Hello and welcome to The Daddy Diaries! This is the newest feature on the blog – every Tuesday for the next few weeks, my partner Daf will be sharing his side of the journey we’ve been on for the last two years. You’ve read my ramblings, from morning sickness and cravings all the way through to tantrums and teething – now it’s time to see it from a different perspective.
First things first, a little introduction to Daf. He’s thirty years old, and despite not being a ‘young father’, he is a student father. We met years ago, when we were cast in a pantomime together – me as the principal girl, him as the dumb sidekick. My first thoughts when I met him? “God, this guy is a twat”. Yeah. But despite the shaky start, we became friends a few years later – after playing enemies onstage countless times – and then, when I was sixteen, we got together. At first, people were dubious about the age gap, but either I’m mature for my age or Daf is immature for his, because we seem to meet in the middle. These days, no-one comments on the age difference. We’ve been together for four years, are engaged, and in September 2013, we had quite a surprise…
How did you feel when you found out Maddy was pregnant?
D – At first, I was numb. It was such a shock, and I didn’t quite know how to feel or what to think. It was difficult to know how to react, because Maddy had reacted badly to it.
Did you want children before Maddy got pregnant?
D – Yes, I’ve always wanted children. We’d discussed it, for in the future, and knew we wanted a family together, but the timing was very unexpected.
I’ve talked in the past on my blog about how my parents reacted to finding out I was pregnant, but what do you think your parents felt when they found out?
D – I think their reaction said it all really. As long as we were happy, they were happy, but I think a lot of that had to do with me being older, towards the age where families and settling down is expected.
Did you ever have doubts about staying with Maddy when you found out she was pregnant?
D – No. The thought never entered my head. I wanted to do the right thing; to look after her and the baby and to be there for them both.
What was the toughest part of the pregnancy from your point of view?
D – The toughest part was trying to say the right thing to Maddy, and hoping that I was doing right by her and the baby. I also found it tough to deal with all the worries – I was really worried about how we’d cope financially, and worried in general about life changing. It was difficult to picture us with a baby, and I was worried about how we’d cope.
You say you were worried about trying to say the right thing – was that because of hormones? How did Maddy’s hormone changes make you feel?
D – Scared for my life.
How about the other symptoms, like cravings and morning sickness?
D – From a practical point of view, for me they were easy to deal with, because I wasn’t going through it. I didn’t consider it a strain emotionally either – the way I saw it, I can’t carry the baby or go through the pregnancy instead of Maddy, so it was my job to take care of her, fetching what she was craving and supporting her through the morning sickness.
Did people react differently to you announcing you would be a father, compared to how they reacted when they found out Maddy was pregnant?
D – Absolutely. I got a lot more ‘congratulations’ and ‘this is amazing news’, whereas Maddy was asked ‘Was it planned?” and told “You’ve made a mistake”. I can understand why – because I’m older, I’m at an age where people expect me to be settling down and having a family. At Maddy’s age, it’s not so expected, but it was still difficult to deal with. The weirdest reactions were when we announced it together – people weren’t sure whether to congratulate us or not!
What’s the hardest thing about supporting a young mum-to-be?
D – Trying to alleviate her fears. Maddy was really scared about a lot of aspects of the pregnancy and birth, and how we’d cope as a family afterwards. Trying to support her through that was hard, and there is extra fear there due to age – she was worried about social services and worried that she was too young to cope. We didn’t realise at the time that a lot of the extreme fear was due to antenatal depression. Another difficult thing is seeing the stigma we both face – Maddy has been asked so many times, “Is the dad still around?” and even ‘Do you know who the father is?’.
How does it make you feel, when Maddy is asked things like that?
D – It makes me angry. Not on my own behalf, though. They’re not having a dig at me when they say things like that, they’re having a dig at Maddy. They’re making the assumption, based on her age, that she sleeps around or has bad choice in men, and they’re also making out that single parents are bad.
Did you notice the age gap more when Maddy was pregnant?
D – Yes, but only because other people’s reactions brought it to my attention. I was definitely worried that we’d face even more stigma and judgment because of the age gap.
Did you encounter any difficulties studying while Maddy was pregnant?
D – Not really. I could go to the library if I needed quiet study time, and my lecturers were fantastic – they let me have my phone on in class, just in case Maddy needed to get in touch with me urgently. Emotionally it was tough – quite often I wanted to just drop everything and go and be with her, especially when she was having a tough time.
What was the best bit of the pregnancy?
D – On the morning of Boxing Day 2013, I was snuggled up to Maddy in bed, and I felt the baby kick. It was a surreal moment – until then, all I’d known of the baby was ultrasound pictures, and it had still felt quite alien. The kicks hammered home that it was real, and we were going to become parents.
What advice would you give to other men, dealing with unplanned pregnancies and supporting a young mum-to-be?
D – Hormones can do crazy things to any pregnant woman, and because you’re the closest person, sometimes you can be the target for a hormonal rage. Don’t be dismissive, but take any insults she may throw at you with a pinch of salt. Chances are, she doesn’t mean it – she’s just dealing with lots of changes, and in a younger mum-to-be especially, it can be really frightening for her.
Also, just keep calm. She might be freaking out, and will need someone around her who is keeping it together and can reassure her, especially when she panics. It’s scary for you, but chances are, it’s even scarier for her.
More than anything, keep talking. Communication is vital. Pregnancy can be a lonely, isolating time for a woman, especially when she’s younger, and it is so important to keep talking and let her know that you are there for her, because antenatal and postnatal depression can be triggered so easily. Make sure she knows that she isn’t facing it alone, and you are there for her.
Thanks for reading the first installment of ‘The Daddy Diaries’! Check back next Tuesday – we’ll be talking about the induction and labour, and SB’s birth.