Wednesday 24 January 2018

Deirdre O' Kane

Deirdre O' Kane, 40, is an actress and comedian. Born in Drogheda, Co Louth, she lives in Chiswick, West London, with her husband, screenwriter and filmmaker Stephen Bradley, and their two children, Holly, four, and Daniel, four months

Ciara Dwyer

I don't need an alarm because my baby will wake me. Daniel is four months old. I'm not breastfeeding anymore, but whether you're on the breast or the bottle, it doesn't matter: you're up. There are no perks in the bottle because they still want milk. I am so used to sleep deprivation at this stage that I don't even notice it, to be honest. I spend an absolute fortune on concealer for under my eyes. Yves Saint Laurent will never go out of business so long as I'm buying mountains of Touche Eclat.

With a new baby, you have a bad day now and again because you're particularly tired, but most of the time you're fine. You spend a lot of your time trying to figure out how you can get more sleep, but really you're better off just giving up and admitting that you're not going to, so forget about it.

I have never, ever slept through my child crying unless I have had a sleeping tablet; and I only take a sleeping tablet when I know Steve, my husband, is on duty. We take turns: he does one night, I do the next. This morning I was up with Daniel at 6.20am, but the joy of it is what makes you get through it.

Daniel is my second child. Holly, our firstborn, will be up at 7am. In the mornings, I put the bottle on, put the heat on and watch the breakfast news on BBC. I sit down and feed Daniel. There's a difference in having a boy in that he's already on solids. He's four months old and he's having breakfast, lunch and dinner, whereas with Holly I kind of had to coax her into eating.

Daniel doesn't stop laughing. Every time you go to pick him up, he smiles at you. He gives back a lot and you appreciate that in a baby, especially when you're exhausted.

I can't function if I don't have tea. I don't know whether it's psychological or a real necessity, but I just need it.

I had been desperately trying to lose weight for the IFTAs because I didn't want to walk down the red carpet like a heffalump. Trying to get rid of the post-baby weight: yeah, I'm so like Liz Hurley it's laughable. I've cut back on eating in the evening and that works for me. It means that you go to bed a little bit hungry, but it passes -- a bit of discipline. I lost six pounds and then put three back on.

When Holly gets up, I am no longer allowed to watch the news as CBeebies has to go on for her. Dora the Explorer goes on. I love that moment in my day. Dora shouts every line of dialogue. I often wonder who does the voiceover for Dora because her head must be wrecked, shouting everything.

Holly is besotted with Daniel and she makes him laugh, which is great. With the second child, you're so much more relaxed because there's another one to entertain them and you know they're going to be grand. You don't have to be watching him all the time. You plonk him on the sofa and he's happy.

Everything is about snatched opportunities. When Steve gets up, I pass the kids to him and that's my opportunity to have a shower. Then he goes and has his shower and I get Holly ready for pre-school nursery. Because Steve and I are both freelance, we spend a lot of time negotiating, buying time from each other. There's no one person who has to go to the office.

I love motherhood. I certainly wasn't aware of any mothering instincts until I had babies. I wasn't a person who desperately wanted to have kids, but you don't get it until you do it, and, suddenly, this nurturing instinct exists. You get this innate pleasure from feeding them, clothing them and keeping them warm. It's like playing dolls, except they're real. There's a real high from feeling needed. When you think you're doing a good job it's very satisfying, and when you think you're doing a bad job you feel awful. But I feel very lucky. I spend most of my time thanking the universe that they're OK and healthy, and that I got them out.

I've just had four months being a full-time mother because Daniel is so new, and I love it, but I'm also looking forward to getting back to work. I feel very lucky that I don't have to work full-time because that's what I think is really difficult for most women.

At the moment, I'm back on the work treadmill. I have a deadline for a BBC Radio 4 programme that I have to record this month. It's called O' Kane and Company. It goes out in April, and if they like it they will commission more. And, the Druid production of My Brilliant Divorce is looming. It's about an Irish woman living in London, who married at 20, had a baby straight away and, when she's my age, 40, her husband walks out. The real tragedy is that her daughter decides to leave home at the same time, so she finds herself living alone for the first time in her life. Although the storyline is sad and the character is broken-hearted, the play is brilliant because the character laughs at herself. She's very funny about internet dates -- they're a fiasco. In ways, the play is like Shirley Valentine, as she's alone in her kitchen, talking to herself.

I got into comedy because I was an actress and I wasn't getting enough work, but now I want to act again. I feel that if I don't go and do some serious drama, people will forget that I can do it. They will leave me in the comedy corner and I won't get out of it. So I am very deliberately not going down that road again, although never say never. I've had enough of comedy. It's a young man's game. I don't want to be out gigging at night with two little ones at home. But, also, I've got the T-shirt, I did it, it was very good to me and I learned loads from it, but now I really miss being an actor. But the difference with me going back to be an actor now is that I have a profile: before I did stand-up, I didn't have one.

I don't have a London life. I live in Chiswick, in West London. It's a village, like Ranelagh. But you say 'London' and people think 'the West End'. A couple of weeks ago, we had our first night out in The Ivy and I met about three actors I knew. I was so thrilled because that doesn't happen in London, really. It was like being in The Troc, and, for a moment, I felt that I belonged there.

Whatever time Daniel goes to sleep dictates what time we go to bed. Will we go at 8, 9 or 10pm? We've started watching DVDs in bed and I've gone through the whole of Grey's Anatomy since Daniel was born. Life isn't normal right now. We're still in the fog of it all. It's chaos, but you just have to go with it. We have a good laugh.


Druid's production of 'My Brilliant Divorce' by Geraldine Aron is at the Gaiety Theatre, March 9-14, and at the Ramor Theatre, Cavan, March 6-7. See

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