MEET OUR LITTLE DAGG!
Oh boy! The All Black dad couldn’ t be more proud
His eyes are a little more tired these days, but Israel Dagg’s smile is broader than ever as he gently holds the legs of his newborn son Arlo Henry Dagg, wheeling them in a cycling motion.
“Look at those long legs,” says the star All Black proudly to his wife Daisy, 29, as their gorgeous blue-eyed boy gurgles and giggles on the couch at their modern Christchurch home.
“We’ll do some crunches next,” announces Israel, ever the joker.
And then, in a surprisingly melodic voice, the 29-year-old Crusaders star begins crooning, “Arlo-lujah, Arlo-lujah,” to the tune of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah”. Israel is clearly smitten with his bonny boy.
Looking at Arlo, it’s hard to believe that the bouncing baby weighed just 2.9kg when he was born on April 9.
“He’s more than making up for it now,” grins the sports star, who himself weighed a whopping 5.2kg at birth. “He’s gone up to 10 pounds [4.5kg] already and has grown 5cm – he’s a big boy!”
After being forced off the field in Brisbane in March with a serious knee injury, which required keyhole surgery soon after, Israel has been spending plenty of “quality daddy time” at home with Arlo since he arrived.
But now fully recovered, last week he was selected for a spot in the All Blacks squad for the Lions Series.
“My body is the provider for my family, so I have to look after it!” he laughs.
“If Arlo wakes up at night and he’s loud, I’ll just jump into the spare room for a couple of hours. I’m actually OK if he stays in our room, but I say we chuck him in his own room.”
The athlete shoots his wife a mock-pleading look, then grins, “I mean, Daisy’s pimped out his nursery, so it’d be a waste of all her hard work if he stays in our bedroom!”
Israel adds, “Arlo is already a real mummy’s boy. And who can blame him? Daisy’s an amazing mum. I’m pretty proud of her.
“And she’s an amazing wife too. Somehow, she still finds time to cook me good meals every now and again – though sometimes I might just go out and get a burger because it’s easier.”
Daisy, a food blogger and interior designer, says their life has “done a 180” since Arlo was born.
“I was such an organised, on-to-it person before baby,” she tells. “I’d be 15 minutes early to every appointment and now sometimes I’m still in my pyjamas at 1pm, covered in s*** and breast milk! It’s been hard for a clean freak like me, but I’ve had to let go.”
While starting a family has been on the cards for a while, the couple – who married in Hawke’s Bay in December 2014 – both admit they were blindsided by Arlo’s arrival three days ahead of schedule – particularly Israel, who was feeling a “little bit dusty” after the couple had attended a friend’s wedding the night before!
Daisy explains, “Because of an operation I had five years ago, I was booked in for a medical Caesarean on the Wednesday, so we thought we still had a few days to get our heads round some last-minute things.”
But at 5.15am on the Sunday, just hours after they returned from their
pal’s wedding, Daisy – who had been hospitalised with “excruciating” kidney stones when she was five months pregnant – was again hit with a severe pain.
When the discomfort persisted, her obstetrician suggested they come into hospital, where it quickly emerged she was in labour. After being wheeled into theatre, her strapping 96kg husband, usually a healthy shade of olive, turned “stark white” when he saw his wife, Daisy tells.
“The midwife told him, ‘Let us know if you’re going to faint because there’s no-one here who’s strong enough to catch you!’ They had to sit him down in a chair.”
“I wasn’t going to faint,” insists Israel, grinning, “but I was definitely a bit shaky and I wasn’t mentally prepared to have a son that day. Suddenly, it just hit me – this baby’s been in Daisy’s tummy for nine months, now he’s arriving and we’re going to be looking after him for forever. It was a big moment.”
Arlo was born at 12.08pm, with Daisy describing the “surreal” sensation of watching as doctors plucked him from her belly “like an out-of-body experience”.
“He looked like a little alien,” says Israel. “I couldn’t believe how tiny he was. We weren’t expecting that at all because Daisy and I were both big babies.”
The couple insist there was no special reason for Arlo’s unusual name. Israel tells, “It means fortified hill. Daisy saw it on a name tag in a baby shop. We had a few other ideas, but when the nurses asked us what his name was, we both just looked at each other and said, ‘Arlo.’”
Henry, his middle name, is a tribute to the pair’s best friend, who is Arlo’s godfather, and also to Israel’s grandfather.
In the weeks since the lad’s birth, Israel has become a doting dad, showing his rugby teammates pictures on his
phone after training sessions, saying, “Look at my boy!”
“Arlo changes every day,” marvels Daisy as her son shoots her yet another heartwarming smile. “He looked like me at the start, but he’s getting more and more like Izzy now.”
A collection of Polaroids proudly on display reveals the little charmer already has an army of fans, including his doting grandparents and Crusaders teammates.
With Israel focused on rugby, Gisborne-born Daisy – who is breast and bottle-feeding to cope with Arlo’s healthy appetite – is missing having family close by, but she’s enjoying spending time with her fellow Crusaders wives and partners.
“We call it Boobs, Bubs and Lattes,” smiles the svelte new mum. “We go out on walks a lot, which is great because I’m not really allowed to exercise much yet because of the C-section. There’ve been seven Crusaders babies born in the last few months and we’ll meet at someone’s house, then just talk and drink coffee.
“The Crusaders girls are like my second family in Christchurch. Obviously, no two babies are the same, but it’s good to swap little bits of info and I get lots of great advice when we meet up once a week.”
Running the blog The Rugby Pantry with fellow All Black wife Amber Vito, Daisy continues, “I’ve still got work too, which I try to fit in with Arlo’s catnaps. The other day, I had to cook a salmon ravioli. As soon as I put him down, I ran to the kitchen, cooked it, and then there was mess everywhere and he woke up.”
“I could take over,” Israel suggests.
“Yeah, when you’re not working,” Daisy grins. “On his days off when he used to play golf, now he’ll be looking after the baby. He’ll be No-Hobbies Dagg!”
“As soon as Arlo’s old enough, he’ll be coming with me,” insists Israel, who’s been busy turning the lounge into a mini-golf course in between photos.
While he’s with the All Blacks for the Lions tour, Daisy will head home to Gisborne so Arlo can meet his great-grandmother and spend time with his doting
grandma Trudy, who came to help for the first couple of weeks after Arlo’s birth.
“It’s so tiring, but also so rewarding,” says Daisy. “We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Adds Israel, “It’s pretty bloody life-changing, eh?”
And already there are plans to expand their little family. Well, at least one of the couple is thinking about it ...
“I want us to have a daughter next,” Israel smiles, “so we can have a little princess – a daddy’s girl!”
What a perfect delivery! Baby Arlo blindsided his parents by arriving three days early. “It was a big moment,” declares Israel.
Despite feeling a little panicked when Arlo first made his appearance, besotted Israel’s tackling parenthood with ease.
Proudly noting that their darling wee boy is “getting more and more like Izzy”, doting mum Daisy says life with baby is “so tiring, but also so rewarding”.
Baby steps: Arlo’s nursery is pimped out and perfect, but now she’s a mum, organised “clean freak” Daisy has “had to let go”.