9 Months

Tadhg was nine months old yesterday. So that marks nine months as a mama for me. Though really it feels like longer, that whole limbo period while you are pregnant but not yet a parent is odd and confusing and so very full of anticipation.

I always like looking at those pinterest-y type ‘nine months in, nine months out’ photo comparisons but I don’t have any to share here. There is exactly one photo of me from my pregnancy where you can actually tell that I am knocked up and I doubt it needs to be published here or anywhere. 

When I look down at my child now it is hard to fathom how my body ever housed his. He is all fat limbs and squidgy joints, calves that cannot be contained. He can grab and clamour and scratch and climb. He crawls and stands and thrusts his body with such force that he can move his highchair back from the table inch by inch. When he was born my aunt likened him to a velveteen puppy – a more accurate simile does not exist. He’s like an awkward teenage dog now, full of energy and excitement with very little sense, always bumping into tables and knocking over cups.

Tadhg likes to laugh, fake cough and he says dadadadada and go go go and gagaga as if he is making fun of baby talk. He is a powerhouse, determined, strong and focussed. He gets into everything and seems attracted to danger – Tadhg’s favourite things to play with include, but are not limited to: radiator knobs, the dog’s water dish, plugs, sockets, wires, cutlery, the fireplace and the dishwasher. I try to teeter the line between hovering over him and giving him freedom to explore. It does mean that he falls sometimes, or crawls through a puddle of water, or half eats a Christmas decoration. 

It’s been nine months of wrestling tiny buns into cotton nappies, breastfeeding, crying (him and me), and a deep and intense love, unlike anything I’ve ever known. That right there is the recipe for figuring out how to be somebody’s mum. Redefining my relationship with Rich was an unexpected part of this whole mamahood gig. I won’t lie, it has been challenging at times. Learning to be parents and co-captains of our family takes its toll on us both in different ways – especially when its three in the morning and nobody wants to bounce the baby back to sleep. Thankfully, for the most part, when one of us is at our most frustrated the other is feeling a little more zen. 

The pendulum has swung consistently back and forth between challenge and triumph since Tadhg arrived. It’s pretty much just normal life, intensified.

The Hours

Somewhere between half past six and eight o’clock we wake up. Or rather, the baby wakes us up. He shifts and rolls and scoots his little body around, rubbing his nose and scratching at his face. I pull him closer in a feeble attempt to lull him back to sleep. Sometimes it works. If it’s closer to six than eight I cling to that feeble attempt. 

This morning I had to wake him up. It was after eight, Richard needed a shower and Tadhg needed to wake up (so that he could go back to sleep – morning nap time is my saving grace). I whispered his name into the warm crevice of his neck and opened the blinds a little bit. His eyes lit up as he looked from his mama to his dad. He is habitually covered in kisses. It’s impossible to resist. 


We eat meals as a family now. He clenches soldiers of toast in his chubby fists, only relinquishing one piece when presented with another. Every mealtime a new skill is improved upon – he brings food to his mouth with a startling accuracy, he accepts the spoon into the crook of his hand and manoeuvres it straight into his mouth (most of the time). This week he really got to grips with the sippy cup. It’s strange the things that make your chest swell with pride. 

My day is punctuated with breastfeeding. We don’t have a clock or a schedule. There’s a certain sound, a certain wiggle in his body that signals hunger – I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is I know it when I see it. He seems hungriest in the morning. He eats fast, always eager to see what else is going on in the room around us. He pulls off to shout or exclaim or flash a quick grin before returning to the task at hand. It is infuriating and adorable and a pain in the neck and all the things that babies (also read: humans) are, wrapped in one. 

During that precious morning nap I try my best to ignore the detritus falling all around me and sit at my laptop and work. For the past six or so weeks I have been freelancing intensively. I did some casual work up until around October, but when it rains it pours and all that. I am immensely grateful, not just for the extra income but for the chance to use my brain and body and skills for more than just baby survival tasks. My own mama comes and takes Tadhg for a walk usually for an hour or so as I hustle. How nice it is to tap away on my keyboard without also bouncing a baby or chit chatting or feeling guilty for not doing those things. The idea of mom guilt is bullshit, in case you don’t already know. 

We eat lunch. I feed the baby. We laugh and play and I fish pieces of broccoli out of those delicious neck folds. 

In the afternoons we try our best to venture out: to the park, the shopping centre, around the block to walk the dog, to the supermarket, to my sister’s house. For sanity’s sake it is a necessity. I’m trying to buy less on these outings. It’s so easy to fill the day with errands and tasks and purchases, but it is not always necessary. 

At half past five every day (or, more accurately,  every day I notice that it is half past five) I think to myself Neighbours starts in five minutes. We got rid of our TV and I haven’t watched neighbours for a long time. But for many years it bridged the gap between finishing school and having dinner before starting homework. It’s somewhat engrained in my psyche. 

Shortly after that I think where the efff is Richard?! The best whatsapp message I get every day is On the way, x. As much as I like our kid, it’s the best thing ever when his dad comes home and I can check out for an hour or so. 

We eat dinner as a family. Introducing Tadhg to new food is such a joy – sweet potato, beetroot, puttanesca, natural yogurt, sourdough toast, avocado, big orange wedges, kimchi, banana muffins, giant pasta, smoked salmon – there hasn’t been much that he won’t try. Then it’s bath/play, change, pjs, snuggles, bouncing on the exercise ball (oh what’s that? you just lie your baby down and he goes to sleep himself?!) and Richard and I watching as many episodes of The Good Wife before we both pass out. 

These are the days; the pattern is pretty consistent but the colour is constantly changing. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. 



Catching Up on Life.

It has been eleven weeks since our baby joined us earth-side. He smiles, laughs and coos now. His arms flap in excitement and his legs kick like crazy. He makes his presence known and cries when discomfort or boredom strikes. He can also tolerate chilling in a bouncer or his high chair for a few minutes. Right now he is asleep in his cradle in our room while I type this on the sofa. That fact alone is a revelation. We embraced the fourth trimester to the fullest – but I won’t lie and say that coming out the other side isn’t a little bit sweet. 

It’s hard to describe how quickly time is passing. His body is growing and he is all cheeks and double chins. His hands are fat and his rubber band wrists are deepening by the day. Before I had a baby I knew that it would be hard. I was prepared for the crying and the discomfort and the ‘babies be babies’ unanswerable questions. I was prepared for the love too. It’s the kind of love that makes you involuntarily grit your teeth because it’s all so cute it hurts. I wasn’t prepared for the monotony or the boredom or the loneliness. Babies are sweet but they are not good company. I am the first mama of any of my friend groups and at the breastfeeding meetings I feel a generation younger than everyone else. Husbands and house-hunting are not really on my radar right now. (Though if I win the lotto house-hunting is top of my list…just pass me the ticket!) 

We named our baby Tadhg Cian – Cian after my cousin and Tadhg because we liked it. We call him Tiger-Tadhg. Every day we love him more. He likes to be cuddled and kissed and having his face rubbed. 

It’s been 17 weeks since our baby was born. Six weeks since I wrote the above thoughts. I had no recollection of what I wrote, or that I even wrote it. Just like I rarely remember what day it is or if I brushed my teeth this morning (I did, today, for the record). Babies will do that to you. They are all consuming little beings.

I can’t even begin to unravel the past four months. How did I feel when my baby’s hot, damp, heavy body was placed on my chest for the very first time? It was a lifetime ago. I hardly recall how much it hurt and how I cried as soon as I saw my own mama, the weight of the past 14 hours suddenly washing over me. Who was that girl crying desperately in bed, wishing it would all be easier, wishing someone else could just feed the baby, just once? My body felt more foreign than ever before. And yet, I wouldn’t swap it for anything in the world. It has all been the making of us. 

“Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”  
– Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things.

Cheryl knows a thing or two about new mama-hood. 

Our days have a rhythm to them now. I won’t bore you with the details but yesterday I got two solid chunks of ‘nap-time’ where Tadhg slept in his crib and I got to revel in the gloriousness of being alone. Right now he is screeching at me from his bouncer, a grin spread across his face. He smiles so readily. First thing in the morning when he mooches and groans all I have to do is say ‘good morning’ and look into his eyes and he BEAMS at me. Rich tries to get his attention and he complies with a flashy grin but quickly returns his heart eyes to his mama. After waking multiple times a night to feed and comfort him, I have to admit, it feels pretty good. 

It is still lonely, and it is still strange to stay at home every day. I think the only way this would all feel perfectly balanced was if I had two bodies and could send one to work and leave the other at home with my boy. That’s not going to happen anytime soon and so I’m practicing making peace with the present. 

There are Two Ways to be Rich

I bought this print years ago and had it tucked away in a drawer – waiting for the day I could afford to have it framed. Professional framing is not something that is in my budget right now but oh how nice it would be. In the time since passed it has lost some of its aesthetic appeal (so many typefaces!) but the message speaks more to me now than it did years ago. 

I decided, after a couple of weeks of moping in the lead up to pay day (coupled with a rather fat bill from the US taxman…grrrr), that I needed an attitude adjustment. Our financial situation is unlikely to drastically change in the near future and so my attitude towards it must. Rich is a relative term and I can’t help but feel equal parts frustrated and humiliated when I lament our low bank balances while still able to fill our fridge, drive our car and pay our bills. And so herein lies the need for a change of perspective.

There are two ways to be rich: earn more or want less. A new house motto. 

An entrepreneurial nature coupled with a fondness of babies lead to me a lucrative babysitting career early on. Chasing toddlers and reading bedtime stories fuelled my teenage spending habits. It afforded me new outfits, foreign adventures, college trips and much more in between. I saved and budgeted where needs be – but I had no true expenses beyond clothing myself. Almost all of my spending was discretionary now that I think about it. 

Thankfully those years of earning and saving and spending within my means prepared me for the sudden thrust into the world of full on adult responsibility. But being prepared doesn’t mean its all fun and games. I wander aimlessly through aisles, running my fingers through racks of soft cottons and linens. I eye up cute baby shoes and squish wooly cardigans – wishing I could just take it to the till without a second thought or hit that ‘purchase’ button without hesitation. Part of the frustration lies in that I can’t wear anything I want to. I am so frustrated with this body for doing its job so well. I am tired and grumpy and swollen and so unbelievably ready for it to be over. I want to lie on my front and sleep without needing to pee every ninety minutes. 

And then I look into my fridge full of food, my freezer of meals prepared and tucked away, I feel the warmth of the room when I walk in from work and I relish in the heat of the shower as it hits my skin at a pressure more desirable than most and I know that I have more than enough. My baby kicks and wriggles and jives inside me and I know that I am fortunate. I don’t have to climb into a boat and risk my life because my home has become unbearably dangerous. I don’t have to starve or worry about where my next meal will come from. I have clean clothes, a dishwasher, a place to sleep and a person to figure out all this adult shit alongside. 

The extraneous stuff can wait. I will earn and grow and achieve more than I know possible at this point in time. I will one day sleep on my stomach again. It will be worth it.

Learning to want less is not about being mean or cheap or a martyr. It’s simply a shift in focus, a minor attitude adjustment and a leaning towards creativity in place of consumerism. I think for the most part I am up for the challenge. 

Spreading the News.

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This is what it looks like when you tell your best friends from college that you can’t go travelling with them next year because you’re going to have a baby.

Fiona in Vietnam, Kirstyn in Knocklyon, Nicole in Monaghan, and me in Berkeley. Four friends in three different timezones and four very different places. 

I found out I was pregnant on a Saturday morning in Berkeley, California. I glanced at the test casually, assuming it would be negative because I must have been paranoid and it was just a weird feeling after all.

I nearly lost my legs when I saw the plus sign. I freaked out, heart thumping like a drum in my chest. I showered, got dressed and took a photo of myself in the mirror; a strange compulsion to document the moment overrode my initial panic. I promptly went back to work at the table and watched the entire series first of Grey’s Anatomy in one sitting. Denial. Evasion. Whatever. 

Rich was at work. He text me to tell me he was going to be late and I played normal. I honestly didn’t know what he’d say. This was something we wanted some year soon but not exactly something we had intended for right now. 

When he got home I thrust the test at him and burst into tears. I’ll never forget his face. It lit up with pure joy. Moments later the panic and fear and complete thunderstorm of everything washed over him but that first split second of joy told me that everything was going to be perfectly OK. 

I cried a lot. I was really angry and scared and frustrated. I felt sick and anxious and shaky for days. I couldn’t think straight or function clearly or focus on anything. I started waking up at 5am, nauseous and exhausted.

We talked about all of our options. I told my bosses and friend in work and talked to them about every possible potential outcome. It felt empowering to know that I had a choice in this situation. Even though I am 100% pro choice in every sense of the word, I never thought that I would have or want an abortion. But the reality of a situation is different to the theoretical and that is why having a choice is paramount. It felt good to know that we could choose if we wanted to go down this road or not and that it was going to be OK either way. I felt incredibly supported but still completely confused. I went out to look for pregnancy books and instead bought Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly; I needed some guts.

I started going to acupuncture. It felt like part needle sticking and part therapy. The acupuncturist’s partner was also pregnant and so he knew all the right things to say and questions to ask. I relished the time on his table to voice the running stream of chatter in my mind. He told me he thought that our baby just couldn’t wait to be ours. That maybe we weren’t ready but that the baby might be. 

We decided to have the baby. We agreed that while we didn’t plan the pregnancy, we could plan for the baby. And that was enough for us. 

We love each other and we’re going to love the hell out of this baby.

Now I am 30 weeks and the countdown is on. Our baby punches and jabs my insides, lodging parts of himself in my ribcage at the most inopportune times. I almost fell asleep at my desk on Tuesday and was in bed my 9pm. I am knitting and cleaning and constantly frustrated with how no matter how much I tidy and clean, the kitchen is perpetually messy. I  try and to do too many things in too short a time and burn myself out. I am ready for it to be over.