We Need to Look After our Boys by Leanne Rodgers
‘We broke everything that was right.’
I struggle on Fathers Day sometimes – not as much as Mothers Day (too much pressure to put on ‘happy photo’s’ of the perfect life), mainly because I have a fractured relationship with my own Father. Lately, I have wanted to celebrate Fathers Day, and sing it out loud - how fucking brilliant my husband is at being a dad, because he really is. He is kind, gentle, caring, silly, determined and ever so strong – he also gets the best laughs from our 2.5 year old boy Jack.
But he wasn’t always this way – as some will know, we had a terrible time giving birth to our baby boy and we were left shattered, with this sinking feeling of how it should have been and of how close we had come to losing each other. I was naïve at first to think that it just affected me. Craig thought I was going to die too, he was told to leave the theatre, whilst he was already gowned up getting ready to meet our boy. I will still never forget that lost, frightened look he gave, as I was wheeled away. And then Jack was removed from me (GA emergency C – Section) and Craig was handed this chubby, hairy, beautiful baby boy to deal with on his own for the first few hours, whilst they tried to fix me. He did the first nappies, the first cuddles, he was guided by the lovely midwives on how to deal with the first poo! He introduced Jack to me four times when I had come around, and it must have broken his heart. Because I didn’t understand. I was still in shock, partly in denial and couldn’t comprehend what this beautiful baby was to me, or that he was in fact mine.
We were discharged home the following day, and Craig had to be the main parent, the primary caregiver for a good two weeks. I simply couldn’t. All I could really do was cuddle and feed Jack, important things I know, but I was devastated when I couldn’t bend down to bathe my child for the first time. I sobbed, watching on as Craig washed our baby boy for the first time. I was sad, but also in awe at the strength my husband showed me, without any practice or preparation! I should have known that it would all catch up with us at some point. A few weeks in, the sleep deprivation started to take hold. I remember Craig waking in panic, hot sweats, clutching a pillow. He thought he had rolled on to Jack and killed him. Craig was once twenty minutes late from work and did not answer his phone – I couldn’t think rationally at this point and started thinking that he had been hit by a car on the motorway and I would have to do all this parenting thing alone. We both suffered. I was able to talk to my friends, my husband did not. And not because he didn’t want to, but because whenever he met with them, they just talked ‘shop’. Work, life, cars, music, future plans, food, anything but emotional troubles.
And so when Craig started to shut down, and become quieter each day – I started to panic. I could see he was falling in to a depression, as I had fallen so many times myself. I started talking to him about meeting my doctor – who is incredible by the way – primarily because she was supporting me with PTSD, and post natal depression and anxiety. I begged him, and eventually he gave in. She recommended EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming) and because our boy was under 12 months, Craig was fast tracked and saw his first counsellor within a matter of weeks. It was a slow process, he had about 10 sessions in total, and did not want to talk about it when he came home. Eventually he started to shift, he started to laugh again and I could see a sparkle in his eyes when he started to come home. He talks now, of how Dr Jones saved his life, our marriage and his relationship with his son – of how terrifying it was laying everything out bare for this stranger to see and unpick. He says now, it is the best thing he could have done.
Please if you know someone who is struggling and does not seem quite themselves, please ask them. Lean the fuck in. Persist, and talk about it – talk it through, make plans and share them with others. It really does take a village and not just for mothers, for fathers as well. We don’t work without each other.