Written by Alice King
When thinking about this blog and all I wanted it to be, I was incredibly focused on everything ‘mum.’ What does it mean to be a mother? How does it feel being a mother? What do mothers need more support with? I started to think about these questions a bit more deeply, and it dawned on me… I wouldn’t be half the mum I am if it wasn’t for the support that I was given by my partner. His life has changed too. Very differently to mine, also. But he has to wake up throughout the night. He has to leave his family behind to go to work everyday.What does it mean to be a father? How does it feel being a father? What do fathers need more support with?
I felt this was a perfect opportunity to explore a ‘father’ in his new role, with his new title.
One evening we put Ted to bed and I sat down with Rob for a very unexpectedly emotional half an hour- him stretched out on the sofa, me cross-legged on the floor, tapping away at my keyboard, observing his every expression trying to guess his every answer. At times I felt like a therapist, rather than his other half. However, the whole process was insightful. There were things I’d never thought about asking him before that just spilled from my brain out my mouth in the candid flip from partner to writer. Thank you for your sincerity, honesty and warmth throughout.
How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a dad?
I think because it was so big I didn’t believe it was real, and I didn’t believe it was real until we saw him for the first time.
How did you feel when you did see him?
It was probably the best moment of my life at that point. And then immediately scared because it was so important.
And how did you deal with me being pregnant as a whole? Was it weird watching my body change knowing that was your son in there?
Again, it only really felt properly real when we had the scans or when I felt him kick. But then as those things got more and more regular it started to become more real. Dealing with you when you were pregnant was a challenge because everything changed so quickly and you went from being really independent to being more dependant on me. How you changed physically wasn’t an issue at all.
How did you feel when we had the gender scan… were you expecting a boy, a girl?
Relieved. 1, because I wanted the Olding surname to continue because it’s the best surname out there… and 2, whenever I’d imagined myself as a dad it was always with a two year old boy, like the picture I had was always me and a small me wearing Adidas tracksuits playing football, so it was nice that that image was going to be true. Everyone told me we were having a girl and I think I believed it was true, but deep down I always wanted to have a boy first.
Me too, I wanted a boy! What about when it came to naming him?
I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be given a say and that you had an idea and that would be it, as I originally wanted Sam and you didn’t want that so I didn’t have a choice. I thought it was going to be Teddy and that was final and after we said no to Bobby because people would shorten it to Bob that ruined it for me. It was nice to compromise with Ted because I always wanted a 3 letter name. It was nice giving him a name before he was born… As we are talking it’s weird thinking the kicks we were feeling are what I’m looking at on the monitor screen!
Okay let’s get to the important bit, the birth… was it what you expected?
I had no idea what to expect. I don’t know if I purposely didn’t think about it, but I didn’t- I kind of just went with the flow.
How did you feel at the birth? Tell me your mid labour emotion?
As amazing as it was horrific. I knew the end goal was worth it but seeing you go through that pain wasn’t great, and knowing that me or your mum couldn’t do anything to help you. I was quite surprised you hadn’t shouted at me yet. I was quite impressed with how you were dealing with it, like you weren’t being dramatic or anything you were just getting on with it, like I would definitely be screaming in pain and a mess but you just kept yourself focused on it, so I was impressed. We weren’t really making any progress so I was starting to worry but then everything just started happening and you were 9cm dilated. I remember going to get a drink and five people being in the room when I got back. Not getting any sleep wasn’t great but it helped prepare me for the upcoming months!
What about holding Ted for the first time? What was your thought?
My thought was to try and not let him bang his head because he was kicking his legs against the chair! Once he settled I remember staring at him and then you and back and forth and remember thinking he looked like a bird! Which he did right?
Yeah he had a little beak! What would be your tip to a first time parent for surviving those first few weeks?
Ask for help. Don’t try and change the first nappy without asking for help from the midwife. Sleep when you can. Try and remember every moment. And eat!
How do you think we have changed since he’s been born?
I think we are both more resilient. I’m definitely more considerate of other people. I’m not as lazy. I think you’ve proved to yourself that you are strong. I think together we’ve realised what doesn’t matter and we now know what is important.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make?
Well, I haven’t really had to sacrifice anything, as in giving anything up. I have missed playing football on a saturday but its not like i don’t get to play football. I’ve had to sacrifice having more time to relax, but I don’t miss it because what I’m doing now is better.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to see me make?
Wow, thats deep.
It’s true! Alcohol for you. And cheese when you were pregnant. That was hard for you wasn’t it?
Yeah, it was. I missed brie. Do you remember what meal I wanted to eat when we first got home from the hospital?
No, that was in the hospital.
Ohh, cheese and crackers!
Yes! And what about Ted now? What do you love most about him?
I wouldn’t be able to tell you specifically what it is, I just know because I miss him when I’m not with him that I do. Oh I’m crying! My favourite thing about him is when he is sat here on the couch and he is talking to himself and he’s entertaining himself and playing with his toys and I just look at him and it makes me happy. I like that we’ve done it and we’ve done it well. I spent the first three months of his life, I didn’t tell you this, I was always scared about squashing him or dropping him or not being gentle enough or just hurting him, but it’s great now that I can just throw him around and he loves it. But actually I think the best thing and everyone would agree is his smile. He smiles at everyone and everyone seems to remember him and everyone always asks me how he is. I think he’s the best bits from the both of us.
What are your hopes and dreams for Ted’s future? What do you want for him?
Growing up, I want him to have a stable family unit. I want him to have the opportunity to explore things that he likes and the support of his family to make the right choices for him. I’d like him to play sport. And I’d like him to make the most of his talent, if he has any, and not let any kind of insecurity be a barrier to him expressing himself and being the best that he can be. I want us, me and you, to let him know that he can do that.
Big question. Do you want more? Could you do it again?
At the moment, I can’t imagine having another child, but I know that I will do. I’m certain that I will do. That’s just because as much as this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever done, it is very difficult. But as he grows up, I’m certain that I’ll be ready, but just not straight away. I know that I will want a girl in future because the Olding girls are cool.
And what if we have another boy?
Then I’ll put him in a dress!
You have to be honest – What is your least favourite thing about being a dad?
Lack of sleep. No. It’s not lack of sleep. It’s waking up when I’m not ready to wake up.
And finally- your favourite thing about being a dad?
I think just having a family. Being part of something more important than just myself.