Welcome to Spill the Milk, where we ask some of the UK's most famous mums and dads to reveal all about the wonderful world of parenting.
We caught up with Sophie McCartney (aka @tiredandtested) comedimum, bestselling author, and mumfluencer, to talk the fourth trimester, the dynamics of three kids, and her upcoming first stand-up tour!
The first couple of weeks in NICU were a blur
Nate arrived three weeks early, and I'd been so busy on the run up to his actual birth that I hadn’t really had time to prepare for it. When he actually came, I had nothing – I drove myself to the hospital in the middle of the night because I thought I was having Braxton Hicks! I told my husband "Just stay with the kids, I'm sure they’ll just send me home". Then I got to the hospital and they were like, "We need to do an emergency c-section within half an hour". So it was all a bit much when he entered the world, and he had some breathing difficulties and was in the NICU. I was in a bit of a blur for his first couple of weeks of life.
It's all been a bit of a whirlwind, actually, a bit of a settling in period and an adjustment. I don't think you’re ever fully prepared for when you have a baby, whether it’s your first or your third. It's one of those things where you think that everything's going to be one way and then it's completely different. I was really worried before he arrived, the news of Nate’s impending arrival didn’t go down well with my daughter, and I was so worried about him actually coming into the world that she was going to hate him or try to smother him with a pillow when my back was turned or something! But she was so happy. She came into the hospital to see him and I think that helped massively.
Every day is Groundhog Day but in a really nice way. He's sleeping! He's not good at napping during the day is my only thing so it's hard trying to get stuff done and work around him. But you know what, if he sleeps at night and he's a little bit fussy during the day, I'll take it!
I'd forgotten about the fourth-trimester troubles
Nate was a dream baby up until four weeks. He got reflux, which I've never really experienced with the other two. I think this is very common to hear when you speak to anybody whose child had reflux, but four weeks seems to be the kicking-off period for it. He turned into this little screaming, vomiting, angry baby who was not sleeping for any longer than half an hour. I was having to sit up at night with him. I'd feed him and then I wasn't allowed to put him down flat for an hour. But he was waking up every hour so I was just permanently awake through the night. If I wasn't feeding him, I was sitting up with him. I'd actually forgotten about - or my brain just blocked it out - the fourth-trimester worries and troubles that come along with that. I was an absolute mess. I felt like an utter failure towards the big kids because I couldn't give them what they needed.
It's amazing how three people can all come from the same place, but be so different
I struggled with the splitting of my love, because Evelyn was always the baby. And you know, she's the only girl and she rules the roost. And suddenly she wasn't the centre of attention. Evelyn didn’t like when I was pregnant, that she couldn’t see him. I guess she was only six when I was pregnant and it’s a lot to take in, and of course had lots of questions that I just did not know how to answer.
We’ve had the “you love baby more than you love me” conversations, and “why don’t you don't spend as much time with me now”. Sitting them down and explaining "it doesn't mean that we love you any less" and "we might have to spend a little bit more time with the baby at the moment, because I'm the only person who can feed him." We also explained that we spent exactly the same time with them when they were little. They get it more now, it's just been a settling-in process and everyone finding their feet with it a little bit.
Jack is nearly 10 now, and I highly recommend already having a 10-year-old when having a baby because he's so helpful! He goes and gets things for me but he draws the line at pooey nappies. The other day the dog got into the bin and pulled out a nappy that I’d just tossed in without thinking about it. He shred it all over my new rug and we had a group of Evelyn’s friends around for playdates, so we had three seven-year-old girls screaming because there was poo everywhere. Nate was screaming the house down and Jack just picked him up for me. He was like, “It's okay mummy I've got him. You tidy up” and he just sat there keeping him happy for me. They've got a really cute bond.
Babynesia is real!
Having slightly older kids I also had this adjustment of suddenly going from having grown-ish kids to having a little baby again.
I feel like I’m getting there a bit more with it now but I found it really strange at first. I breastfeed my other two kids, and I always thought, “Oh, well if I had another one I’ll just know what to do” and that I’d effortlessly put this baby to my breast and he’d feed away and it would be really serene. But it wasn't – I didn't know what to do with him! They gave him to me to try and feed him for the first time after two days in the NICU. He’d been on IV fluids and had to have formula as my milk hadn’t come in yet. So when I actually tried to feed him myself, it was really alien to me, and that came as such a surprise. I just didn't know how to hold him, I didn't know what position to put him in. And I’m there thinking “I’ve done this twice over, why don't I know how to do this?!” But of course, as you grow and progress as a parent, you face new challenges, so there is a lot of the old baby stuff that just piles up because you don't think you're going to revisit it ever or for quite a long time. I still struggle to get the pram unfolded, but we've definitely turned a corner.
Now I completely understand the importance of taking a proper maternity leave
To top it off, I was still writing my second book when Nate arrived. I think I’d lost the plot when I decided to write a book while I was pregnant. I also had the added pressure of knowing that it had to be done and had to be handed in because I didn't want to be doing it postpartum. I literally had a phone call with my editor that morning, and I said that I had two chapters that I needed to write to finish it because I hadn't decided which way I wanted it to go. Mother Hens is very different to my first book ’Tired and Tested: The Wild Ride into Parenthood’, it’s not a parenting book, and is fiction - think mums on hen party gone wrong!
It's about them finding themselves again after motherhood and getting back that piece of their identity that you can lose along the way. After having kids, you very rarely get a weekend to yourself and trying to coordinate your diary with all your friends who also hardly ever get a chance to get a weekend for themselves. And it's that joy of actually getting together with your friends and just letting loose and going, “You know what, yeah, I'm a mother, but I'm also still a person. I can still go and do things for myself”. But there's also there's some drama along the way, it's a bit murdery but I won’t give too much away – read it!
So I thought I'd take the time, do the edit and then put the killer ending in. The kids were on school holidays, and I was heavily pregnant and miserable, so I was like, “Give me three or four days. And then I will write the last two chapters before my due date”. And everyone's like "That's a great idea." But then Nate made his early appearance later that night. So it was one of those best-laid plans which fell completely apart. We pushed the publication date back as much as we could to allow me a little bit more time. But I got to the point where I was so tired with his reflux and with the other two and just trying to be something for everybody. I couldn't even see straight, I couldn't even speak in coherent sentences. And I was looking at the words on my computer and nothing was making sense. They didn't even seem like they were in order.
It was tough but I completely understand the importance of taking proper maternity leave. But it was actually quite good having that little bit of time because I actually thought of a slightly different ending that I wouldn't have written had I actually finished it when I should have originally. I'm much happier with the ending now than how it was ‘meant to be’. So, everything happens for a reason.
After three c-sections, I'm just going to give my body time to heal itself
I remember after having Jack, I felt this real pressure to get back to my body and I signed up for this very intensive HIIT workout that was doing the rounds at the time and worked out like an absolute maniac. I actually think that it impacted my milk supply. This time around, after three c-sections, I'm just going to give my body time to heal itself and look after myself. I'm in no rush, and I'm at a stage in my life now where I’m not as bothered about what people think of me as well. I'll go out on the school run and put something up on Instagram, with no makeup on. I’m not bothered, I know my husband's not bothered so I'm not going to beat myself up about exercising when I've got 1,000,001 things going on. I've got a small baby.
In the same instance, I also appreciate the benefits exercise has mentally, and I like Joe Wicks' Body Coach App as he has some good gentle pregnancy and postnatal workouts on there. They're just 20 minutes, I get a little bit out of breath and it makes me feel good. I'm not doing it to lose weight, just to start easing my body back into moving. Now I'm in my late 30s, I know my body's not going to respond the way that it did after I had Jack when I was in my 20s. I've made my peace with that, and I'm fine with it. My body has done something very important. I'm gonna give it a high five for that and not stress myself out about it.
Going out doing the comedy scene while pregnant was not on my to-do list
As if finishing a book and having a baby wasn't enough, I'm also preparing to go on tour! My last gig was at the end of February before COVID struck and then when I finished writing, pregnancy took over and going out and doing the comedy scene while pregnant and projectile vomiting every couple of hours was not on my to-do list. So it's been a little while but I'm going to be going out and doing warm-up stuff and open mic nights to get myself prepared for 45 minutes to an hour of me standing on the stage – which is absolutely terrifying. But it's one of those things that I love doing when I'm doing it and when I come off the stage afterwards, it's great. But in the run-up, I'm absolutely terrified! My husband always says to me, "I don't understand why you do this to yourself because you seem to hate it". I cry, and I'm like, Oh my gosh, what am I doing? But then I get there. And I do love it, it’s so much fun. It's a very conflicting career choice.
The theme is going to be about being in your 30s and everything that life throws at you when that happens. And being a parent is a very big part of it too. So it's very much what people follow me for, it's gonna be that in a live show.
After Sophie announced her UK tour it sold out in less than 24 hours (including roll dates) - the fastest-selling debut tour this year according to Live Nation! Due to bonkers demand, Sophie will be adding new dates in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on @tiredandtested socials for more dates soon!
In addition to this, Sophie’s first book ’Tired and Tested: The Wild Ride into Parenthood’ has been shortlisted for Non-Fiction book of the year in the British Book Awards. She is shortlisted alongside Edward Enninful, Matthew Perry and Alan Rickman. She said she didn’t ever imagine she would find herself sandwiched between Chandler Bing and Professor Snape!
If you're intrigued to give her latest novel a go, it's due to be released on March 30, 2023.
Welcome to a hen do where revenge is served colder than a frozen margarita…