What can you tell us about your new book The Kitchen Baby?
There is something very curious about this book. It’s almost alive and seems to have the ability to lift people’s hearts at a time when so many, appear at least, heartless.
What made you want to write your experiences down in a book?
If you think about it, it’s a very deep question. What makes us want to do anything; like picking up a guitar for the first time or wanting to climb the North face! I don’t think I actually wanted to write it Lucy! Sounds crazy I know, but I had to write it. It was a kind of haunting, almost a curse. I was up till the early hours writing a live account of what happened to my wife and I suffered terribly from the most intolerable exhaustion, but I just kept going. I lost a lot of weight and just kept at it.
I thought that if the man that wrote the Diving Bell and the Butterfly could write a book with his eye then ‘hell!’ I could do this on only a few hours sleep every night. Much of it was written with one hand too (baby in the other). As you know, my wife and I had 4 children and this astonishing birth to deal with and I had a full time job to keep going and it was the last thing I needed. But you know, there comes a time when you are ‘called’. I knew it would make an amazing book and after the first 20,000 words the book just flowed and I couldn’t stop it. The cork was out and it was going to happen. Some books just don’t come and this was like an avalanche! God only knows how I wrote The Kitchen Baby, I still can’t believe I did and wrote it live as it happened when it happened.
Why is it that men are overlooked during childbirth, other than the obvious?
I am so not a bee-in-the-bonnet-canvasser dressed up in blue pants climbing the houses of Parliament demanding men’s rights! Actually I get along better with women than men. I don’t know why, but I feel that the purpose of male life is to truly discover what it means to be at harmony with a woman. That’s a tough job. We have so much to learn from each other. I think that ‘the industry’ believes that men are not interested in babies and parenting.
But that’s a massive stereotype and they are so wrong. I love babies; I kiss them all the time and can’t get enough of them - well we have lots of kids to prove it. I don’t think I am unique, some men do have open emotions and are willing to learn and discover and be at one with our partners in the birthing process. I have seen every type of birth there is, and learned so much. Basically it starts off with the midwife not talking to the men. In all five pregnancies not one even said hello to or gave me a telephone number if I needed them. I don’t blame them, that’s how they are taught, individually they are lovely people. But the health care industry must and has to start realising that dads genuinely want to help. But if no one helps them help their partners then its clear to me why there are so many marriage problems. Having children is about united parents together, solid, firm and united in their love for each other. With love, what they wish to achieve will win through, as it did with my wife and I. In the end my wife was so badly treated that all we had was each other, your partner is the best! There are too many people that think they know it all but actually couples instinctively know.
What was the worst moment for you during the whole process?
Dealing with my wife's shock syndrome after the birth, definitely. Can you imagine your husband delivering your baby on the floor when you were told that it would be too dangerous to have a home birth as you had a C-section! She was really scared. There was no ambulance, gas or anything and we thought the baby was dead! It was a very difficult time. But for me the worst bit was trying to help with my wife’s depression, she had a delayed shock. It was terrible Lucy because you think here’s the baby and how wonderful and beautiful babies are and lets celebrate yet this black cloud hung over us. So I had to be the mum the kids lost when she went into withdrawal. I was so alone, there was no help at all for me and we nearly lost each other as a result. I didn’t know who to turn to help my wife as she refused to recognise anything was wrong. We speak about it now and she openly says that she had no idea what she was like. But in the end I started to get really angry and its when I realised that Iwould loose control that there was a big problem coming. When both sides loose control the relationship is finished. That’s been far harder than delivering a baby (which I believe is a perfectly natural thing to happen anyway). Depression is very difficult indeed as it rubs off on the very person trying to deal with it and help. You have to have a deep resolve to do it alone and I don’t wish to do that again!
You claim that you never wanted children as a young man, so what changed for you?
I guess I was a bit like those funny frogs that live in the sand for years and when it rains they spring out and back to life! I had experienced a lot of deaths in my family. It was getting a bit tedious! I didn’t really have parents and there came a point at which I wanted to be what my parents couldn’t be. The more children you have, the more love you have around you. Babies plan parents, parents don’t plan babies. I still can’t believe how horrible I was! But all humans every day of their lives have the chance to be better the next day. I also didn’t settle down till the age of 36. I think being older when you are a dad enables you to see that it’s not worth walking out. It gives you more staying power as you can draw on more experiences from previous relationships. When Sophie (my wife) was told that she might never be able to have children by doctors, it was then I started thinking what it would be like to be in a park as an old man that never had kids and feeling alone. In many cases the best way to make someone want something is to make them imagine what it could be like without having what you don’t want. Kids hug you and love you every second of the day. Nothing in the world is better than their tolerance, devotion, patience and understanding.
For someone who didn’t want children in your younger life, how do you find fatherhood now?
Fatherhood is the third stage of a man, to learn about women and to be responsible and be in harmony. You don’t leartn anything unless you notch a few emotional scares! I was always supposed to be a dad, like I was always supposed to be a writer. We learn the most from the hardest lessons, kids have made me much more of who I am, they are like mirrors and nothing in the world will ever teach me more about love than the complete devotion of my children and wife whom I would lay my life down for at any minute in the day without a battle.
You stepped down from Kennedy's confection in 2012 to concentrate on your writing, so tell us about that decision making process. Was it difficult to make the transition?
In essence, I only have to look around me and see so many people following the lives and vocations of others. I never ever stopped at working day and night to be a writer. I stopped watching telly and couldn’t stop it! In the end life is about passive courage, when I say that, I mean the courage to stop fighting and adopt the feminine side and tune into emotions and let life happen and fight for you. That’s what I do now, I am being emotional and that’s what who I really am. I am going through a very exciting time of my life. Faith is the ability to never, ever give up on what you believe in, even if it takes 30 years. You cannot win against your passion no matter what daft logic you use. The only person in life you must not compete with is yourself!
You are the ex-editor of Kennedy's Confections magazine and tasted chocolate for a living, which sounds like the perfect job, so what were your experiences of this like?
Well, you will have to read my next book out this year called My Sweet Truth, as that’s exactly what I wrote about. I have so much candy and chocolate around me it’s nuts. I had a very strange childhood. Well, no dad, an alcoholic mum and all the candy in the world. A most curious mix! Anyway Lucy if it wasn’t for chocolate and champagne we wouldn’t have so many kids! I also believe that indulgence is an essential ingredient (along with sex) of a long-standing relationship. But sex is good for babies but babies are terrible for sex! So that’s were chocolate fits in nicely!
What feedback do you think you will have you have from your readers?
Well, the book doesn’t go on sale till the 11th of Feb, but I have never been so excited in all my life. I will be featured in a major national tabloid (I mean two pages). I spoke to the journalist last night for nearly 2 hours - she simply said it was one of the best books she has read! I am pinching myself. Lucy you know journalists don’t lie Then another one came through saying she loved it and another and I started to think, ‘oh my God, The Kitchen Baby really could be a good book! I honestly think I nailed it, but the readers will be the judges of that.
What is next for you?
To show people how to love each other, stay together, be in the moment and laugh about how awful things are as we are all in the same boat. I have always had a dream and never once gave up. My life is to live my dream and I thank you for helping me in the process. I only write if I know I can give love to my readers and in return they love what I do. We are given gifts for good reason and man, looks like I am about to find out!
Female First Lucy Walton