Karen Koster on being a new mum: 'I hope when I'm back on TV people will be kinder to me and don't go 'she's a little chubby''
TV3 presenter Karen Koster is loving every minute of being a new mother and wouldn't rule out more siblings for her beautiful boy Finn, writes Claire O'Mahony.
Throughout the course of her career, TV3 star Karen Koster has interviewed more A-listers than there's space to mention, from Beyoncé to Bruce Willis. Right now, however, there's a new superstar in the Xposé presenter's life and that's her five-month-old son. Finn, her first child with her husband, businessman John McGuire, was welcomed into the world on New Year's Eve and the new mum is clearly besotted with him.
"He's at that real fun age where every day there's more and more personality coming out. I keep saying 'Oh my God, this just must be the cutest age ever' and my mum says 'No Karen, they just get cuter and cuter and cuter'," the 35-year-old says. "Every week, he's learning to do something new. At the moment, he's learning to blow raspberries, which is difficult because I'm trying to wean him onto solids and I'm getting a face full of baby rice when I'm trying to feed him."
Finn is a good-natured and placid baby, the image of his dad, according to Karen, and he wakes up smiling every morning. "He's just brilliant and he's happy, so I think I'm quite lucky," she says. "He's a fairly easy baby; he seems to have settled into a routine without too much input from me. He definitely knows more about what he's at than I do."
It's clear that she's really taken to motherhood and she's a little surprised at how much so. "I thought I'd be fairly uptight, but my own mum says that I'm pretty relaxed around him. I'm probably a bit more maternal than I gave myself credit for initially. Not that I'm not maternal, but I never had having kids at the top of my to-do list. I always wanted to get my career on the road in the early days. It's probably getting a little bit older and really wanting to start a family with John," Karen says. "You become that lioness of a mum and you would throw yourself in front of a train for him and take a bullet any day of a week. I think that kind of primal love surprises you, that it comes out, no matter what kind of mum you think you will be."
While she's not officially back into the Xposé studios until September, she's been dipping her toes into work, covering the VIP Style Awards for TV3 in April. When she's at home, she'll always tune into Xposé in the evenings and she's also the new ambassador for Johnson's So Much More campaign, which focuses on stimulating babies' senses at bathtime. Her involvement with this is something she describes as a "no brainer" given that she's a huge fan of the brand and because giving Finn a bath is the perfect start to an evening's wind down.
It has to be pointed out that, judging from her recent red-carpet appearances, she doesn't look like a woman who gave birth only a few months ago. "Oh I do. I'm just holding everything in as much as I can," she says. "It's funny; people say your body really changes. I just thought that meant weight-wise but your shape does change a little bit, and after breast feeding, the old boobs take a bit of a knocking, which I wasn't really expecting. Having never been particularly well endowed, I wasn't really expecting things to get any worse but they actually can! But at the same time, I don't really care that much. I don't want to look like I've never had a baby because I have had a baby. Why would I want to erase every shred of evidence that he ever came out of me?"
Being on TV, she actually felt more pressure to be fit and trim before she got pregnant.
"If you have a fat day, you feel like it's on show for everyone to see," she says. "I would hope that people, when they watch me on TV when I'm back off maternity leave, are a bit kinder and they don't go 'Oh, she's chubby', but that they'll say 'she's lovely, she's just had the baby, she's got her hair washed and her lipstick on!' I would think, hopefully, there's a little less pressure after you've had a kid."
Karen was very keen to breastfeed - she did a breastfeeding workshop - but acknowledges that even with the strongest will in the world, sometimes breastfeeding doesn't work out for some women and babies. "I was lucky in that Finn was able to do it and I was able to do it. Everything has to click really. It's very tricky for many women and I was one of the fortunate ones that it did work for," she says. "I gave it three months and then I was ready to take ownership of my own body and I wanted to enjoy the summer and have a glass of wine. I do think there's huge pressure [to breastfeed] but it's a wonderful thing if you can do it, if it feels right for you."
Would she like a big family? "I think John would love to have as many kids as possible," she says. "He's one of five and I think you always want what you come from yourself. I'm one of three, so if I got the three I'd be super happy. But whatever happens, we both feel so blessed to have a happy, healthy baby. I would hope that he wouldn't be an only child and I would hope to give him a sibling or two."
She's trying to do as much 'mummy and me' stuff as she can, whether that's taking Finn to the Reel Parents movie mornings in Dundrum (they recently saw Pitch Perfect 2, which Finn adored because there's lots of music in it) or doing a baby-massage course.
"It's a lovely bit of solidarity. I do feel it's important to get out of the house, otherwise you can feel the day can be very long when you're chatting to someone who isn't able to form any words back at you yet. I do try to get out and do those little classes because I find they lift your mood and you feel you've accomplished something that day," she says.
More than anything else, what has surprised her about being a new mum is how much fun she's having with Finn. She was anticipating the sleepless nights and the exhaustion, but not how much how she finds him to be wonderful company.
"He's great fun to have around," she says. "Now, I know this is the golden age of babyhood before he's up crawling and throwing things, so I'm appreciating it so much that you can just pop him in his little seat and he'll just stay there, but I can't believe how much I just love hanging out with him. Even if he's woken up a few times during the night and I'm exhausted, he's still fun. I didn't think I'd be saying that at less than five months old."
I've no time for heels. I'm up and down the stairs with the baby so much and I need to be comfy so I'm always in my runners. Jeans, runners and my parka get me around. I did go up a dress size once I gave birth, so I went to Dundrum and bought a couple of pairs of jeans and I felt ok getting into a bigger-sized pair. You just want your baby to look super cute, you don't really care what you look like.
Her beauty regime
I'm not very good on skincare. I prefer covering up rather than preventing, so I love my make-up. But I have tried to use stuff that will really work during the night, when my skin gets a chance to soak up the extra nutrients. I'm a big fan of Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate.
Her parenting essentials
I always bring way more food than I need because I'm always convinced I'm going to get stranded somewhere and have no milk for Finn. My handbag is now his changing bag, so I try and get a bit of make-up on before I leave the house but just take some lip balm in the bag. And bibs. Finn is such a dribbler at the moment because he's teething.
Her advice to other first-time mums
Just to trust your gut a bit more. I was a lot more nervous than I actually realise, when I look back now. I think that every day it gets easier. Even if you feel you're not making any headway, you actually are and to give yourself credit. What I used to find good was at the end of the day, I'd say what went right today. You're doing a really good job so don't be hard on yourself and be kind to yourself.