Kiri and


Be kind to yourself #MHAW16

May 15th, 2016 (by Steve)

“How do you feel?”. Four words. One question. But a hard question that leaves me stumped for a couple of minutes as I go through a process of replaying the last few minutes of thoughts and actions, then analysing my response to those thoughts and actions. It’s therefore fairly rare for me to talk about feelings, but mental health awareness is a really important topic for me as mental health problems have affected some people very close to me through my life. As 16-22 May is Mental Health Awareness week, what better time to open up.

I want to share my experiences following the birth of our little one – not in any comparison to what Kiri went through (incidentally, massive kudos to her – she is such a strong woman), not for sympathy, but hopefully to encourage others to talk and share. Especially men. Generally (although there are obviously exceptions), women are better at sharing than men.

When I was told that the process of labour is a bit like a race, I assumed it would probably be most like the 60m hurdles, or maybe even the 100m hurdles… at a stretch possibly the steeplechase. I wasn’t expecting Tough Mudder. 3 days. 72 hours. As I said, massive kudos to Kiri. It was punctuated with amusing moments; a birthing ball kept rolling around our room with a mind of its own, very much like the sphere in The Prisoner, Kiri stopped to have a contraction at one point and leaned against a wall before seeing a sign that said “wet paint”, and then there was one no-nonsense midwife (we got through 12 in total!) who, in a very interrogatorial (yes, that is a word) way said “your pulse is high. Why is your pulse high?” – and it obviously wasn’t because we were scared of her! And the view – wow – this was the view from the delivery room:


But against this backdrop it was so difficult to see Kiri in such pain. This was coupled with the fear of things potentially going wrong and just overall helplessness. I was watching the person I love more than anyone else in the world, knowing that she had to do this on her own. Knowing that I couldn’t take any of the pain or exhaustion away from her. And I felt so, so tired too by the third day on hardly any sleep, but alongside this came guilt that I was struggling, when Kiri was obviously going through something much harder. When we both look back on that 72 hours now, the word “traumatic” would come into both of our descriptions of the experience.

And then in those last few hours, the adrenaline kicked in as we welcomed into the world our bundle of perfection and gloop. For someone who doesn’t pay much attention to their feelings on a day to day basis, there were such intense emotions in those moments spanning the gap between concern for Kiri and boundless love for this new life. Despite this rollercoaster of emotions, I was somehow together enough to respond in a flash to a nurse asking “is it ok to put baby in the corner?” with the classic line from Dirty Dancing – “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”.

Within a few hours, Kiri had been moved to recovery ward and I had been sent home to get sleep until visiting hours the next day. Internally I was torn as I was so happy to be able to get some sleep, but alongside this I was harbouring a massive guilt about being happy, as I knew Kiri was paying the price for me getting some sleep. The next day, the recovery ward was a muddle of conflicting advice, tests, noise and deadlines – a really overwhelming place to be and that’s when the fear started. If I was finding it tough in hospital, surrounded by medical professionals, how would it be when we got home? Normally I’m solid in stressful situations (playing through the emotions post-event), but in this situation I was just a mess. And how was Kiri coping in all of this? Well, she was steadfast and strong, focusing on the job in hand. Surely that should have been my role. I was failing her. My biggest fear in life is failure.

Once we were all home, the struggles continued for me. Despite loads of support from friends and family (for example church friends preparing meals for us) I was aware that there were so many new things to think about and do, but I had no motivation to do them. Surely it couldn’t be right that people were cooking for me when all I was doing was sitting on a sofa – I had time to be doing the cooking too – why was I failing? I dreaded the nights when it was just the three of us. That sounds like a terrible thing to say. In no way did I doubt Kiri’s abilities – it was that I doubted my abilities to support her and the baby. There was so much to learn, and I was acutely aware that there was another human’s life depending on us getting it right. I felt like I was letting my family down; I felt like I was an additional burden on Kiri with her having to look after me too.


And where was God in this? My faith is the rock on which my life is built upon. I would love to say that I relied on God and that got me through, but that doesn’t seem to be how it always works. When you’re struggling, it’s sometimes hard to see where God is – it’s only afterwards that you see the touch of His hand. But I had His promise from Isaiah 40:30-31:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

It would have been so easy to keep quiet and try to soldier on without people noticing (well, actually I was off my food, so people were noticing that something wasn’t right). But the most important thing that I’ve learned through watching people close to me overcoming mental health struggles is that it is really important to talk. Although part of me wanted to protect Kiri from having the extra burden, our marriage is built upon complete openness, so I shared my struggles with her. I shared my struggles with family and close friends. Then I got in touch with other Dads from church to find out – was I normal?

That chat around a kitchen table with three other Dads, drinking cups of tea and munching chocolates was incredible. There we were, having honest, open conversations about struggles of fatherhood. Each shared their “war” stories and talked about their own “failures” – the stuff that happens in families behind closed doors. There was one key phrase from one of the Dads that stuck with me:

Be kind to yourself

I had been beating myself up about not meeting my own expectations. I needed to accept that I was going to fail, accept that I’d make mistakes – I needed to be kind to myself. Not rocket science, but I needed to hear that from someone I look up to (yes, I know I look up to most people due to my height…).


Many months have passed and that rough patch seems like a distant memory. I know that it’s small in comparison to what a lot of people go through and it would have been so easy to have compared myself to others and therefore self-censored. But had I not shared, if I had tried to carry that burden on my own, it may have escalated – who knows?

My one plea to anyone reading this is if you’re going through a rough patch, no matter how small it might seem in comparison to what other people are going through, I urge you to share it with someone. A friend, a family member, a medical professional – it doesn’t matter.

And fatherhood now? Well just this morning the wee one face-planted onto the floor and started crying. I have accepted that even though I’m going to try my best, I can’t be a perfect Dad – I will make mistakes and fail my child. But this morning, the thought of failure as a father didn’t cross my mind as I threw the little one onto my shoulder and squawked like a chicken. Tears replaced by giggles. Happy times.

2 Responses

Well said, you speak the truth brother!

You are both amazing parents and people!

Thanks – that means a lot coming from you

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