2020 reminded me how amazing family is

WoW! columnist Julie Helen reflects on the challenges of 2020, her first year of motherhood
2020 reminded me how amazing family is

Julie O'Leary and husband Dave on their wedding day. They were married on January 1, 2016.

AS the year ends, I tend to reflect and look forward to the year to come. Some years are harder than others. Before I met David, I never really liked New Year’s Eve much, it always made me feel lonely and that I wasn’t reaching my potential like I should be. I am quite hard on myself in this regard. I think that might be part of the reason we chose to get married on January 1 st 2016. We forever changed how we would feel about New Year’s Eve. Now, that date reminds me of a house full of people I love, preparing to get me down the aisle. It’s just hard to believe it is five years ago already.

2020 has been bizarre. I started it knowing it would be. I had a newborn baby, I was in a total fog and didn’t know what I was doing. 

I was prepared for a few months of hunkering down and figuring out my new role. I didn’t expect that it would turn into an extended period of isolation for not just me but for practically the whole world. Nobody could ever have predicted that and even if they could, I for one, would never have believed them.

Julie Helen writes a weekly column in WoW! in The Echo.
Julie Helen writes a weekly column in WoW! in The Echo.

A year so fraught with uncertainty has taught me one important lesson. I’d like to share it with you. My family is amazing. At 34 years young, I sat down with my parents and asked them if I could come home while I was pregnant and had a young baby, with my husband in tow of course. They didn’t even flinch. I expected that they would find the level of paraphernalia associated with a baby frustrating. If they have, they have never said so, they’ve just showered us with love and support.

We didn’t know when I asked to come home that we would need to go through lockdowns together, it wasn’t even in our vocabulary. 

I haven’t been in a shop to do groceries since the pandemic hit. I haven’t needed to because my parents keep us fed and safe, even when I know mum especially hates doing the groceries in this climate. Mum also makes a lunch for David, often late at night so he doesn’t have to go into a shop while he is working. Between them we are so well looked after.

My brothers are also incredible men. Diarmuid has endured significantly more isolation than most because he is waiting on a kidney transplant. His world is now at home and on the farm. Due to his needs, my other two brothers, Philip and Colm and their wonderful fiancées Aileen and Elaine have had to stay away much more than any of us would like. When they could they have all adored their nephew! In summer 2021, we will have two weddings and we will be full of joy.

We all learned that even with a global pandemic raging, other challenges can still come knocking. 

In the summer, mum was diagnosed with a type of ovarian cancer, entirely unexpectedly. I was shaken to my core. When she told me, I hugged her as tightly as I could. That moment will stay with me.

Fortunately, all the cancer was removed during her first surgery and she hasn’t needed any further treatment after having two sets of clear scans. I saw my dad spring into action like never before when mum was sick. They are a phenomenal team. Mum is back to being our backbone and we can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that all we can control is as it should be. We are so lucky!

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