Friday 15 December 2017

Mother of Revinention

Seven months after the birth of her daughter, Siobhan O'Dowd is still battling with a slight identity crisis, but she's finding her way

Siobhan O'Dowd and Charlotte
Siobhan O'Dowd and Charlotte

I am a project manager. In some ways I was so prepared for having my baby; I had worked through the (seemingly endless) shopping list, organised everything at work for cover, researched hospital bags and did the antenatal course. Obviously, as with all first babies, all of that went out of the window as I just went into survival mode in dealing with the completely overwhelming 'stuff' that comes with bringing a little person into the world.

Being pregnant just meant adapting - I modified my wardrobe, exercise and social life so I might have become a teetotaller with a bump who traded distance running for Pilates, but I was pretty much 'myself' throughout.

When Charlotte arrived (I love 'arrived' - like someone just hands you a baby with no mention of 20-hour labour, forceps, stitches, haemorrhages or haemorrhoids) suddenly it was a game-changer. After the initial lack of sleep, hormones all over the place and health setbacks in the first couple of months, I began to hit 'the new normal' and with it came the mother of all 'who am I?' meltdowns.

Going from working full-time in a busy job, living in Dublin and being a girlfriend and then fiancée to then being on maternity leave in Westport as a wife and a mother is a big adjustment. The work clothes gather dust in the wardrobe as even though I am out of maternity clothes, tailored dresses and heels seem quite unnecessary for outings to SuperValu, walks on the greenway or my breastfeeding group. The car that my first few pay cheques went on and that was so zippy and fab for around Dublin, doesn't fit an Isofix for the Maxi Cosi. I have an MBA but remembering the words and actions to the Waterbabies chant of 'Splish splash, splish splash, round in a circle and up in the air' is even difficult. And as for date night, if we have imposed upon my mother-in-law or my parents to come up for the night to babysit, I feel like every night out might possibly be our last, ever.

Rather than an adaptation of self, it's like becoming a mum means existing in a parallel universe. I haven't read a Sunday paper since September. I wear sports gear when I'm not going to the gym. Instead of asking my husband how his day was and having a conversation about what's happening in the news, I could still be in my pyjamas at 6pm on the verge of tears because I've been trying and haven't had time to grab a shower since early that morning. I plan for all the healthy food I'm going to eat and the walks I'm going to do, and then it lashes rain and I don't get to the supermarket and so I eat the loaf of bread that's in the freezer, toasting it slice by slice.

Did I really used to do presentations in front of people at work? Because now even the thought of a public health nurse developmental check brings me out in a cold sweat. How on earth am I going to manage it all when I go back to work? Have I turned into a baby bore and scared all my civilian friends off? How much detail do they actually want when they ask how things are going? Or am I not being enough of a baby bore, when I'm at my mothers and baby group and I discover I don't know what baby-led weaning is yet?

In some ways I miss the old me so badly it hurts. And then Charlotte gives me a big gummy smile, or says 'dada' for the first time, or sits up by herself and I'm so proud I want to burst. And then I'll plan to book a weekend in Dublin, get a blow-dry and hit Grafton St, put on heels, go for a glass of wine with the girls and hear about their Tinder dates and work dramas and I'll think to myself maybe things haven't changed. that much after all.

Irish Independent

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