By Sharon Wallace & Sharon Wallace’s partner.
My journey to fatherhood
To be honest, I was always an agnostic when it came to kids – I didn’t have any strong feelings either way about having them or not. I think that is quite normal for a lot of guys though, at least in my group of friends.
It looked like hard work for sure and having had a one day parenting trial (looking after my nephews), a glimpse of the all consuming responsibility wasn’t selling it to me. And the problem really is that I value freedom and the ability to structure my own time as I see fit. How would I fair when the stakes are so much higher and there is a mini-me involved?
“Would I be a good dad?”
These worries would sometimes pop into my head even after we agreed to start trying for a baby. It took two years before we were able to conceive, which was pretty tough at times. It was very important to Sharon, but whilst I was completely on board with the idea, I couldn’t match her natural yearning.
I know she often felt that I wasn’t as committed as she was. I took the view that it was like trying to go to sleep –
“the harder you ‘try’ the less likely it is to happen.”
The reality though, is that if she hadn’t been tracking cycles, arranging hospital visits etc., we almost certainly wouldn’t be parents now. So I guess she was right.
Two years later, the amazing day came when I found out we were pregnant. I was quite stunned – I wasn’t expecting it today! We were just about to walk out the door to go for dinner with friends and I got a call to come to the bathroom.
Sharon was crying and looking at something in her hand. I remember hugging her and being genuinely happy, before going back to being stressed because we were running late. I cringe a bit when I think back to this moment. I wish I could have it again so I could relive it in the way that I would now.
“During the pregnancy I felt a bit helpless in truth.”
Sharon has tough pregnancies. Lots of sickness, extreme tiredness – it mostly felt like an endurance exercise for her. It was not a problem that I could solve and as a man I am better at identifying and solving a problem than the softer skill of being supportive.
But finally our beautiful and healthy daughter was here. Sharon was a bit upset that I didn’t cry when she was born. I was certainly a bit choked up, but she thought I would be more emotional.
“The truth is that it all felt quite unreal.”
And I knew what Sharon was expecting so I felt pressure to react a certain way, like opening a present someone has given you – you know what the social convention is and you feel under pressure to meet that expectation with real emotion.
It turns out that we both felt the same to begin with – we were fascinated, excited, bewildered, caring, but neither of us had the rush of instant, all consuming love that some people seem to get.
What we hadn’t realised is that after all the challenges of bringing her into the world it would be pretty much a one way relationship to begin with. We poured love and energy in and to begin with we get mainly crying, feeding and sleeping. Or not sleeping. Oh man, the sleep deprivation is tough.
Love really blossomed as she grew to 3, 6, and 9 months old and began to smile, recognise and respond.
“And this is when I think I really started to become a dad.”
It must have been gradual but it seemed sudden – the very deep connection of being a father really hit home for me. She was a real human being that was relying on me to help her live.
I noticed some unexpected changes to my outlook on life. I went away on a business trip for 3 days and missed my family terribly. I actually cried before going to bed in the hotel. Can’t remember the last time I did that. She was melting my cold male heart.
I feel more emotional in general too – I really struggle these days to read any stories that involve cruelty to children or animals (any innocent being really). It makes me feel so sick and upset, that it gets to me for the rest of the day – somehow it feels so much more real when I have my own vulnerable person to protect.
Amusingly, I am also now easily manipulated by the producers of TV shows and often have to hide tears of joy whilst watching Danny beat his nerves and wow the audience on Britain’s Got Talent (I am forced to watch this, under protest).
We have 3 kids now, all less than 4 years old which has been a rollercoaster of a ride. There are times that we have felt completely overwhelmed, but we got through them. I have genuinely managed to become more patient and supportive it seems.
“Emotional, patient, supportive – who is this man?”
When I look back at my thoughts of being a father from years ago, I realise how selfish they were. Whilst I worried about looking after a child I didn’t realise quite how much they would teach me about myself.
My favourite part of the day now is getting home from work and them running to the door to give me a hug. I still hate the mess and chaos, but I’m more accepting that the world does not need to run as I want it. I am an imperfect, fully committed and loving father and I hope my kids will be proud to have me as their dad when they grow up. Thanks to Sharon and the children for getting me here.