This time last year my wife was heavily pregnant and I was desperately seeking reassurance about becoming a dad. I should’ve known better than to look for it from my friends. “The first six weeks is like being on the receiving end of the Tet Offensive,” said one. “Get some sleep while you still can,” said another. “The adrenaline gets you through the first three months… kind of,” said a bedraggled third, looking like the adrenaline had long since worn off.
My wife Lisa and I brought our new son Isaac home the day after he was born and it quickly became apparent they hadn’t told us the half of it. In the first few days, the wee man had trouble feeding and lost almost a quarter of his body weight. He had to go back to the hospital until he was out of danger. Those days and the weeks that followed were tough, tougher than anything we’d gone through before. There were times when we felt like we’d given everything and it still wasn’t enough – when we felt every bit as helpless as our baby.
We have all the advantages you could ever wish for. We live about 300 yards from London’s Royal Free Hospital and had fantastic support from midwives, health visitors and our families. We’re healthy and well fed. But we still struggled to cope.
How much tougher is it in countries blighted by poverty or war, where parents can’t get the care they need because the nearest clinic is miles away? Or where mothers who are already malnourished struggle to feed their children?
What happened to Isaac brought home how fragile life can be. But I still find it impossible to imagine the kind of grief a parent who loses a child must go through – watching the life of their baby slip away, knowing there’s nothing they can do to save them.
Isaac is now 10 months old. He’s climbing on the furniture like a frenzied baboon and flinging broccoli across the walls from his high chair. He laughs at his mum’s impression of a cockney pub singer and waves as you leave the room. He’s a constant source of delight, and seeing his face when I come home from work is invariably the highlight of my day. Those difficult early weeks seem a lifetime away and fatherhood just gets better and better, as he changes and grows.
Before Isaac was born another of my friends told me: “You’ve got so much to look forward to.” I’m beginning to see how right he was.
Giving more mums and dads the chance to see their children grow up is Save the Children’s top priority. As I look forward to my first father’s day I can think of nothing in the world more important than that.