Part one can be found here if you need to catch up on what’s happened so far…
Nothing prepares you for that kind of news. I thought my world was about to crumble. We were so far away from family and completely alone. It was too much to take in. We were having a baby, we were about to be parents! The first thing I did was tell Mel that everything was going to be ok and that I would contact everyone back home to let them know what was going on. I also had the lovely job of calling my wife’s boss to let her know that after four months of working in the US, that she would need to take some time off, with immediate effect.
Calling family was interesting. At first, no one believed us, then they were just relieved that it wasn’t anything bad (Note: this is not something you want to say to your wife when she is in labor. That nearly got me a punch in the face).
From the emergency room, Mel was transported to another hospital, by ambulance, and I had to follow behind in the car. During that five minute journey, my whole life was flashing before me. How would we cope with a baby? Could we do this all on our own or would we have to move back to England?
Within four hours of arriving at the hospital, I was holding our daughter in my arms. Words cannot express everything I was feeling at that time. I was scared but so full of love for my little girl and so proud of my wife. That night I promised myself and my little girl that I would do everything I could to make sure she was provided for and that I would be there for everything.
Obviously, we didn’t have a name for our baby. I could barely even tell you my own name at that point. The nurses tried to help by giving us a book with 50,000 baby names but we couldn’t decide on a name that our child would have to hear for the rest of her life. Finally, my sister-in-law mentioned a name that we both loved. We named our little girl Ella Kathleen.
Ella needed to stay in the hospital for four nights due to jaundice and my wife’s work were the ones who kept us sane. They took care of everything. Clothes, diapers, furniture, toys, they even went to our apartment and turned the spare room into a nursery. And to this day they have been with us every step of the way.
Everything was new to me. I had never looked after a baby, never changed a diaper or even fed a baby before. I couldn’t even hold her the right way! But knowing that this was now going to be my job (as my wife would be going back to work), I made the decision to be the best stay at home dad I could possibly be. It was either sink or swim and I was never going to let myself sink. I was willing to learn from my mistakes and become better (the first mistake was dressing Ella in brown and grey which led to people asking about my son!).
Mel was a superstar, she was a natural mum. It’s like she was meant to be Ella’s mum. However, she returned to work after 6 weeks so it was all up to me, but that was fine with me. I had been the first one who gave Ella a bath and changed her diaper at the hospital and at home I took over all duties. I wanted to make sure that my wife knew she didn’t have two jobs. I did all the night feeds, I got up early to feed Ella and after a little coaching, I even started to put outfits together.
The time came that we could not carry on this journey alone, therefore we joined a baby group. I knew that this would mean that I would be the only dad, and so for the first couple of months, my wife came with me so that I could settle into this new world, being the odd one out.
Being a stay at home dad I still feel that I get looked at like I shouldn’t be the one bringing up my daughter. That I should be at work and my wife should be at home with Ella. I try to remember that the world is different now and that it’s more common for the husband to stay at home but when people make comments about me not working it does upset me. I have the best job in the world. I get to spend every day with this beautiful little girl. I get to teach her things, I was there for her first step, her first word, her first tooth. But being a dad in the Bay Area has made me realize that I shouldn’t be scared to put myself out there, and I shouldn’t let other people’s outdated views make me feel uncomfortable.
Life is now about meeting new people with children and sharing experiences with them. When we originally arrived we made friends with other couples like us who did not have children. When Ella came along that all changed. It was difficult finding friends who had children. When Ella turned 5 months we joined the local Gymboree. Every week we chatted with the parents there but never really formed a bond with anyone. It wasn’t until Ella turned one that we went to our normal weekly class and there were new people in our group. I recognized the accent immediately, there was a woman who was from Essex. Her name was Louise and she had a little boy called Freddie and had moved here with her husband Ash 5 months before we had arrived. She took me under her wing and invited me to meet all the people she had met since she had moved to the Bay Area.
Through Louise and Ash, we have met a number of other families in the Bay Area who were in the same position as us which included the Laker family. They also helped to expand our network by welcoming us into their home and introducing us to their family. We had never experienced a US holiday until we were invited to the Lakers for thanksgiving. It was amazing! I am very grateful for our US family, we learn together and understand what each other is going through. They always make me feel part of a special family that would do anything for each other and I love watching our children grow up together.
Part One is here.
See Part Three below, the adventure is not over yet…
Everyone was shocked when Ella came along, some were even more shocked that I was going to be a stay at home dad and the one looking after her.