ROB Armstrong, who will become a father for the first time next April, admits that not being allowed to attend his wife Ruth’s scans made him feel “horrible and really jealous and emotional”.
Because of Covid restrictions, the Riverstick-based digital marketing manager has to settle for pictures of the scans.
But in as many aspects as possible, Rob intends to be a hands-on dad — and he wants to reach out to other dads too. He spotted a gap in the blogosphere for an honest, amusing and informative account of what it’s like to be a man with a child on the way.
Rob, 34 has recently set up a website, www.theregulardad.ie, in which he lays himself bare.
While expectant mums are supported by their female friends, mothers and sisters, and are “inundated with information,” the dad-to-be “is slightly forgotten about until nine months down the line when there’s a baby in hand”.
Rob acknowledges the great strides that have been made with partners/husbands “providing a good environment for the mother-to-be to reduce stress levels. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff but there’s no men out there talking about it. I’m sharing my experience because I’m going through it day-to-day.
“Obviously, it’s a bit different with Covid. I’d do anything to go to the scans and I’m sure there’s plenty of husbands and partners who feel the same. Our next big scan is the anomaly scan at 20 weeks, to see if the heart and lungs are developing properly and they can tell you if something is wrong. With Covid, I’m probably not going to get in there. If there’s any news that has to be given to my wife, she’ll be on her own.”
Rob and Ruth (a veterinary nurse) have been trying for a child since September, 2019. Ruth had a ‘phantom pregnancy’ early this year. She was “displaying all the symptoms you’d read about and her period was late. She had some pains. We were totally convinced she was pregnant. The test was negative though and two weeks down the line, her period came. I read about phantom pregnancies afterwards. It’s because you’re trying to get pregnant and you psychologically develop signs.”
Not long afterwards, Ruth became pregnant.
“She handed me the test which said ‘one to two weeks pregnant’. I was ecstatic. I’m a very positive, outgoing guy 99% of the time, so I was jumping around, happy and I wanted to tell everyone. But it was short-lived.”
Unfortunately, Ruth had a miscarriage. It happened very early in the pregnancy.
“She was upset. She was lucky in that she had a friend who had gone through something similar. She was able to confide in her. I was trying to support my wife but having the friend was invaluable.”
Rob felt “deflated” after the miscarriage.
“Once you’ve experienced the joy around finding out the news and then it’s taken away very quickly, it is hard. Regardless of how early on or how late it happens, it’s never a good experience.
“Although the friend said that her doctor pointed out that a miscarriage is at least a sign that she could actually get pregnant.”
Soon afterwards, Ruth became pregnant again.
“My wife is incredibly strong. She doesn’t feel hard done by because of the miscarriage. She was very upset at the time.”
Now, the couple are looking forward to the birth, due on April 1.
“Ruth says she’s going to keep her legs crossed that day because she doesn’t want an April Fool’s baby. There has been a lot of joking about that.”
Ruth says that Rob “is husbanding well.” He works from home and cooks dinner every day as well as keeping on top of household chores. He is astonished by the difference in the pictures of the eight week scan and that of the 12 week one.
“In the eight week scan, you’re looking at what’s like a jelly bean. Then, in the 12 week one, you can see the head and the arms.”
Ruth’s pregnancy so far has been relatively good. While she can feel nauseous, she doesn’t suffer from morning sickness. But she gets very tired, having been a very energetic person.
“She has more food aversions than cravings. She has gone off chicken and can’t eat certain fish. She can only eat a well-done steak. She was mad for grapes for a while.”
The couple don’t want to know what gender their child is prior to the birth. Rob has no preference. He just wants the baby to be healthy. They don’t know what they’ll call the child but they know what they don’t want. The name ‘Harry’ is out of the question as the parents-to-be fear it could end up as ‘Hairy Arms’.
The baby is hugely anticipated, not just by Rob and Ruth, but also by their respective parents. The baby will be the first grandchild on both sides. “Everyone says the child will be spoilt.”
Rob feels that having a child is a big responsibility.
“On my blog, I write about my fears and anxieties around it. I would have dealt with anxiety myself in a variety of different ways. Everyone does at some point. When you’re bringing a baby into the world, you start thinking — ‘am I earning enough? Is the house ready?’ I need to change the car as there’s nowhere to put a car seat in the one I have.”
Through the Baby Academy Ireland, Rob and Ruth have completed the first part of an online ante-natal class and will go on to do another day-long one.
“So far, I’ve learned how to hold a baby, how to wash a baby and how many nappies and cotton pads it will need in a day. It’s practical information.
“I didn’t know you’re only meant to wash as baby once a week for the first six months as they have oil on their skin. Also, I’ve learned how to position the baby, how to hold its head. I’m interested. The more I learn, the more confident I’ll be when the baby arrives. I want to be as involved as I can.”
Rob is very aware that Ruth, who hopes to breastfeed, will need time on her own.
“I don’t want her to feel that she’s the one who has to do everything.”
Admitting he feels “a bit apprehensive about putting myself out there,” Rob is, however, keen to share the realities of fatherhood.
“It’s coming from a regular guy as opposed to a celeb with more profile and time on their hands.”
All will be revealed some time next April.