The Geriatric Dad Blog: My mental health and feeling baby kick!

Baby kicks for the first time

Geriatric-dad-baby-kick

by Jim Foster |

Welcome to my blog on impending fatherhood. I’m Jim, my wife’s name is Daisy, I turn 50 in September! Daisy is a spritely 37. We're expecting our first child in October - hence this, The Geriatric Dad Blog!

This is a proper, ‘in real life’ read from a man's perspective, so I hope you enjoy it and follow the series as we go through all the ups and downs of impending parenthood.

This week: it all kicks off (literally) at the Village Bowls Club Quiz, plus my mental health takes a bit of a battering...

It's one of the social events of the year in our village: the Annual Village Bowls Club Quiz.

Yep, once every 12 months at the sports centre bar there's a pub-style quiz, fuelled by local real ale and hosted by possibly the most dour woman you can imagine - all in aid of the local bowls club.

Now, I hear you ask, what the feck has that got to do with Daisy being pregnant? Humour me, I'll get to that!

First though, an update on Daisy and Sprout's progress. Plus some ramblings on how the pregnancy appears to be affecting our mental health.

We're at 24 weeks!

Next Tuesday, Daisy will hit the 24-week mark and Sprout, in all probability, will weigh 1lb 8oz - which happens to be the size of the average trout I catch at Rutland Water whenever I go fly fishing there (ahem!).

While I am naturally quite an anxious person anyway, at the moment I am particularly so. The second trimester is nearing an end, and we're getting close to the point now where, if Sprout were to arrive early, the obstetrics docs might consider him viable.

That, to me, is a big deal. Every day counts now. We're so close - and as a result, I can feel myself becoming increasingly protective of Daisy and the precious cargo she's carrying.

I'm checking for trip risks when we walk. I'm looking out for danger continuously. And when I drive, I no longer bomb around corners or overtake trucks on 'A' roads, instead preferring to happily trundle along behind them at half the speed limit!

Truly, I am 'Driving Miss Daisy'!

The other day, just after we'd finished a Saturday morning Parkrun at Hastings High School in Burbage, Leicestershire, I noticed a group of teens knocking a football about in preparation for a training session.

Instantly, my eyes fixated on them like a hawk. I didn't want one of their footballs to come careering into Daisy's belly and impact Sprout. If one did get volleyed in our direction, I wanted to be able to intercept it.

Which all shows me I have a heightened awareness of my surroundings now when I am with Daisy.

Protective dad

The urge to be protective is overwhelming.

But there needs to be balance, as I don't want to be smothering and Daisy needs to be supported so she can do what she wants to do, if she can do it.

For example, she loves to go swimming. Which of course is a fabulous idea, as bobbing around in a pool takes the strain off her back as Sprout effectively becomes weightless.

The only problem is that Daisy, being the headstrong human being that she is, likes to wild swim. In the local river.

And rivers these days are in a proper state, with water companies now allowed to pump all kinds of effluent into them, seemingly at will and without much regulation at all.

The result? High levels of phosphate, nitrates and sewage. You name it, our rivers are now more polluted than they have been for a generation.

Daisy could literally be swimming in raw s**t.

So I wonder, with my protective hat on, if she were to swallow that river water and get a bug, could it do Sprout any harm? Should she really be wild swimming?

Personally, I think wild swimming in pregnancy is a bad idea. But this is where the balance needs to come in, because the benefits she's seeing from her wild swimming, socially, physically and mentally, currently appear to outweigh the likelihood of her catching something nasty, like norovirus.

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Mentally tough

All this worry isn't doing me any good, though.

And talking of worry, perhaps one of the toughest things I've found about this pregnancy is the toll it's taking on me mentally. On both of us.

The more the pregnancy progresses, the more I don't know which Daisy I am going to get when I arrive home from work.

If I get a bright, "Hello, Mr Popple!" greeting immediately on opening the front door, I'll know she's in a good place ('Mr Popple' is her pet-name for me, but shhh, I didn't say that!)

If I get a pause and then a lower-pitched and downcast, "Alright, darling," then I'll know she's had a tough day and I might need to offer more support.

And if I get nothing and have to go and find her (sometimes she'll be in bed resting with the fan on to cool her down) then there's a very good chance she's struggling, and that I may have to bear the brunt of that frustration, pain, or at times anger.

Occasionally, her frustration boils over.

"Are you interested in this pregnancy?" is a question I face occasionally. "I'm doing everything. I'm sorting the nursery, I'm doing the housework, I'm really struggling with it. I need you to step up."

The important thing to note here is that I know, when Daisy is going through a difficult patch and saying things like this, that it isn't the real her that's speaking. Not that that makes it easier.

The impact of the hormonal changes she's going through, the huge changes in her body, the repercussions mentally of all that are not easy on her. Indeed, on either of us. The fact that even the simplest of household tasks previously she would have taken for granted are now three times more difficult. Some aren't possible at all. It all adds up.

Plus, she's had mental struggles before - those have been exacerbated through pregnancy.

Daisy suffers, I suffer

It goes without saying that OF COURSE I am interested in and excited about the imminent arrival of baby Sprout. And I believe I am supportive - I do what I can around the house to try and reduce the stress Daisy has to face as we continue to both hold down full-time jobs.

Whether that's the cooking, the cleaning, the hoovering - changing the bloody cat litter trays - whatever I need to do, I'll happily do it.

And I ALWAYS have her back.

When she suffers, I do. When she is on a downer, mentally I take a nosedive too. Which can depress me and make me feel unworthy to be a dad - a fatherly imposter, unable to do the job that lies ahead. Unable to support her in the way she needs.

Quite a few times in recent weeks after she's gone to bed I've just sat outside in the back garden, lying on the lawn watching the stars with a glass of wine in my hand, wondering why it is I'm feeling this way.

Selfishly, it doesn't help that I am now less able to do the things I love to do, the things that make me 'me', like fishing or playing in my band. Because they provide that mental break I really need to help me with the lows. But I accept that. Sprout and Daisy come first now.

Balance, balance, balance. Isn't it all about balance?

It's so difficult to get it right, isn't it?

All parents out there should know what I mean when I say that. I guess both Daisy and I - me especially - are still on a huge learning curve. Hopefully, we'll get better at figuring it out.

The things I MUST remember to keep doing is offer support, be there when I am needed, and to keep telling her how proud I am of her, and let her know what a wonderful job she's doing growing Sprout and being a mummy.

Which she absolutely is.

I guess nobody said it was going to be easy!

Village Bowls Club Quiz

Back to the Village Bowls Club Quiz.

jim-geriatric-dad

In the microcosm of one evening, I experienced the full variance of Daisy's hormone and pregnancy-related mood swings.

As we got into the car, a happy-ish Daisy said, "If I have to leave early because I'm tired, you'll have to walk home."

No problem, I replied, it's only a mile or so.

As I got out of the car at the Sports Centre, I said something innocuous. I genuinely can't even remember what it was I said.

But her response was instant, and vitriolic.

I was shocked. And instantly, as you do, I could feel that pang of depression coming over me. That sadness that invades the pit of your stomach. A few minutes ago, I was happy. Both of us were. Now, neither of us were in the best frames of mind.

I asked what I'd done. I didn't know. How had I let her down? I don't think she really knew. It was just one of 'those moments'.

I left her alone for a bit. Then, 15 minutes later, we'd talked and resolved it and were sitting at our table with our quiz team mates, me with a beer, Daisy with an alcohol-free G&T (which are surprisingly nice, incidentally!)

"What's your team name?" asked the dour quiz mistress.

"Let's call ourselves THE CAR PARK DOGGERS!" laughed Daisy. "Don't you know that the Bowls Club car park used to be a dogging site?"

Nobody claimed to know that (why would you admit it?) and someone else in the team asked Daisy how she knew. A very good question, one she somehow evaded answering. I just hoped she hadn't been in said car park without my knowledge 24 weeks previously!

Titters of laughter rippled through the other teams. The dour quiz mistress - who resembled Miss Trunchbull out of the 1988 film 'Matilda' - looked even more disapprovingly at us than she had previously as she wrote 'Car Park Doggers' on the quiz results sheet she would later fill in.

"I've just felt him kick!"

Half way through the quiz, during a particularly quiet moment where teams were trying to identify species of birds on an overhead projector (I got all 10 right!) Daisy suddenly whispered in my ear, "I think I can feel Sprout kicking!"

With that, she put my hand on her belly.

I pressed down firmly. And there it was - a foot or an arm kicked out and I felt it.

"OH MY GOD!" I exclaimed loudly, just as a bearded tit replaced a marsh harrier on the overhead projection. "I'VE JUST FELT MY BABY KICK FOR THE FIRST TIME!"

There were cheers and some clapping. My eyes watered up and a tear or two might have dribbled down my cheek. It was quite a moment. Though the dour quiz mistress didn't bat an eyelid.

Someone brought over a half bottle of Prosecco.

And suddenly, I was on a mental high, and all the problems and frustrations of the previous days and weeks had been blown away.

I had had first contact with my son. And I loved that. Oh, and we won the quiz too. Highs and lows, all in one night.

Pregnancy hey - quite the rollercoaster, isn't it?

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