The first of many firsts

When it will happen, you can never predict. But five days late and counting, Matt and Cara Foulk were long expecting the arrival of their second child. With Father’s Day approaching, Kat Eschner follows the couple before, during and after the big moment

Matt and Cara Foulk are in the midst of a pregnant pause.

“I guess it’s a little bit like waiting for a flight,” he says, between bites of salad at the kitchen table of their east Toronto home.

Cara’s mother came down from Sudbury for the birth; she had to go home. Matt lined up two weeks of leave from work; he hasn’t taken it yet. Cara is ready and a little worried for the health of her baby, who is now five days past due. But birth happens when it happens, and no amount of habanero peppers and walking will start it.

It isn’t unconventional for a father to be involved in birth, any more, and hasn’t been for quite a while in North America. But welcoming a journalist to follow that process as Father’s Day draws near – that’s a bit different. It reflects an openness and warmth that shows in the way they talk to each other. Matt stresses again and again that he isn’t the star here, Cara is. The story is about you, though, she says.

In his daily life, Matt is a vice-president at one of Canada’s biggest advertising firms. Here, he sees himself as support staff for Cara, an X-ray technologist who’s taking a year-long maternity leave.

Their first child – Hugo, three and a half – is napping upstairs. They were in Chicago when he was born, having both left other countries – Matt England, Cara Canada – to start a family more than two years after a chance meeting on a bike trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. They didn’t have a midwife for Hugo, but an obstetrician and a doula.

Matt describes first seeing Cara as “a religious experience.” He describes seeing her in the pain of a natural childbirth as incredibly difficult. After Hugo was born, he followed the baby to the scale and watched as his eye drops were put in.

“You were pretty out of it,” he says to Cara.

“Yeah, it’s not like you see in movies,” she says with the chuckle that always seems near the surface of her voice. “Well, it wasn’t for me anyways.”

She was in so much pain after having Hugo that Matt was the first to hold him after getting to cut the cord – an experience he hopes to repeat with their second child.

“I always want to be as good a dad as my dad was to me,” Matt says. If he can manage that, he maintains he’ll have done well. His dad, John Foulk, was the first parent to hold him after he was born by caesarean section. (“Overwhelmed,” was how John recalled feeling in that moment, in a phone call from England.)