My daughter’s first birthday has just come and gone. And I don’t know about you, but there are many times where I wish I could relive that day, the week and the month following. Life turns on its head! And it’s amazing, crazy, emotional, heart-wrenching, tiring…all these things I’m sure you know well!

 

Apart from the excitement of having a new person who is a perfect and unique blend of both of us, is the bond that I felt with my husband over this inexplicable life change. When the switch flips from husband to father, something changes. A different man comes to the surface and one that might never appear in any other circumstance in life. When I told my husband that I was pregnant, the complete amazement and then disbelief of his reaction still makes my heart soar each time I watch the video. He was so excited!

 

Our first gynae appointment was early at 7 weeks. I didn’t believe the two tests I had taken and held my breath as we waited for the image to show on the screen. It was surreal seeing our baby but honestly, I breathed a sigh of relief, because now there was confirmation that there was a tiny little one growing inside of me. But my husband reacted to the scan with tears of joy.

About a month into the pregnancy, our baby was named Kumquat (the size she was in utero at the time). From then on, all family referred to her as Kumquat. We would pray for her each night and soon my husband stopped referring to the “baby” but, even in prayers, asked that God would look after Kumquat. The bond was growing.

 

But I truly realised what a gem I had after our daughter arrived.

 

Fast-forward to the morning of her birth. I’m lying in hospital, hooked up to a CTG monitor. The only things I can think of is how long I’m going to have to go through labour and wonder how I’ll cope with the pain. I still couldn’t believe we’d be holding an infant at the end of the day. He, on the other hand, was beaming like a Cheshire cat!

“We’re going to have our baby today!” he grinned.

Minutes later, the awe and surprise was audible in his voice as he said,

“It’s a girl!” We both expected a boy. But the joy, delight and tenderness in his voice warmed my heart.

 

The next 24 hours were intense for me. Post C-section was heavy. Lots of drugs. Lots of pain. Unable to do little more than feed my daughter and prop her across my chest, I didn’t bond with her straight away.

He stepped up and stepped in.

He sat in a chair in the corner cradling her skin-to-skin. He watched her with love that brimmed in tears. He moved her so gently as he lifted her from her crib and swaddled her. He didn’t shy away from any nappy change and willingly did each one. He rocked her and hummed to her. He sang to her and cuddled her. Each feed he handed our tiny baby to me and rubbed the top of her head as she suckled.

Many times, he spoke, choked with emotion. Even when I asked what he wanted to name her, he couldn’t speak.

 

Despite my ache at not being able to lift a 2,3kg baby off my chest, not being able to hold her properly and not being able to bond with her, I was so grateful for that time – I watched my husband and daughter bond so deeply. She would only calm down with him. His deep lullaby quieted her crying instantly. His gentle touch comforted her. Had I been able to care for her, they may never have had the chance to grow so close to each other so early on. When we arrived home, he woke up for every feed for the first week (which was every two hours!). And his first day back, he didn’t last half the day before he came back to visit us. One night, I perched on the edge of the bed after being up with her for two hours and didn’t move when she cried again. I muttered the words, “I can’t!” and started sobbing. Moments later, he held both his crying girls in his arms.

“We’re a team! If you can’t manage, you need to tell me!”

Very little has changed. Each day, he helps bath her. He changes her. Sometimes he’ll take her with him to make our morning tea and coffee. And when she doesn’t need a feed in the middle of the night, he’ll get up to comfort her. The more I talk with others, the more I realise that this is not the norm.

 

Back track to the days in hospital…

Our hospital was great. My husband was allowed to stay all three nights with me at no extra charge. A bed was even brought in from labour ward for him. And to be honest, had he not been there, I actually don’t know how I would have survived. He was the one who sat me up in bed, who eased me over to the edge and wrapped his arms around me to raise me to my feet. He was the one who walked painstakingly slowly beside me, supporting me each step I took. He was the one who lowered me onto the toilet. He was the one who tenderly washed me in the shower until I was able to do it on my own again. Birth, even a C-section, is not for the faint-hearted. And men see things post-delivery that is enough to turn them off for the rest of their lives. My husband did some things that are too personal and too disgusting to even mention. Things I never expected him to do. He saw things that I wished he never had to see. Not because they are too embarrassing or personal. More because they weren’t pretty.

 

When we arrived home, I struggled to recover. And from others I’ve spoken to, I’m in the minority. I couldn’t walk down the stairs for almost a week and lost blood each time I tried. He offered the countless visitors tea. He washed our clothes and hung them out to dry. He kept me hydrated and fed without me having to ask. He warmed up our dinner each night (we were blessed to have meals for a month) and greeted visitors and showed them out. I worried how I’d cope without him when his paternity leave was over.

 

As I write this, I am once again blown away at his devotion and love for both of us. I am stunned at the self-sacrificial love he showed. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he’ll love and serve his family until his life’s end. How blessed we are to have this man holding our hearts!

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