Updated: Jun 19, 2020
This post contain subjects which you may find triggering; if you have been affected by any of these issues, please do seek help. Resources for support can be found here.
Hello, I am Andy. I am (only just!) 37. I have been married for 6 and a half years with one child. I am a Project Finance Manager at AstraZeneca. My interests are tennis, football (Arsenal) travel, and cooking. Is that enough? This makes me sound interesting enough!
Prior to becoming a Dad, I knew that I would have sleep deprivation, and I knew it would be life changing. I guess one of the main things was that, when I spoke to other Dads I knew, they said it was the best thing they’d ever done. They said it was incredibly hard at times but very rewarding so that is what I prepared myself for.
I was really happy when you told me that you were pregnant. There is always a doubt for every man that maybe your little swimmers aren’t swimming. We knew we were trying and it happened quite quickly… the conception not the action. But at the time, having the baby is still so far into the future that its not really real yet. Everything has changed but at the same time nothing has changed.
During your pregnancy, I was very aware that miscarriages are common. I’ve known many people who have experienced that loss so it was a worry at times. I found it to be really fascinating to see how big your tummy was growing; the whole process of it is mind blowing. My mental health didn’t have any adverse effects during the pregnancy; I was very happy and excited to be a dad. When you were 6, 7 and even 8 months pregnant, it still felt like it was in the future. It was only when you were near the due date that it started to become real. I didn’t worry so much about myself; I was worried about you and the baby. It was like I was the least important part of it, but it felt very natural to feel that way.
When you were a week overdue and you came into our bedroom at 2am to tell me that “something was happening” I was surprised at how calm I was. I think that is because I was able to focus on the practical elements; I tried to ensure you were comfortable, you had your food and were feeling ok.
The birth itself was an absolute roller coaster. It was mental. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it properly. It was really horrible seeing you in pain and not being able to do anything about it. And not being allowed to encourage you haha! I tried to tell myself that it was normal, that you were safe and I can do what I can (which is not a lot). My knowledge of birth was gained through Raquel in Only Fools and Horses and from a friend who told me that he passed out at the birth. The NCT class did mention it, the breathing and different positions but when it is really happening, it felt very different.
Someone did tell me that it is an unforgettable experience but you can’t do much. I found it difficult not having any control and watching you suffer. It was pretty gory; probably as gory as I thought it was going to be. I saw some things… blood, poo and slime….that’s all I will say.
As soon as she was born, I felt relief. You both were ok. Mother and Baby are at risk of death, even in this day and age, so it was a huge relief when you were both doing well. It was really surreal. It felt like it was happening in a dream; I felt like I didn’t really know what was going on!
After the birth, when you and Lexi had to stay in hospital, it wasn’t a surprise, I knew that it was pretty common. I did feel like I couldn’t really do much; I felt quite helpless and clueless but I was always in a positive mindset. The first night at home, I cracked open a beer, put on some music and had some time to really process everything. Again, everything has changed but nothing had too. It still felt very surreal until you were both home and it was the start of the new normal.
I didn’t experience any mental health issues following the birth but I felt like I’d failed because you did have mental health problems. I wish I could have had more time off as I really did enjoy it and enjoyed the new routine. I think that this may have contributed to your struggles. I enjoyed the structure, for example, the staggered sleep shifts we had. Of the two of us, I am more proactive by a country mile… not even a country mile… a country. I felt so guilty going back and I wished I could’ve had more time but I couldn’t do anything about it as I wasn't eligible for any paternity leave.
I felt like I’d failed because of your PND. I thought that "She’s not happy and is it because I haven’t supported her enough?" I felt a sense of responsibility. When people are in a negative place, they are negative to be around; it can be really tough coming home to that. I didn’t dread coming home, I wanted to come home and help but sometimes the Dad does get overlooked. I was working a full day in a fairly new job, I was handed a screaming baby as soon as I walked in the door so you could have a rest, I'd make the dinner, you’d go to bed at 9pm; I’d take the sleep shifts until midnight.
One week I’d had about 2/3 hours of sleep a night and I was on the verge of burn out. I think that I was so focused on looking after you both that I didn’t realise that I wasn’t looking after myself. If that had carried on, that could have really affected my mental health. I do feel that I took to being a dad really well, I was trying to help and doing it well, but that also felt like maybe I was adding to your problems.
Now, I think that I have had a lot of reassurance from varying angles that I do enough, that I do my bit so I don’t feel guilty anymore and that time of our life feels very much in the past.
I absolutely feel like my identity has changed since becoming a dad. I have become part of a club. If I am walking down the street with Lexi and see another dad, you both nod; there is a mutual respect there. I love to get involved with dad chat with friends. I don’t feel like I’ve lost any of my identity; it has added to my identity. All the things that were associated with me before still are but there is an additional layer.
Something which has surprised me about becoming a Dad is how the littlest things can be so amazing. For example, her sentences. Today, we were in the man cave playing Mario Kart (I was playing, she was holding a wheel) when she suddenly got so excited and pointed to the arsenal plaque on the wall shouting “Look Daddy! My shirt!” Also, seeing her bond with other members of the family is really special; more special than I thought it would be. I feel a massive sense of pride seeing her be so warm and loving; seeing the bond and the love between them.
My advice to a new dad would be to obviously, put your partner and child first wherever possible; be proactive. In the early days, do what you can to help and support; you can do a lot by doing even the smallest things; for example, getting up early, making the coffee, making the breakfast. But also, don’t forget to look after yourself. Don’t stop doing the things you love doing, even if it is not as often as you could before. I was able to go out to play tennis which had such a positive impact on my mood. If you want to be able to look after your partner, you need to be in a good place yourself.
If you are struggling, put your hand up and speak to your partner; you don't have to suffer in silence.