Fathers' Daze: A Patriots Baby Boom
Reading defensive coverages? Easy. Installing a car seat? Not so much. As Father's Day approaches, six New England players — who all welcomed babies within two months of their Super Bowl win — trade notes on parenting
There’s no rest for the Super Bowl 51 champions this offseason—or to be more precise: no sleep. Seven babies were born to six Patriots families—five who helped defeat the Falcons and one who joined in free agency—all within two months of New England winning the Lombardi Trophy. A statistical breakdown: there were two first-time dads; two babies were born on the same day; there was one set of twins, one three-day labor, and four older siblings who might be feeling pangs of jealousy. In honor of Father’s Day, The MMQB spoke to the six Patriots dads about the joys and the frustrations of fatherhood: OT Nate Solder (daughter Charlie), RB Brandon Bolden (daughter, Axelle), S Devin McCourty (daughter Londyn),FB James Develin (son Will), WR Chris Hogan (twin son and daughter Chase and Parker),CB Stephon Gilmore (daughter Gisele).
KAHLER: What’s been the hardest part about having a new baby?
GILMORE: Now that we have two kids, we play man-to-man now, but before we could switch off and get a little break. Now we gotta pretty much have one every moment. The only time we get time to ourselves is when they are asleep at night.
HOGAN: It’s straight man-to-man coverage with twins. When I go home, especially during this time, back-and-forth between OTAs and minicamp, I like to give my wife, Ashley, a break at night. I will take them during the night and feed them and change them and do all that. Other than that, we really do most of it together because it requires two sets of hands.
MCCOURTY: The hardest part is just not knowing what she needs at different points. We had a little stretch where she wasn’t gaining weight so we had to go see some specialists and that was nerve-wracking, sitting there and her going through different tests and not knowing, but trying to help. She ended up just having reflux, but there would be times when she was just crying and you can’t help out. You just can’t communicate with her in any way, and to me that was the hardest part—just trial and error until you figure it out and can calm her down.
KAHLER: The best part?
DEVELIN: Just having the two of them and knowing the bond that they will share, especially being so close in age and that they are two boys and they are brothers. I never had a brother growing up. I had an older sister and we had a great relationship, but I always kind of missed out on having that older brother to look up to or younger brother to bring along. I always hoped for two boys, so they could be brothers, so giving them that is something I’m most proud of.
MCCOURTY: The best part is just seeing the growth. She’s still not even three months old yet but just seeing the different things, especially over the last couple weeks, of her smiling at you and actually being able to play a little bit. That’s been the best thing. You have a couple of the long nights and the crying, but when you see the baby growing and start to see a little bit of personality, to me that has been the best thing.
HOGAN: There’s really no dull moment when you’re having twins. You can definitely see their personalities forming already. Our girl, Parker, she’s been the talkative one very early on. She’s just nonstop. She makes all the sounds and make direct eye contact with you and her smiles are nonstop. She’s cranky when she’s hungry, she’ll let you know about that, but that’s about the only time she gets after you. The rest of the time she’ll just chill. Our boy, Chase, is the opposite. He is aware of everything but he wasn’t really making a lot of sounds until recently and he can be a little crankier than her at times. He doesn’t really like to lay down facing the ceiling, he’d rather be propped up so he can see what is going on. So we’ve started doing that so he can look at whatever is going on.
KAHLER: How are you sleeping at night?
DEVELIN: Our family always jokes that my wife is the whisperer in getting babies to go to sleep. She has a crazy good touch for that. It's funny, when Will gets a really good night of sleep, let’s say he goes eight or nine hours straight, the next night we try to do everything exactly the same. Put him in the same pajamas, feed him at the same time. We do everything exactly the same, and sometimes it works and sometimes it's just, you know, superstitious as all athletes seem to be. But we’ll try it every single time.
BOLDEN: Axelle has been very good. At the least, she’ll go to sleep at 10 or 11 and she might wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. What I hear from other dads, who get an hour here or two hours here, that’s real good. My wife does such a great job that she’ll hear her before it even gets to me. Shout out to my wife, because she does an awesome job keeping the house quiet.
KAHLER: How did you pick out the name?
BOLDEN: Axelle is Hebrew. We were back and forth for names, and one day my wife had one of her moments and she said, “You know what, I found the perfect name.” She came to me and she said, “It’s different, you don’t ever really hear a name like that.” So I was like hey, you know what, happy wife, happy life. Definitely, let’s go with it.
HOGAN: Going through the name process, we really went with the gender-neutral names, we didn’t know if it was a boy or girl while we were picking out names. Ashley likes the gender-neutral names that could have gone either way. We could have had two boys or two girls and named them the same thing. We both would write down a list of names and we’d compare. There wasn’t any disagreements and once we found Chase and Parker, we both really liked both of those names, so it was a pretty easy process.
MCCOURTY: I actually just always liked the name Londyn, and my wife liked it. I was lucky, I thought she was going to turn down all my names and just pick the name she wanted. So that was my contribution during pregnancy, taking the stress off picking out a name. And then my wife came up with the middle name, so it was good teamwork.
SOLDER: Charlie Grace. Grace Potter is my wife’s favorite singer and we’re also believers in Christ, and we believe that it is only by the grace of God that we are here where we are today. And Charlie was a name that we thought was really catchy and cute, and also Lexi’s dad’s name is Charles, so it fit for two reasons.
KAHLER: Chris, how did you feel when you found out your first baby was actually going to be twins?
HOGAN: I remember that day like it was yesterday. We went in for a routine sonogram and they were looking for the heartbeat, it was very early on, probably around 20 weeks or so, and the woman who was doing the sonogram goes, “I have news to tell you.” And at first I was like, Oh geez, something is wrong. That was my immediate thought, but then she says, “There are two heartbeats in here.” And my wife Ashley and I, the feeling was just like, it’s hard to describe, there were so many emotions that were going on. We didn’t expect it, we were so excited. And then we started thinking about what we were going to have to do, buy two of everything. All that stuff flowed in in the matter of a minute or two. It was a lot. But the overall emotion between the two of us was we were so excited and we just prayed for two healthy babies and a smooth pregnancy.
KAHLER: When did you find out the gender?
SOLDER: It was a surprise. I was the one that announced it. For my older son, Hudson, I was so shocked that we had a baby in the whole process that I totally spaced out in telling everyone what the sex was. This is an infamous story now. The doctors go, “Nate, what’s the sex?”—and I don’t remember this—but I said, ‘How do I tell?’ With Charlie, seconds before she was born, I said, I’m not going to forget, I’m not going to forget. But once again, I spaced it. I was just so shocked with our new baby that they yelled at me again, “What’s the sex?”
GILMORE: After we had our son, I just knew that I was going to have a girl next. I wasn’t going to have two boys in a row, I just had a feeling, so when my wife told me I wasn’t surprised.
DEVELIN: We didn’t know the sex of the baby, either two boys, so that was awesome. It's one of those moments in life where it truly is a real surprise, no one in the world except for God knows what the sex is going to be. The moment the doctor pulled him out and asked me to announce whether it was a boy or girl, both times it brought me to tears. It's such a special moment that I would want to do for as many kids as we have in the future.
MCCOURTY: For some reason my wife kept saying she felt like it was going to be a girl. I was like, well, I don’t know, we’ll see, we’ll see. Sitting there at the doctor, I remember them saying it and I was just really excited.
HOGAN: If we were only going to have one baby, we went back and forth on leaving it as surprise, but with two, the two of us were in agreement that you can only have so many gender neutral clothes. These are the first grandbabies, and the first kids from all of our friends, so the clothes and the blankets and all of the stuff overtook our house. We figured we could only have so many gray outfits to put them in, so we decided to find out the gender. The two of us said the entire time, we always had this feeling it was a boy and a girl. And when we found out that is what it was we were so happy. I’m sure there were a few tears that were going on in the doctor’s office that day but it was such an awesome moment for both us. One of each, best of both worlds.
BOLDEN: When we went to find out my son was a boy, I remember walking out of the doctor’s office looking at my wife, and she was like, I’m so happy it’s a boy, and we chest bumped in the lobby. This time we found we were having a girl and we said, you know what, it’s perfect. We have a boy and now we’re having a girl. We had that conversation so many times, if it’s a girl, that’d be perfect. We got our girl, so we’re thinking of seeing if we can go three for three with the guessing, but I’ll leave that up to her.
KAHLER: Did you do a creative gender reveal announcement?
MCCOURTY: We did, we did a cool announcement where we bought a onesie and put a onesie on a pumpkin and we did it in October with a real October/Halloween type of feel to it, with a mom and dad pumpkin and then a baby pumpkin. My wife had all the creativity, I just showed up.
BOLDEN: We kept everything quiet publicly, but we let both sides of the family know it was a girl. My family in California knew before I could even text them and before we even left the hospital, because my mom told everybody that fast.
KAHLER: Where were you when your wife went into labor? Did you panic?
GILMORE: Actually when I flew into New England, I was a free agent, so when I flew in to sign my contract here, I had to fly right back that same day because I found out my wife was going into labor. I signed in Foxborough and I came back to Charlotte, and as soon as I landed I got to the hospital and waited about an hour and my daughter came. I didn’t want to miss that, so I’m glad she waited until I got there. I was concerned about getting there too late, but I just had some feeling in my heart that I wasn’t going to miss it.
MCCOURTY: My wife got induced, so we didn’t have the my-water-broke-panic moment. But it wasn’t ideal. She got induced on a Thursday night, but it was a slow process. We ended up not having the baby all the way until Saturday at 4 p.m. It was rough. On Friday I had to leave and I had to go get a blow up bed, I was like, I can’t sleep on that couch for another night! They switched up the medicine and then on Saturday it picked up, she went from five centimeters and within an hour she was fully dilated. It was definitely more stressful for her I think, just sitting there and hoping to get going and it wouldn’t get going. We had a long couple days in the hospital.
BOLDEN: That is a story for the ages. We had already scheduled a C-section, because our first child was a C-section. We thought it was March 13th and just out of nowhere on the 10th, our son told us, “Yeah, my sister is going to be here tomorrow.” Me and my wife laughed it off, like, Yeah, but we don’t have to go to the doctor until the 13th. He laughed and the next thing you know, my wife starts having these bad cramps from like 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. So it was like, Okay, we need to go to the hospital. We get to the hospital and they say, Oh yeah, you’re dilating, so we’re going to go ahead and get this party started. And we said to our son, “Oh, Brycen you were right, how did you know?”
KAHLER: Devin, I saw you wore a customized t-shirt at the hospital. Did you make that?
MCCOURTY: I made two shirts and my brother sent me one. I’m a big T-shirt guy, so I had to be prepared for the situation. I had All-Star Labor Coach and then I had another shirt to leave the hospital in, so I was well prepared. And luckily I had three shirts because it lasted longer than I expected.
KAHLER: Have you had a moment of total frustration as a dad where you just want to throw your hands up?
HOGAN: I had them both in the car and it was one of those moments where they were not very happy in the car, sitting in traffic with two crying babies was pretty tough. The secret is just try to get them to get the binkyand keep the car moving. Whenever we stop in traffic, [Chase] will get upset, but when we get the car moving he actually settles down. The trick when we go on road trips is to keep the car moving as much as possible.
GILMORE: Yeah, I changed my first diaper on my daughter a couple days ago, and it’s just different with a girl. She actually uses the bathroom more than my son did. I’m like, Oh my god, you have to have like three or four changes of clothes for her. My son didn’t use the bathroom as much, she has blowouts sometimes, so you have to be prepared for her more.
SOLDER: Totally overwhelmed? Anytime I am stuck with both kids it is mostly like that. You come into our house anytime between 4 and 6 p.m., and it is probably me being overwhelmed because I’ll be holding the baby, she’ll be crying, and Hudson will be running around and tearing the house up. On a daily basis, I think that’s me.
DEVELIN: We were flying from Providence to Philly, it's a 50-minute flight and it ended up being an hour and a half until we took off and then we landed in Philly, and it was three-and-a-half hours until we got to the gate. It was the feeling of not being in control or being prepared to be in that situation. Had we known we would be on a flight for seven hours, we would have had more bottles and more food for [our 1-year-old son] Jimmy, but we just had one bottle for Will, a couple snacks for Jimmy and so when we’re sitting there for that long, there was nothing we could do for them and it was a really frustrating moment. They actually held it together better than my wife and I did. We were just panicked. There was no end in sight, we didn't know when we were going to get off the plane, so we were just like, what are we going to do for these kids? What if they start to freak out? Both of them were really good and they took a lot of stress off us. If they were freaking out for that whole time, it would have been truly a meltdown city.
BOLDEN: No, not this time around. When I was younger I felt like that a lot of the time but with the second kid, I’ve been settled down and everything is going in the right direction. It’s really been a breeze. It’s been a lot easier to compare notes with the other new dads in the locker room, like okay, I shouldn’t feel too bad because their kids are doing it too. It’s not just me.
KAHLER: For those of you who now have two kids, is it easier now that you know what you are doing with the second baby?
BOLDEN: When I had my son I was a junior in college, so that was like, which way was up? To be honest with you, having a girl now, I’m still like which way is up? It’s totally different than the first time. My wife has been a big help. She’s got me on the learning curve; she had a C-section and she was walking the next day, so she was able to walk me through how to change her, which cry is what. It’s been a breeze thanks to my wife. It’s totally different having a second child as opposed to having a first one.
SOLDER: I think it is easier. One of the nicest things I learned with Hudson was babies just cry. You can feed them and change them and everything can be right and they just want to talk and cry, so not having as much stress about that has been helpful this time around.
KAHLER: Is your older kid a little jealous of the new baby?
SOLDER: Hudson is kind of funny, most of the time he’s the sweetest big brother in the whole world, lots of hugs and kisses and he’ll throw diapers away and help when he can, but sometimes he has a little demon in him that he can’t resist and he just whacks her in the face. Sometimes he’ll be jealous and want a hug from his mom and she is nursing her or something, so there’s a little bit of an adjustment there but he’s doing really well.
DEVELIN: We thought Jimmy would be too young to even really notice, because he turned 1 on Super Bowl Sunday, but when we brought Will home, it was a little funny to see his reaction. There was definitely a little bit of jealousy, he didn't like that our attention switched to Will and wasn’t always on him like it had been for the first 14 months of his life, so he was doing a little bit more acting out and throwing temper tantrums to try to get our attention. But recently, in the past month or so, he’s calmed down and started to help with Will a lot more. Now, he'll try to help give him a bottle or give him his nookie if he's crying. My wife, Jenny, sent me a picture today of Jimmy trying to help her burp Will today after a bottle, so he’s getting a little more hands on now and it's really fun to watch.
BOLDEN: Sometimes Brycen does get jealous. It was real great for the first month and a half, every time he heard her crying, he would say, “What’s wrong with her, what can I do? Can I hold her?” And some days it’s just like, Nah. No, I don’t want to watch her, I don’t want to hold her today. It smells like she pooped, y’all need to change her. But he has really been great. He has his moments sometimes, being a 6-year-old, but not as bad as it could be.
GILMORE: I usually have my son a lot and my wife has my daughter, we play man-to-man. I hold her sometimes, but my two-year-old son is so aggressive that we just try to keep him away, he’s always pulling on her. I think he’s kind of jealous of her a little bit. He gets mad when I hold her, so I just try to keep him away from her.
KAHLER: What is your advice to dads of newborns?
MCCOURTY: I would say one of the most interesting things is the car seat, putting the car seat in. I would tell all new dads to jump on YouTube to practice before you go down that road. Don’t think you will just be able to snap that thing in and be ready to go. You could easily be stuck somewhere for maybe an hour trying to figure out that car seat. My brother gave me that heads up and I jumped on YouTube and practiced before we had to come home from the hospital.
HOGAN: Oh, I’ve YouTubed it all. My advice would be to have patience. If you are blessed to have twins, you definitely have to get the little Twingaroo carrier thing where you can hold both of the babies with one in back of you and one in front of you, because sitting around the house and trying to get one of them to settle down and then two of them to settle down at once is near impossible. You get him to settle down and you put him down, then you pick her up, but after you get her to settle down, he is upset again. The twin thing we have, the carrier, we are able to calm them down together and move around the house. We did have to Youtube once or twice about how to get that on properly.
DEVELIN: Definitely just having patience as a whole. Speaking from my experience, you live your whole life just worrying about yourself and caring about yourself, but when you have a little baby, their whole existence is up to you, you have to make sure you provide for them, feed them, take care of every little thing and that takes a lot of time and a lot of work and you’re just not really used to that. It was a really trying thing, to have the patience to not to get upset or frustrated when they are crying; it’s what babies do and they don't have any other way to communicate. Just having more patience than you ever thought you could have, that would be my advice.
BOLDEN: Best thing I got is: your wife is always right. Always read the instruction manuals, and the big bouncy workout balls, they will save your knees so much from rocking a child to sleep. My daughter loves that ball. We sit on it, I wrap her up in both arms, swaddle her, and we sit on that ball and we’re bouncing for about 15 minutes and she’s out for the night.
SOLDER: When they are hungry, feed them. It sounds silly, but I think there are a lot of different philosophies on making them wait, or pushing it back or whatever. A) You just want their body weight to go up when they are that little, and B) It just makes everything easier, just feed them.
KAHLER: What will you tell your babies about the epic Super Bowl 51 win they barely missed out on?
BOLDEN: I’m going to tell her that I lost your mom for a good 30 minutes and I thought y’all was already at the hospital because it was that nerve-wracking of a game. You’re a Super Bowl baby and it’s surprising that you weren’t born the day of the Super Bowl, as stressful as that was for everybody. That will be my message to her. She is going to be a real special child, an extremely strong child, to go through all that stress and noise that was being made after the game and still come out with the brightest smile, the most beautiful child I have ever seen. She’ll always have a great story when it’s time to talk about the Super Bowl when she gets older.
MCCOURTY: I’ll probably tell her that she’s lucky that she didn’t come out right then and there, because I’m sure her mom was going crazy in the stands. But I’ll have to show her the film so she’ll believe I actually played in the game and then I’ll try to use it as a lesson to show her and tell her never to give up and whatever you are involved in, believe in your process in whatever you’ve done and the hard work you’ve put in.
DEVELIN: Well, first I’m going to tell him it was his big brother’s first birthday, because that was really cool. Secondly, like Julian Edelman said, you just always have to believe and never give up and never quit because that is truly what our team showed in the fourth quarter. No matter the circumstance you are given, put your head down and get to work and believe in yourself and anything can happen.
HOGAN: Hopefully I am blessed to play long enough for them to understand what dad did for a living, but if not, I’m sure they are going to get countless movies and home videos of dad playing football. That will be a special one, just because of the circumstances and them being in mom’s belly during one of the biggest games of his career. I’ll just tell them it was such a great game and wish their mom and the two of them could have been there to see it. It will be a fun story to tell them and for them to watch.
SOLDER: I think that I would tell her that the world would never be the same after she was born. Everything changed when she came into the world, that she is far more important than any Super Bowl victory and that our time spent before and after her was so special.
KAHLER: Did you know there were so many Patriots babies born after the Super Bowl?
MCCOURTY: Yeah it was crazy, I think the wives probably knew best, just being around each other and talking about the different things with pregnancy, but there were a lot of congrats texts going out. Myself and Bolden actually had our daughters on the same day. It was just babies everywhere. I guess winning causes guys to keep having babies.
BOLDEN: Our babies were hours apart. I found out later that night actually, because after she was born we put pics on Instagram and someone actually commented on my Instagram that McCourty had his baby too, “Did y’all plan it?” I ended up having to text Devin and say, You had your baby? Oh, congrats! We had a good laugh about that. Everybody in the hospital thought we had planned that.
SOLDER: What was the tally of how many was it exactly? Seven? I would have guessed like four. But I did know that a lot of people were having babies.
DEVELIN: Yeah, It was kind of fun, the last couple months right before the Super Bowl when we were all together still, our wives were doing a lot of talking, bouncing their stories of the day off each other, and we were too in the locker room. It’s always fun to talk to someone going through the same situations as far as having a baby. It was cool to have a bunch of us going through it at the same time.
HOGAN: It’s pretty cool, it’s such an awesome experience for guys like Devin who are new dads, like myself, we’re going through all this stuff for the first time and it’s pretty cool to go through that with guys on the team. You always have someone to look to when you have a rough night or a tough car ride or a gross diaper change, whatever it is, you have guys to look towards who are going through the same thing.
GILMORE: Yeah, I knew that, when I came to New England they told me a couple players had babies, and it seemed like everybody had babies, I think McCourty had a baby the day before me and someone else had a baby right after me. It was crazy, it seemed like everybody planned it.
KAHLER: You’ve won a Super Bowl and had a baby in a matter of a couple months. How will you top 2017?
DEVELIN: Our first Super Bowl I never thought I’d be able to top, and then having this Super Bowl and having our second child, it’s been a great start to this year. I was surprised when we won our second one and later when we had Will, so maybe things will keep trending upwards.
MCCOURTY:I don’t know if I can, I think, hopefully I can follow it up with another ring, that’s probably the closest you can get. There’s no way to do this year all over again, it would be very difficult. I’m just accepting this past year, it’s been a blessing.
KAHLER: What is the best advice you got from your dad that you will pass on?
HOGAN: Patience. It just requires patience and just to be there for them, whether they recognize it or not in the first couple months. Just being there is the most important, Ashley, that’s what he did as a dad, so it was easy for me to learn, just do what my dad did, just be there and have patience for babies and Ashley.
GILMORE: To have a genuine relationship with them where they feel like they can tell you anything and you are not judging them or saying something to them that they wouldn’t like, but to have that relationship where they can come to talk to you about anything.
BOLDEN: To never argue with a pregnant woman because you will always lose . . . I’m just joking. My dad told me to always be a great listener, no matter who you are talking to. My son already has a problem with that. He’s a Taurus so he is real bull-headed, literally.
SOLDER: One thing I always remember my dad saying was make sure you get all your chores done before you have fun. And that applies to all phases of life. Make sure you get your work done before you go and relax.
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