Michelle Doherty: I put work on hold to spend the first year with my baby son

TV presenter Michelle Doherty put the red carpet on hold to take time out with her baby son. She tells Esther McCarthy that it’s been challenging but she has no regrets.
Michelle Doherty: I put work on hold to spend the first year with my baby son

IT’S a long way from the glamour of a red carpet premiere to changing nappies and home-made dinners, but Michelle Doherty is embracing the life changes that becoming a new mum have brought.

From Donegal, she built up a successful career as a DJ, model and TV presenter for TV3’s Exposé. But when the opportunity arose to take some time out after Max was born, she didn’t think twice.

The past year has been blissful, she says, but challenging too, as she and her partner, Kerry-born product developer Mark O’Shea, adjust to life as new parents. The family has made their home in London since Michelle moved there three years ago.

“When Max came along I made a decision that he was my priority and that I would put work on hold. I was very fortunate that I was still doing bits and pieces for Exposé, so it kept me in the loop. I was doing commercials over here but again I wasn’t away from Max for long so I was very fortunate,” she says.

“I’d wanted a baby for so long and I wanted to make sure that I could spend as much time with him as possible, just as my mother was there for us when we were growing up. I know that’s not the reality for a lot of people but I thought that if I could even spend the first year with him that would be good.

“You do think: ‘Will I be out of the loop? Will I get left behind?’ But it’s a chance I was willing to take.” Michelle is evidently smitten with her little boy, now 14 months old, but readily admits motherhood hasn’t always been a smooth path.

“At first it’s quite hard because you haven’t a clue what you’re doing and you’re trying to get to grips with everything, and you feel like you haven’t slept in years.

“It is terrifying. The first night we brought him home, we slept with him in the sitting room because we were too scared to go to bed. But that’s the lovely thing about being a parent, you learn as you go along, and there’s no manual.

“You just have to do your best, though you get good advice from other mums along the way.”

One difficulty she didn’t anticipate was her struggle with breastfeeding, and the feelings of stress and guilt this would cause.

“I couldn’t cope that I couldn’t do it. I felt like a failure. I look back now and think why did I do that to myself? I tried for a month, I was trying to get by on a couple of hours sleep, and I wouldn’t give myself a break.”

She recently appeared in the indie Irish film The Hit Producer, in which she plays a woman lured into life as a hit woman when she falls foul of a Dublin criminal gang. The gritty thriller — filmed before she became a mum — was made with the help of a crowd-funding campaign and has since picked up awards on the festival circuit.

Was it a challenge to take on such a physically demanding role? “I didn’t do stunt training, combat work or anything like that. I picked it up as I went along. I just love getting stuck in and going: ‘Right, come on you can do this!’

“It was right down my street. You can have no fear. The character is quite ballsy but when you’re trying to survive you’ll do anything and that’s what drives her.”

London is now home, though she jokes the Donegal/Kerry rivalry between her and Mark remains as lively as ever come the GAA championships.

She loves cooking, but says taking time out means she’s not as under pressure as working mums.

“When you’re working, the last thing you want to do at night is come home and cook something. I’ve been very lucky I’ve been able to do that. I love fish, pork, curries, sushi — I don’t make sushi, that’s for movie nights out. I’m a country girl so I love my stews and making things from scratch but it doesn’t mean they’re always overly healthy. I don’t deprive myself.”

Michelle’s healthy living tips for new mums:

1. Don’t put as much pressure on yourself as I did when I was breastfeeding.

I thought it should work for everybody and it’s only later when you talk with other mums that you realise it doesn’t.

2. Pilates has become my favourite form of exercise since I had Max. It involves using your own bodyweight and is very natural. I do a bit of running but am afraid I’ll pay for it in the long term with my joints. So pilates is my go-to exercise at the moment.

3. I try to have a varied diet for the family and make our meals from scratch. But there are some days when I’m under pressure and Ella’s Kitchen (an organic baby food range) comes out.

4. Look after yourself. I was a devil in the early days for trying to cook and clean and keep everything going. Take time for yourself and your baby because having a baby is a big deal.

5. Sleep. Sleep when they do. Sleep when you can. Sleep every chance you get.

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