The Thrill and Terror of Becoming A Father All Over Again

Six years is a long time to wait for a second chance of being a father again. For Shahrul Amin Azman ─ the postponement of having another child, the joy of the moment of truth and the nail-biting lead up to that loud, triumphant arrival ─ have made fatherhood a second time around all the more sweeter.

So who says a father doesn’t feel the excitement, the terror and the full emotional brunt of a pregnancy? It isn’t just a mother’s journey; dad is right along with her, sharing her struggles, her doubts, her pain and her joys.

Here are the compelling moments from one such father who waited six long years in order to become dad all over again. On 26th March 2019, he was blessed with a son ─ Rahul Salman Andre. Shahrul records his feelings:

*All images credited to Shahrul Amin Azman

I am Shahrul. I have been married to Noor Azlinda Shuhaimi for the past eight years and we have a beautiful daughter Adrian Shehnaz Amani who turned six in early March.

Our little girl has grown up, enjoying preschool and goes for ballet classes every weekend and this has been the comfortable arrangement for a while. Even though we were very happy as a family, something was missing.

Highlighted

Expectant family: Me, my wife Linda and our daughter Adrian.
Expectant family: Me, my wife Linda and our daughter Adrian.

Initially we planned to have our second child when Adrian turned three but it seemed that God had a better plan. When Adrian turned three, my wife was busy working and pursuing her part time Masters Degree and I was frequently in the Middle East, doing projects assigned by the company.

With so much on the plate for Linda ─ (teaching, part-time studying, looking after Adrian and managing the household chores all on her own) and with me being absent most of the time, we decided we should wait a few years more until things settled.

Time to Try Again

Time flew by almost unnoticed until one day in May of 2018, the question I had been waiting for popped into my ears. Linda asked: “Don’t you think we’re ready for the next child?”

Good News!

Two months later, I was surprised and totally overjoyed when my wife broke the news that she was four weeks pregnant. She was so doubtful she took about three to four pregnancy tests just to make sure. She bought all the kits ─ the cheap one, the expensive one ─ you name it, she tested on all of them just to doubly and triply confirm.  They all tested positive and it was at that moment that our pregnancy journey began.

The Journey Begins

Adrian couldn’t wait to be big sister.
Adrian couldn’t wait to be big sister.

What was I feeling? Over the moon! And over the rainbow! The news not only made me jump in excitement but our daughter jumped too.

“When I can see the baby, mummy?”

“When can I hold adik, daddy?”

And her favourite phrase: “I can’t wait for adik to come out…I’m a big sister now!”

The pregnancy news rocked me to my core. It had been so long. Six years! I couldn’t wait to go through becoming a father again, yes again! And this time, I planned to document the journey all the way.

Very Different Pregnancy

Linda feeling sick and me, being there for her.
Linda feeling sick and me, being there for her.

Linda’s pregnancy this time around was way different compared to the first one. It was a 180° flip in all aspects and it took a heavy toll on her this time.  In the previous pregnancy, she was like a superwoman ─ no nausea, no food problems, she could even coach a dancing team at her school during her 20th week.

This time around, the first trimester was the hardest on her. She had bad nausea all the time, and I mean all the time. Most women only face nausea in the mornings which is why they call it Morning Sickness but Linda was nauseous in the morning, the afternoon, the evening and sometimes even in the middle of the night.  Her head was always feeling heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention some of my favourite perfume would turn out to revulse her.

It was a very different pregnancy for Linda this time.
It was a very different pregnancy for Linda this time.

On the weekends, we would go to the mall in Kota Damansara for Adrian’s ballet class and it was during that period when she would be dealing with the worst bouts of nausea and headaches. Up until today, she cannot bear to hear the name of the mall because it would trigger memories of those terrible moments of struggle.

There was some respite in the second trimester but in the last trimester, she was hit by lower back pain. As a husband and anticipating father, I was more than happy to give my wife all the moral, physical and mental support she needed to endure the physical and hormonal changes throughout the process. We had waited six years for this magic to take place and a few months to accommodate the challenges were not something we could not deal with.

Antenatal Checkups…And Checkups

Fabulous 5D scan Ultrasound with all details in!
Fabulous 5D scan Ultrasound with all details in!

My wife went for all her antenatal checkups diligently until it became a routine. I loved the ultrasound checkups, they were the best part of all. We did 2D, 3D, 4D up to 5D scans! If there were more, we would have done them! The experience was so thrilling! We saw our baby’s development and even his facial features every step of the way from a tiny fetus into a full sized baby.

I felt just like how I felt in the previous pregnancy but after six years, I must say the excitement was like it was the first time again. The bonus came during the 25th weeks when we went for the 4D/5D ultrasound and we could see so clearly ─ It was a baby boy. Yes! A boy! I remember I couldn’t wipe that smile off my face the whole day. I was floating in air! I thanked God over and over again. We would soon be having a perfect pair: a girl and a boy. The news also cheered up my daughter as she had always wanted a little brother. We felt so very blessed.

A Bad Turn at the 20th Week

The pregnancy took a frightening turn at the 20th week. Suddenly Linda started bleeding heavily. I was very worried. Due to her nature of work which involves a lot of movement such as after school meetings, extra-curricular activities and so on, things became unbearable for her. Doctors advised one week of bed rest and she had to take medical leave.

Shopping for the essentials. Eenie meenie miniemo… But this time I chose black.
Shopping for the essentials. Eenie meenie miniemo… But this time I chose black.

We found out the bleeding was due to severe Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).  The first bleeding episode was quite heavy, but the multiple times that happened afterwards were mostly spotting. However, when it came to the second round of heavy bleeding, she was referred to Putrajaya hospital to undergo a pap-smear. The result showed she carried GBS (Group B Stretococcus) which is a type of bacterial infection that is found in the vagina or rectum. Because GBS could be passed to the baby during delivery, and because she also had UTI on top of that, Linda had to undergo frequent tests during her prenatal care routine. We also decided it would be best to set a date for the delivery so that everything was under control.

We got everything ready dutifully. Here you see a bootful of new items.
We got everything ready dutifully. Here you see a bootful of new items.

Planning for Delivery at 36 Weeks

We chose the O&G consultant under Datin Dr Suhaiza at Gleneagles Intan, Kuala Lumpur for further treatment and to make a delivery plan. From her advice, Linda had to be treated with IV (Intravenous) antibiotics prior to the delivery so that the medication can be infused into the mother’s vein to lower the risk of the baby getting infected during labour. We were advised to check the readiness of the cervix at 36 weeks of pregnancy. Meanwhile, Linda was also prescribed medication and supplements to control the UTI.

There was another reason for planning the delivery. As we live in Banting, it would eliminate the risk of not getting to the hospital in time. Kuala Lumpur was a far way off from Banting. Factor in the traffic jam should we wait for the “alarm” to sound, and it would be very risky.  We didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

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I was naturally the handyman to set up the day bed and cot.
I was naturally the handyman to set up the day bed and cot.

Preparation, Photography and Anticipation

One part of expecting a new child is of course, the shopping! Yes, and the list of things to buy got longer and longer as the pregnancy clock ticked by. As an expectant father, one thing I suddenly became aware of was: Hey! I have to start from scratch all over again. All the baby items we previously bought were pink and girlish in colour. I realized I had to get a new stroller (obviously the one we had was pink), new clothes since only very few could be passed to my boy. The only thing that could be used again was the car seat. Luckily, I made a good call at the time when I bought the car seat in black.

The shopping list comprised clothing, baby napkins, booties, mittens, rompers and even a brand new bottle set. My wife wanted everything to be new for our boy, and yes, I agreed, to be fair. Learning from my past experience, this time around, I chose to get the stroller and baby carrier in black. Just in case.

Viola! All set for the big day. This was my wife’s cosy confinement corner.
Viola! All set for the big day. This was my wife’s cosy confinement corner.

Confinement Preparation

Confinement was part of the preparation too. The last time, my wife went back to her hometown in Kedah for the confinement period but this time around, we decided to undergo the confinement at our own house (with my mother-in-law taking care of my wife) as my daughter is already in preschool here.

We decided Linda should sleep in the hall so that it would be easier for her to get around and not have to go upstairs each time to be with the baby. It also made it easier for guests when they came to visit.  That led us to get a day bed for its placement in the hall, with the baby cot next to it.

Documenting Every Moment

All we had to do now was wait. The excitement cannot be put in words.
All we had to do now was wait. The excitement cannot be put in words.

With all the excitement and my interest in photography, I was determined to capture every moment of the journey from pregnancy, delivery and birth to keep for posterity so that the moments could be relived over and over again.

For a father, what better way to connect with the whole event than shooting photos of his own offspring coming into this world and capturing every emotion of the moment?

Previously, we did take photos of my daughter but at the time, my “photography calling” was not yet in place.  This time, we went all the way, beginning with a maternity photoshoot session held at Everly Hotel Putrajaya. We stayed a night there, like a short vacation. It was mood-lifting and it turned out to be a very fruitful photography session.

Labour Day Arrives

Then D-Day came. In fact, it all started the day before 26th March. We went for our checkup at Gleneagles and this time, the checkup was to examine if the cervix was ready for induced labour. The examination took only a few minutes, and the doctor said, “OK, it is ready and good, so when do you want the baby?”

Straight away, without asking my wife, I replied “tomorrow”. I was so excited I couldn’t wait but Linda shot me a glare I will never forget. It was unnerving. But since I had answered, tomorrow it was going to be.

Birth: A Blow by Blow Account

The countdown began.
The countdown began.

On Tuesday, 26th March 2019, we arrived at 10am and registered at the counter for the labour room that had already been booked the day before. At the Labour and Delivery wing, the doctor was already waiting. Linda was quite nervous and mentioned to me, “this looks like ‘serah diri’ already”.

It sounded darkly humorous looking at how everything and everyone seemed so ready for us but while we marveled at their efficiency, anxiety hit us from all corners of the heart. As soon as Linda got changed and laid down on the bed, the doctor straightaway punctured the water sack.

The anesthesiologist performing the epidural procedure.
The anesthesiologist performing the epidural procedure.

That was the beginning. By 11am, the nurse began preparing the hand drip. The anesthesiologist performed the epidural procedure, and by this time, the induction drip was on and the IV antibiotics had already begun to drip in.

The doctor informed us that even with the epidural, some mothers might experience contraction and labour pain. Maybe the nerves in my wife were so soft, she felt nothing at all although the contraction graph was showing contractions on the paper. After a short while, the nurse reported the cervix was already 1cm open.

Linda started to feel cold. She shivered and every now and then, started to vomit. The anesthesiologist explained this was the effect of the epidural. Earlier, she had taken a light meal as the nurse had reminded her not to eat so much but then, Linda never eats much anyway. She only had few dates and drinks.

The graph showed that contractions were going on nicely.
The graph showed that contractions were going on nicely.

Clockwork Precision

At 4pm, the nurse came in, examined Linda and said, “We will be ready in about 15 minutes”. The cervix was now about 5cm dilated. Fifteen minutes later, our Ob-gyn, Dr Suhaiza came in and made the preparation.

The moments were very tense. I could only hold her hands and offer moral support.
The moments were very tense. I could only hold her hands and offer moral support.

Meanwhile, the nurse and the mid-wife gave my wife a refresher course on how to push. After six years, she had forgotten. Because Linda felt no pain, the nurse and the doctor gave the count to push based on the graph reading.

I held my breath with each push and after just a few pushes ─ to great cheer all around ─ my son was born. The time was 4.33pm.  What a handsome boy he was! Weighing in at 2.81kg, his cries were so loud he must have broken the sound barrier in Labour Room No 6!

Here he is, all 2.81kg of him ─ my son: Rahul Salman Andre.
Here he is, all 2.81kg of him ─ my son: Rahul Salman Andre.

I cried like a baby. Tears of relief and joy were streaming down my face for a long, long time. The moment was magical.  Again, I witnessed a miracle of God. Thank you God, Amen!

Overwhelmed, relieved, humbled, joyful, thankful...the winds of emotion swept through me. I cried like a baby.
Overwhelmed, relieved, humbled, joyful, thankful…the winds of emotion swept through me. I cried like a baby.
What happened next was a whirlwind. My son was cleaned up and given to my wife to hold. What a magical moment. All I could do was hold the camera and shoot, recording all the emotions in the room. I couldn’t stop crying.
What happened next was a whirlwind. My son was cleaned up and given to my wife to hold. What a magical moment. All I could do was hold the camera and shoot, recording all the emotions in the room. I couldn’t stop crying.
My beautiful wife ─ Linda.
My beautiful wife ─ Linda.
Two of the dearest people in my life.
Two of the dearest people in my life.

Welcome Home Son ─ You’ve Made Me a New Father All Over Again

My wife and baby were discharged on 29th March 2019, three days later. My son had to undergo photo therapy due to jaundice but on the third day our pediatrician allowed the baby to be discharged.

A prince’s welcome home.
A prince’s welcome home.

With pride, joy and so much happiness, like blessed wind blowing into our home, our boy was brought home on Friday 29th March 2019, a sacred day for Muslims.

Our daughter Adrian could not blink her eyes when she first saw her baby brother. I could see her eyes seemed watery as if she wanted to cry, the feeling was so overwhelming.

Now with our new newborn son; we never felt this complete. My wife’s struggle was finally over, my daughter is ever so joyful she comes to kiss and hug her baby brother every few minutes and me? I felt like on top of the world holding all the trophies in my hands.

Here he is, eyes wide open.
Here he is, eyes wide open.
My precious children.
My precious children.

I even started to imagine going camping with him as soon as he becomes a big boy, maybe get into a hobby, spend time together doing father and son things and maybe, when he is older, he can photograph me to keep for his memory too.

Being a Father All Over Again

The magic and wonder of being a father all over again are all wrapped in this little baby.
The magic and wonder of being a father all over again are all wrapped in this little baby.

For the past many months, I have been given a chance to feel an extraordinary experience from a singularly wonderful woman that is my wife. The journey is actually hers to claim, the strength of carrying a human soul for 37 weeks, and then summoning brute strength to undergo labour and delivery and now nursing and taking care of our new prince named Rahul Salman Andre.

Though I am writing about “being a father all over again”, it would not be possible if not for the grace of God and the love from my beautiful and ever-giving wife, Linda.

I want to do this all over again if ever the chance comes over in my path, but for now, I thank God for what I have been given. This is surely one precious responsibility that I will not take lightly.

Good luck to all the parents out there, happy parenting!

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