Michelle Doherty: I felt like a failure after becoming a mum
IN BECOMING a mum to gorgeous Max, former Xposé presenter Michelle Doherty swapped expensive ball gowns for nursing tops and flutes of bubbly for bottles of formula.
Despite a career as a top model, an award-winning DJ, an actress and TV presenter, the Donegal stunner is more likely to find soothers and muslins in her handbag these days than gold cards and event invites.
So, she is the perfect candidate to front our new supplement, Mum&Me, which is in today's Sunday World.
When we catch up with the 38-year-old stunner in the beautiful home in London she shares with her young boy and her partner Mark O’Shea, she is warm and welcoming and it is clear that 10-month-old Max is the centre of her life.
Like every new mum, Doherty has been on an emotional and physical rollercoaster since getting pregnant and it is only now, in an exclusive interview, she is willing to divulge the true shock of what has happened to her since her bundle of joy was born.
“The pressure of being a new mum is supposed to be natural but I felt a failure as a mum,” the former model reveals. “I felt I couldn’t look after myself, let alone this beautiful baby boy.
“I wasn’t happy because I was so emotionally wrecked. Days became weeks and weeks became months and I wasn’t bouncing back to my normal self like I thought would happen.
“I’m eight months (at the time of our chat) on now and I still struggle. Eight months! I don’t recognise myself sometimes. Or the new body I have.
“He [Max] was feeding constantly. Mark is 6ft 4in so we had no chance of little Max being a light eater. I was like a feeding factory in the beginning. I struggled with the feeding and it killed me. It is supposed to be the best for your child, so I kept going at it but with hindsight I should have stopped earlier.
“Mark had to tell me, quite abruptly,” she giggles ironically. “He just said to me: ‘please stop’. To allow him to bottle feed Max to give me a break. I was feeding on demand but eventually we caved and started a routine which has improved every aspect of our lives.
“I didn’t want to leave the house and I certainly wasn’t thinking about going to the gym to get my figure back. There were far more important things to focus on.”
Over time Michelle realised that she was taking her feelings out on those around her. “I was very irritable. Myself and Mark would fight regularly. He was very patient with me but I put it down to pure exhaustion,” she recalls.
“I had no support around me because I live in London. That sounds harsh on my family, which I don’t mean it to be. They came over from Donegal loads and I do have some friends here but I don’t have family around the corner to call on when I need them.
“I was here [London] on my own with a new group of friends and Mark was off at work. I tried to be the perfect partner as well as the perfect mum. There was cleaning and cooking to be done as well as raise baby Max and it got too much for me.
“I had lots of bad days and I still have bad moments, but things are definitely improving. I spend my days trying to enjoy him and these days I can have a sleep through the night and then wake up and lay eyes on him again and it is so special. But it is not like that all of the time.”
It was clear to me that Michelle suffered from post-natal depression but as it is such a taboo subject I was reluctant to ask, at first. But eventually I did.
“Yes I do,” she says dramatically as if a weight has been lifted. “I had it [PND] and I still do. I had a healthy baby boy with the man of my dreams and I was unhappy. I just kept thinking, ‘what is wrong with me?’ but I bottled it all up.
“Eventually we decided that I would go to a counsellor and seek professional help. The first step was definitely the hardest. I had to admit there was a problem and then I had to go about addressing it with the help of Mark and the counsellor.
“I don’t want people to read this and feel sorry for me. I want new mums to read this and know that there is help out there. Don’t bottle up the feelings.
“Am I over it? No. But I have had another big change in recent months and it has been in a positive direction. I absolutely adore my wee fella and I can’t imagine spending a day without him.
“But now I am allowing some me time as well as some Mark and me time. I am not out of the woods yet but I know I will be okay. I just hope this message acts as a positive enforcement for other new mums who may be suffering similar issues and are not willing to talk or address them.”
Like any new parents, Michelle and Mark found themselves out of their depth in the beginning trying to work their way through all of the changes that newborns experience.
“I didn’t want to freak myself out and read up on all the different viewpoints prior to having Max. My sister Pamela has four kids so I have had children around me and looked after them. So I didn’t feel the need to read what Gina Ford [author of dozens of childcare books] thinks about raising my child.
“We were so lucky that Max had no major health scares. He had a bit of colic at one point but we avoided anything serious.
“It still wasn’t easy, mind you. The teething is never ending,” she laughs. “We have tried gels, necklaces, powders. Everything. I think we are going to be dealing with teething for a long time.
“But as you can see here today, he is an absolute dote and is like his mum – he loves the camera! We feel very lucky every day that we have been blessed with baby Max.
“I, obviously, have a few things to work through but I’m on the mend and things are positive now.”