‘I was convinced I was going to lose my daughter.’ Matty J on the intensity of fatherhood.

Matthew Johnson – or as we know him, Matty J – sure appears to have it all.

The successful reality TV heartthrob and podcast host is a loving husband to Laura Byrne and a doting dad of two girls, Marlie-Mae and Lola. His media career has gone from strength to strength, and on Instagram, the family videos and holiday snaps are funny and adorable.

On the latest episode of the But Are You Happy podcast, Matty J tells host Clare Stephens that, while he is very happy, there have still been some big challenges, especially in fatherhood.

Listen to Matty J on season 2 of But Are You Happy. Post continues below.

One of the hardest times was when Laura was pregnant with their second daughter, Lola.

"We had a really great pregnancy experience with Marlie, everything was amazing and Laura felt great," Matty J tells Clare.

"But at the four-month mark with Lola, she got really, really sick. Sick enough to be bedridden for a week or two. This was the peak of Covid when a lot of the appointments took place over the phone. Laura was speaking to the midwife at the time and explaining the symptoms, but they would say to stay home and rest up.

"The worst it got was when Laura had these excruciating pains in her stomach on New Year's Day. She hadn't slept and was in so much pain that she started vomiting. We told the midwife that she was coming into the hospital because it wasn't normal. And it wasn't until Laura was in so much pain that she was on the floor vomiting that they gave her morphine and said they would do some scans and tests to what was going on with the baby. They sent Laura home and then it wasn't until the next day they called us and said there was a chance it could be hydrops fetalis, where the baby has severe swelling in the brain and only has a 10 per cent chance of survival."


The expectant dad was devastated and says that during this time, when the world was telling him he should be so happy, he felt upset and angry.

"We had to wait four days to get more tests done thanks to Covid, and the hospital was severely understaffed. And I remember during those four days, I called my sister and said that I f**king wish I'd done more. The whole time I was just sitting there saying, 'Don't worry, Laura, if it was a problem, the midwife would have said something,' but then I thought I was going to lose my daughter. I just was so angry.

"I would fluctuate between thinking it would be okay and then googling symptoms and believing Lola had hydrops fetalis. We ended up getting a really amazing obstetrician who said let's get this baby out as soon as we can. And luckily, Lola was fine. She didn't have hydrops, which was the most amazing relief to find out that she was healthy. 

"But that four-day period where I was so mad and convinced that I was going to lose my child? That was terrifying."

After Lola's birth and the enormous relief of her being healthy, Matty J says the sleep deprivation and subsequent frustration made him feel hugely guilty.

"I wouldn't wish sleep deprivation on my worst enemy! You have zero patience, not just with your new baby, but with your partner as well. You're trying so hard to make it work and you're running on empty.

"And I was so relieved to find out that she was a healthy baby. And then in those moments where you've been awake for hours on end, and you've got a busy day ahead, and you would give your own finger to get some sleep... at that moment you have so much frustration towards your newborn. And then the guilt afterwards of feeling so frustrated at this baby you thought was going to die? It's so hard to find that love because there's no love to give in that moment. And the guilt afterwards is the worst."


Matty J also shares what it was like as Laura's partner to go through pregnancy loss both privately and in the public eye. 

"When you experience a miscarriage, the last thing you want to do is bump into a friend who you haven't told and then have to tell them you just lost a baby. You really need to discuss those delicate moments in a safe environment, not when you're bumping into someone on the street. 


"It was hard because there's not really much you can do as a partner except just be there. I think for me, the grief came in waves and I can look back now and see I used distraction to deal with it. Laura is such an amazing, strong woman, and she's really positive as well. So I think we both leaned on each other. 

"But I would say without question that what a woman has to go through in that situation far outweighs what a man has to go through. And I think men are very fortunate in that they can distract themselves. I can go for a run to think about it all whereas for Laura it was something that she had to deal with every second of the day."

With all the challenges that fatherhood has thrown at Matty J, he tells Clare that it's his family and their happiness that brings him the most joy.

"It's been great to feel happy when I kick goals in my career, but I think the biggest change since becoming a dad is how I'm able to achieve that happiness through my kids.

"It's funny; if I see my kids and they're smiling and we're at the park, like, obviously I'm not happy at the park – I don't love it that much! But if I'm there because it makes my girls happy, then that gives me this big residual happiness that I absolutely love."

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Senior Lifestyle Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Instagram @matthewdavidjohnson