MEET OUR LIT­TLE DAGG!

Oh boy! The All Black dad couldn’ t be more proud

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - What A Week! -

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.”

Hospi­tal­dash

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.

Bub­ba­club!

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”.

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