Precious moments: Una Healy and Ben Foden
The singer-songwriter and rugby union player talk about life with their children Aoife, five, and Tadhg, two.
Una, did you always want to be a mum?
Yes, but never a ‘mumsy mum’. I found it really difficult to grasp how we were going to even look after a baby until I was at home with the midwife and the baby in my arms. But Aoife is like my best friend now.
How long were you together before you thought about children?
We wanted time to ourselves at first, but now we can’t imagine life without them. I have Hashimoto’s hyperthyroidism, an autoimmune disease that can leave you infertile, and only discovered it when I went for a chance check-up, pre-children. I’d probably have kept putting off having a family, thinking I had loads of time, if I hadn’t discovered that.
Did the births go to plan?
I had a caesarean with Aoife, which went fine. But when I tried feeding her, she wasn’t taking the bottle or breathing properly – then she suddenly stopped breathing altogether and turned blue. She was whisked off to intensive care and we discovered she’d had some fluid trapped in her airways – she was absolutely fine once that had gone. They kept her there for 48 hours though, and did lots of checks to rule out anything else. With Tadhg, I had another caesarean, and luckily all went completely smoothly.
Could you describe birth in one word?
It’d have to be two: ‘massive high’. I was so excited and happy, I was buzzing. Then on the fourth day, I slumped; I was so tired and just didn’t know how I was going to do it. How was I going to be a mum? But every day is a learning experience, and every family is different.
Ben, what happened when you got home with Aoife?
I thought, ‘What do I do now?’ I still have moments like that. There’s the pure joy, but then at the back of your mind you’re thinking, ‘Am I ready for this?’ and ‘Do I know what I’m doing?’ It’s a topsyturvy rollercoaster. When you hold other people’s babies, you’re so careful and nervous, but when it’s your own you quickly become confident, and not grossed out by things. I even ‘cat lick’ ice cream from my children’s fingers now!
What has surprised you most about being a dad?
Seeing their development from week to week is awesome. I’ll see Aoife and Una sit and do girly things together, and it gets me excited about the idea of taking Tadhg to Saturday football when he’s a bit older. We’re both hands-on parents, and try to take the children to as many things as possible. I get strict instructions on where I have to be and when to pick them up!
Do you find that you fall into natural roles at home?
Yes. I get bossed into my roles! To be fair, I am naturally really laid-back and lazy but Una never sits still, and she’s more organised than me. We’re like chalk and cheese in that way. So she tells me what to do, and then if I don’t do it in time I’m in trouble. I think like any couple, you will find a routine.
How do you see the children’s relationship developing?
Aoife is so cute with Tadhg – she’s always watching him and trying to teach him things. But they still have their moments. Sometimes Tadhg will pull her hair, and she once went off to school with a black eye, because he’d thrown a hairbrush at her. He obviously has excellent hand/ eye co-ordination!
Una, how do you find time for yourself?
Lie-ins are a thing of the past, so when we get the kids into bed, that’s our time. We watch television – though I always fall asleep watching it. And I’m getting back into going to the gym. I love that exercise actually gives me more energy, which you certainly need with two kids.
How do you keep things romantic?
Una We make an effort. We love family time, obviously, but I think it’s important for us to remember that we’re still a young couple in love, and that we still fancy each other! That’s why we went on holiday on our own – we went to Sardinia. We missed the kids an awful lot while we were away, but not having to tend to them for a few days made it worthwhile because we came back feeling refreshed.
Ben I think it’s important to take time to remember why you chose to get married and have kids in the first place.
Will you have a family holiday this year?
Una There were lots of families where we stayed in Sardinia, at the Delphina, so we would love to go back there with Aoife and Tadhg. Halfway through the trip, we just looked around and saw so many families having such a great time and we know our two would love it. The kids’ clubs there are just fantastic.
Are you agreed on whether you’d like more children?
Ben Well, we’ve got one of each, so…
Una The four of us just works; it feels very balanced.
Ben Never say never, though? But now there’s one little woman to replace Una, and one little man to replace me in the world, so it feels like we’re done. It’s such a good experience, becoming parents, but so many of my friends are just starting out now and I don’t know if we’re sure we want to go back to that newborn phase. And when it’s just the four of us I can still drive a sports car…
Una You won’t be driving any sports car with me or the children in it!
Una and Ben were chatting to Catherine Hudson.