Austin Healey and his girls

The rugby international and TV presenter talks fatherhood and post-natal depression

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Dad-of-four Austin Healey is so brilliantly placed to share his wisdom on life as a modern dad that he admits to suffering from postnatal depression after the birth of his first daughter. ‘It’s true,’ he says. ‘After Ellie-Mae was born, Lou (Louise, Austin’s wife, pictured above with twins Bibi-Dee and Betsy, 1) got to grips with being a mum immediately. But I just couldn’t get my head around being a parent. I couldn’t stop worrying that something awful was going to happen to the baby, something I’d have no control over. I had postnatal depression for four months after Ellie-Mae was born. I slept on the floor next to her cot and was exhausted.  My game really suffered – I didn’t want to train, I didn’t want to go to the gym. Finally, I talked to the team psychologist and he really sorted me out. He taught me positive affirmation – to think about five really great things I’d done with my daughter that day, and five things that, as a parent, had gone really well. It hasn’t recurred with any of my other daughters but I often remember how vulnerable I felt.’

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Although Austin admits to being a bit of a disciplinarian – ‘you have to be strict with four’ – there’s also a free spirit underneath that steely exterior. ‘As a dad I want my children to have all the opportunities I’ve had – to travel, work on exciting projects, see the world. I’d love to pack us all up in a camper van and just go round the world for six months.’ At the moment Austin would be hard-pushed to fit a family holiday into his busy schedule, let alone a six-month road trip. ‘I’m really enjoying my TV work (Austin is one of the two new team captains in the new BBC series Hole in the Wall) and then there’s the brand stuff – we’re working with Huggies at the moment. We use Huggies with the twins, and you  have to admit they do look the business taking their first steps in their denim-look nappies (Huggies Little Walker Denim).

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And what’s the best thing about being a dad? Austin looks misty-eyed. ‘Your kids just exceed all your dreams and expectations,’ he says. ‘It’s those picture-perfect moments you treasure. If I could wish anything for my girls, it would be good health and happiness. Also, for me not to have to sort out their boyfriends too often. I’m not looking forward to that bit!’

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