A partner's perspective

Posted on February 24, 2016

A Partner�S Perspective Hero

Three dads talk about how they coped when their baby was born early and in need of specialist neonatal care.

Looking back on Little Bliss

Little Bliss magazine will celebrate its tenth anniversary in April. To mark a decade of our magazine for parents, we’ll be looking back at some of the most inspiring family stories and popular topics from our previous issues.

Issue 12, 2008: A partner’s perspective

It’s almost always a shock when a baby arrives early and everything happens before you are ready. Three families tell Little Bliss their stories and explain what it was like when their babies were admitted to neonatal care.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life,” says Michael Joy, dad to Rosie, who arrived unexpectedly at 27 weeks. “Sue had some pain on a Saturday evening and we went to the local hospital.” 

Eventually, it became clear that the baby would need care that the hospital could not provide. Sue was transferred to another hospital and Michael followed the ambulance, alone in his car. It was the loneliest and most memorable drive of Michael’s life. “I was in the car on my own, and all sorts of things were going through my head,” Michael says. “How long would Sue be in hospital? Would the baby be OK? How would I look after the other children?”

Little Bliss magazine front cover 2008

Jim Flack knows that helpless feeling too. When Jim’s twins, Harry and Scarlett, arrived at 25 weeks, he and his wife Mandy were visiting his parents and were far from their home. “We were just so scared, we wanted the experts to do whatever they had to do,” Jim says. When he saw his babies, he said he felt: “fear, awe and admiration – all the emotions that you can have, which is confusing in itself. That first night, I don’t think either of us slept.”

Like many parents whose babies’ are poorly, Jim was afraid to get his hopes up. “I didn’t want to get close to them, in case it turned out badly,” he says. “I guess it was a defence mechanism. Both babies are happy and well, but it was a long road – literally, with lots of travelling between home, relatives and different hospitals while the twins grew stronger and received treatment.”

Jim’s advice to other fathers in this situation is to take it one day at a time. “Looking back at my diary, although fear was my overriding emotion, it was soon surpassed by my desire to be there for them, and give them as much positive energy as possible. As soon as Mandy was discharged, we were there every day for them, and we think it made all the difference.”

Jim Flake and his family

(Pictured: Jim and Mandy Flack with twins Scarlett and Harry)

Having a new baby, let alone one who needs neonatal care, is hard on both parents. Both are tired, feel the weight of extra responsibilities, and worry about everything from the baby’s health to paying the mortgage. Sometimes there are also older children to care for. And those everyday jobs like shopping and walking the dog don’t go away. All of these pressures can put a strain on relationships.

But hard times can also bring couples together, as Nicola Cook and her partner Tony Dyson discovered. Tony says that he and Nicola had always had a strong relationship, and seeing their child AJ through a tough beginning has made the bond between them even deeper. Nicola agrees, “It pushes you closer because you have to be there for each other.”

AJ arrived at 28 weeks, after Nicola developed dangerously high blood pressure. Tony discovered her having a seizure in the middle of the night and Nicola was rushed to hospital for an emergency delivery.

For Tony, those first few hours and days were a blur. “My head was all over the place,” he says. “I never got to be at the birth, I never knew how Nicola was… I never got to see the baby straight away. I was just in a daze. When I did get to see him, he was just a little bundle in the incubator with tubes coming out everywhere.”

One of the worst things about the whole experience was feeling helpless and being unable to hold his baby, Tony says. “You can’t start to get that bond, you can’t hold him, you can’t do anything for him, you just look at him through the glass.”

(Pictured: Tony and AJ)

Because she was so seriously ill, Nicola can’t remember anything about the birth: “I lost two days of my life,” she said. But Nicola will always be grateful for Tony’s quick action when she was taken ill and for his support while she recovered in hospital. While they were waiting for AJ to come home, Tony kept up his hospital visits every day, coming straight from a long day at work. Nicola sums up Tony’s success as father and partner, then and now: “He was brilliant the whole 11 weeks AJ was in hospital and he is still brilliant now."