They say that parenthood is meant to be the happiest time of your life, but for Paddy and Christine McGuinness the experience has caused untold pain and suffering.
The comedian, 43, and his model wife, 29, are parents to three children – little Felicity was born last year, but it’s their four-year-old twins, Penelope and Leo, who are in the spotlight at the moment as the couple publicly come to terms with their autism.
In an interview with the Mirror, Paddy spoke about his heartbreak at watching his children suffer.
“When I hear the word ‘autism’, I just feel so unhappy,” he confessed.
“I don’t like seeing how it affects my children. It upsets me so much seeing them getting so stressed out and frustrated. Every parent just wants their child to be happy and to protect them.
“Some days, it feels like you’re slowly drowning. It’s like you’re under water, desperately swimming up to get oxygen but never getting there.”
It was Christine who first broke the news of Penelope and Lio’s autism.
On the twins’ fourth birthday on 2 July, she posted a touching poem about their condition to Instagram, and it exposed some of the challenges the parents face.
She wrote: “The meltdowns, the routines and all the planning ahead. The groundhog days, the beige food and the temperamental ‘time for bed.”
And the blonde mum looked visibly emotional as she read out the poem on yesterday’s Loose Women.
Paddy once declared on The Jonathan Ross Show that fatherhood was the “most fantastic thing ever”.
But he admits that, since the twins were diagnosed with the condition, life has been a struggle.
“Initially, when they were diagnosed, it was shock – instant shock,” he told the Mirror. “We had no idea they had autism, although the signs were there.
“They were non-verbal until they were three. They didn’t socialise with other children very well and they still do struggle socialising with other children.”
The Lancashire-born star has never been more popular – as well as presenting dating show Take Me Out, he received critical acclaim for recent comedy series The Keith and Paddy Picture Show.
By rights, he should be toasting his success and enjoying life – but right now, that’s the last thing on his mind.
“I should be the happiest I’ve ever been with my career, family and friends,” he said. “But I can honestly say I’m never happy in myself now.”