Leigh Arnold: "Being a mum has made my life complete"
Actress Leigh Arnold talks to Claire O'Mahony about the most rewarding role of her life, being a mum, and her newest arrival Piper Rose
If anything has surprised Leigh Arnold about motherhood, it's how well she took to it. "I always wanted to be a mum one day, but didn't know how I'd get on. It's been the most naturally easy and rewarding role for me and I feel that if I was just to do this and if I can do it well, I've completed the role of a lifetime," the 36-year-old actress and now blogger says.
The Foxrock-born star, best known for her role as Dr Clodagh Delaney in RTÉ drama The Clinic is mum to three-year-old Hunter and, most recently, daughter Piper Rose. Leigh and her husband, businessman Steve Davies, welcomed Piper Rose, who weighed 8lb 1oz, on September 17 and the Arnold-Davies household is, naturally enough, a little chaotic at present. "It was easy to get about with just us and a three-year-old," Leigh says. "Now it's don't forget the buggy, changing bag, fresh clothes, second car seat, etc, etc; and laundry and housekeeping are not as important as they were. But we are lucky as Steve is self-employed so is able to be home to help a lot. I think he finally really appreciates the role of the stay-at-home parent!"
The couple married last year with a sun-drenched ceremony in Ibiza, attended by a handful of close family and friends, with Hunter as guest of honour. It was a joyous occasion for them and one that came after a period of extreme heartbreak. In 2013, they lost their second son, Flynn, when he was only two weeks old, the cause of which was thought to be Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Leigh is now a patron of First Light, an organisation committed to helping parents and families who have been bereaved by the sudden and tragic loss of a child. Her role is to help First Light raise money and awareness. "It's a massively important organisation which is not well known and so families who go through tragedy do not necessarily know that they are there to help them get through the darkest time in their life as it's run by parents who have been through the same thing," she says. "Last year, I hosted my first patrons lunch and raised over €30,000 so next April I'm hoping to double that amount, fingers crossed."
Sadly Leigh was to suffer further loss shortly after this interview with Mothers & Babies, when her 34-year-old brother Nicky died unexpectantly. He was fondly remembered as a 'good uncle' at his funeral service.
Piper Rose, Leigh says, is says a wonderful, and a really chilled out baby. "She has a very definite personality at such a young age too.
"She's very aware and seems to be taking so much in all the time. Watching and judging I'd say and thinking to herself 'My God are these people really my parents? Right so, better get in with it, it's going to be a mad ride!'"
Leigh and Steven involved Hunter in the new baby 's arrival from the beginning and he's very much embraced becoming a big brother. "He keeps saying how much he loves her and wanting to cuddle her all the time. He's grown up so much the past month, it's breaking my heart a little bit," his proud mother says.
Although it's common enough for the firstborn to have his or her nose put out of joint by the arrival of a sibling, she didn't worry as much about Hunter being jealous as she did that she would be neglecting her time with him. "Steve has really taken over bedtime, bath and story time with him as I'm breastfeeding, and Piper seems to constantly need me at the moment so I do get sad and a little jealous of Hunter's and Daddy's time," she explains. "That is the one thing about breastfeeding, that it is so time consuming and it's all on you, but I know it's just a new phase and we will get back to normal once we've established a routine again. We all really are feeling so much love for our little girl but [we're] utterly shattered."
She says she "adores" breastfeeding as a very special time between her and Piper Rose. "It's a very empowering feeling to give life and then to feed that life," she maintains. "It's so primal. I also find it physically draining, and the fact that the baby is completely dependent on you can be massively demanding so I am expressing a bit so Steve can start to do the evening feeds as I want to be able to have time with Hunter before he goes to sleep." When it comes to parenting, she often feels that her and Steve are just winging it. They're likeminded in their approach, she says, and fairness, happiness and laughter are important. 'Family time', as Hunter calls it, involves the four of them chilling out in bed, watching movies, or having a Friday night pizza. The family also travels a lot and she believes it's hugely important for the children to experience different people, places and cultures while they're still little.
The best parenting advice she's ever been given? "To always listen to your gut as that's nature's way of protecting both you and your little ones so if something's not sitting well with you, don't do it."
As Piper Rose isn't even two months old yet, it's probably a little soon to ask the actress if she'd like a bigger family. But in any case, the answer is that she doesn't think so. "I've been pregnant three times in four years and we have been through an awful lot. I'm blessed to have what I have and now I just want to concentrate on keeping them fed and watered," she says.
Career-wise, she's excited to get back to work and did a pilot for a sitcom back in May, news of which she hopes to hear soon. She's also auditioned twice for two UK-based roles since she's had Piper, and in terms of what kind of roles she'd like to take on, "just a great script," she says. Although she feels physically good, post-pregnancy, she's exhausted mentally. "I feel I can do loads and agree to meetings and work but as soon as job's done, I have to come home for a lie down as it's like I just ran a 10k," she says.
There's also her website, leigharnold.ie, where she posts about fashion, beauty, lifestyle and parenting. "I decided that as I love to write, it was a good way of expressing myself on my own terms, talking about what I love, which is just life, plain and simple," she explains. "I write as much as I can but the last couple of weeks I've been a little preoccupied so I've been more tweeting and Instagramming my parenting highs and woes."
Like many mums, she feels the pressure on women to 'have it all'. "I'm like stop!! Slow down! Let me just be right now! All things have their time and sometimes we get so caught up in the what's next, we miss out on the right now. The right now is so precious and it doesn't last forever. Turn your phone off and don't answer the door. Just be, and everything else will fall into place."
Right now, that's exactly what she's trying to do and make the most of this time with her family. "Motherhood has changed me in the fact that I feel totally complete and fulfilled in my life," she says.
"I love everything about motherhood. I love the relationship I have with my son, our friendship and watching him grow into a little person with his own opinions and personality has been mind blowing."
Follow Leigh on Twitter @ MissLeighArnold and Instagram, lillyarnold1
and read her blog at leigharnold.ie