In a new documentary, Mairead Farrell discovers how mothers feel about their post-baby bodies. Here, she tells Taragh Loughrey-Grant how she copes with her own post-natal physique.
Finglas-born, working mum-of-one Mairead Farrell, who already gets up early for her stint with Ray D’Arcy on Today FM, has a new show that’s close to her heart: in Hello Baby, Bye Bye Body!, she talks about how women feel about their bodies during and post-pregnancy, taking a look at other particularly modern pressures such as ‘pregorexia’, ‘mummy makeover’ plastic surgery and the effect of celebrity pregnancies.
It’s a change from The Panel, which finished up in January after almost eight years. She was often the only female on that show, but it didn’t worry her much: "They’re very, very clever lads. The slight advantage I would have had was that I’d met them all before by them being guests on the Ray D’Arcy Show and I’d been down to the Kilkenny Cat Laughs loads of times . . . so the first show I did wasn’t that awkward."
However, it was the original host, Dara O’Briain, who made Mairead feel most welcome: "It was actually Dara who totally put me at ease. The first show I did, he took me aside and he said ‘Listen to me now, you’re gonna be grand, but jump in because the lads will absolutely stand all over you. Say whatever you want to me because you’re beside me so if you want to get in, you can tap me on the ankle!"
Despite the fact that Mairead’s four-year-old son is also called Dara, she is quick to point out: "It’s not after Dara O’Briain!" Little Dara was partly the inspiration for Hello Baby, Bye, Bye Body!: "The show is a look at how Irish women feel about their bodies, when they’re pregnant and after they’ve had the baby. I didn’t feel great and I still don’t. I constantly look at my stretch marks and go ‘ugh’ and then I look at my son and go ‘he’s so amazing, the best thing that has ever happened me’ and then I look at my body again and go ‘ugh!’
"Maybe it is a bit taboo. You’d be made feel guilty ‘Sure aren’t you lucky you have a child?’ and of course, you feel so lucky to have a healthy, happy baby. At the same time, it’s something quite traumatic that you’ve gone through. Nobody really tells you about it. It’s all very much concentrated on the baby. It’s never about you and ‘How’s your stomach, your bottom and how’s your boobs? Do you feel you look s***e? ‘Cos you do!’ All of that sort of stuff, nobody talks to you about that."
Mairead interviewed a woman who suffered from pregorexia, when a pregnant woman becomes obsessed by weight control: "She became pregnant and then found it difficult to eat because she knew she was going to get bigger and it was out of her control. She was quite proud of the fact that her bump was so tiny, even at six and seven months’ pregnant, she was like ‘Look, you wouldn’t even know I’m pregnant.’"
However the programme is not a female-only zone: "We discovered that men have a huge part to play. As one woman said, ‘I feel so sexy but then my husband is always telling me I look fab.’ She said that ‘If I didn’t have that, I would go ‘I am a bit out of shape.’ So her husband, even though he doesn’t know it, has a huge part to play in that and we found that in a lot of women."
Mairead didn’t gain a huge amount of weight during her own pregnancy: "I didn’t even gain a stone and a half and he was over eight pounds but I was 26 and I kept active. I mean I didn’t run or anything but I would have regularly gone for walks. I was more conscious of eating chicken, red meat and veg but I also had my chocolate and my ice-cream. I did find that, afterwards, the remaining ten pounds was hard to lose."
The show also touches on celebrity pregnancy. "That’s shoved in our faces and it’s not normal", says Mairead. "Normal is, you’re gonna have stretch marks, you still have a bump. That’s it.
"I’m hoping people watch and go ‘yeah, that was me too.’ I have kind of come out of it and the question is ‘is your body ever the same again?’ and the answer is ‘No’."
Watch the show: Thursday December 1, RTÉ Two at 10pm