climb the walls. Apparently 75% of babies are late in relation to their due date but this was little comfort as we were both ready!
Then two days after the due date the twinges started. I was all ready to dig in for the long haul and in my mind we wouldn't meet our baby until the following day. By lunch time things had started to progress and we headed up to the hospital, only to be told we weren't far enough along yet to be admitted. Rather than head straight home we made the decision to stop for a cup of coffee and I will now wonder until my dying day, what do they put in Costa coffee? Just 45mins after we had left the delivery suite we were upstairs there again as labour had gone in to hyper drive!
Even now I still thought it would be a few hours so imagine my surprise when just 90mins later we had our little girl in our arms. When our son was born I burst in to tears immediately. This time I was in shock, it was only when I got her into my own arms about 15mins later that the tears came. It was strange though, she just looked like our son, getting my head round the fact she was a different person and a girl at that was difficult at first. Now I can look at her and although there will probably always be comparisons, I can see she has here own look, her own character (even at this young age) and I can't wait to see her grow!
Obviously my son is now 20mths old and I could probably write thousands of articles about some parts of my life since then. Pregnancy and birth is just the start and it is the love that grows for your kids as they grow which is the true measure of parenthood. However, I hope that my brief experiences of how my children were born has been of interest, if nothing else it has felt good to write down in words, and if you too are expecting a child (or already have them) I hope you can either relate or use as a helpful guide to how you might feel.
If you have thoughts that you would like to share then please leave them as would love to hear them!