New parents (part 1): what we wished we knew before having a baby
‘Post-baby our relationship is not so insta-friendly, not so pretty and organised’
Karen Moran and Ciarán Hayden with their daughter Esmé
Karen Moran (42), television producer
“It took me a while to make peace with the idea I had envisioned of motherhood and the reality. I had plans to bake and, between feeds, to read The Artist’s Way – a book you are supposed to complete over 12 weeks that teaches you how to harness your creativity. Ha! I guess nobody sits you down and says you will be at times the happiest you have ever been, but really the next few months are about survival – if everyone is fed and not crying you are winning.
“Pre-baby I would be horrified if Ciarán knew I farted but when you have cracked nipples from breastfeeding and can’t sit down after the birth – you don’t give a hoot about the modesty show. I had a tough labour (who hasn’t) and while I felt so strong and invincible somehow I had no confidence. I remember seeing a photo of Rachel McAdams on a Versace shoot wearing a double breastpump and thinking, ‘oh for God’s sake’. It was 11am and I should have been showered and dressed but had not got it together. It was supposed to be an empowering photo but I felt it was the opposite – more of a stern guidance towards how you should look.
“I think you have to be careful not to put pressure on yourself and to be mindful of when you need a break. You can still be in love with your baby but need five minutes away from her. You can be on the back foot emotionally from the lack of sleep but following a walk and a smile from baby you’re fine.
“I worked for years in television and always had to be on top of the zeitgeist. You can feel like you have dropped off the radar and it does get a bit lonely. You need to remind yourself that this is your time with your baby and you will be back at work and dreaming of these days. You need to stay in the moment.
“I remember when Esmé was a month old myself and Ciarán ventured out like baby deers to a nearby cafe. Suddenly we turned to each other and hugged. We had survived! At the start there is that feeling of every day being like ‘we made it’.
“Post-baby our relationship is not so insta-friendly, not so pretty and organised. We never fought before and though we can get irritated quite easily with each other we’re closer than ever. I have a deeper appreciation of Ciarán – he is so kind and tender with Esmé. When there is a massive poo explosion and he says “it’s okay, you relax, I’ll take this one” my heart just melts.
Ciarán Hayden (39), writer and producer
“Before Esmé arrived I’d been commuting to London while also moving house over here. I now realise I could have offered more emotional support for Karen. When we took Esmé home from hospital, I felt completely panicked – this tiny baby needed us to provide everything to keep her alive. It’s completely overwhelming but you slowly get over the shock and start enjoying it.
“Esmé is eight months and we don’t have a strict routine, which seems to work for all of us. According to the books, we practise “accidental parenting”, which sounds harsh but basically means that we’re raising Esmé fairly instinctively.
“Pre-baby we hardly ever fought but now can find ourselves getting snippy with each other. Before we were happy with an evening of Netflix but add a screaming baby and there is potential for tension, though we are able to find the humour in most situations. I think talking openly is key. For instance Karen is breastfeeding and Esmé frequently wakes during the night, looking for the comfort of the boob. So we decided that if Esmé isn’t genuinely hungry, it’s my job to rock her back to sleep. Which works – sometimes.
“Honestly, I found myself feeling jealous of the special bond that breastfeeding created between Karen and Esmé. I was surprised by this. We’re still very competitive over Esmé – “she smiled more at me today, she laughs harder at my jokes” – that kind of thing.
“Before the birth you’re warned you’ll never sleep/drink pints/watch sports again. Yet, nobody can describe to you the pure love you will feel for this little bundle and how much joy and extra love a baby can bring to your relationship – but just don’t expect it to be harmonious every day.”
Part 2: ‘By the time the forceps arrived the zen had vanished’