Former Olympic swimmer turned TV sports reporter and commentator, Giaan Rooney, and her helicopter pilot husband, Sam Levett, became parents for the first time last April.
Here, Giaan tells Mother & Baby why the early months tested her like never before –and how asking for help kept her sane.
Being a mum puts life into perspective. It gives you clarity in terms of what’s important and what’s not.
I have to admit the first six months were so much more difficult than I’d thought they’d be.
For the first little bit I struggled because I felt I was failing.
When Zander was five-and-a-half months old we went to sleep school because we were up every hour of every night and were getting into some really bad habits.
He had a 40-minute sleep cycle and the lack of sleep and the exhaustion started to take its toll on us. I loved him to death and would have done anything for him, but I felt like I was failing.
As a former athlete that was an incredibly hard feeling.
Throughout my career, when I had gone through stages where I wasn’t liking the direction it was going, I was in charge and in control and could change things. But with Zander, I read every book, took every piece of advice, was online looking for information and nothing was working.
I thought to myself, ‘I’ve done some pretty good things in my life. Most women have had children and have done this, and I can’t do it!’
The emotional toll was pretty tough.
There were a couple of key moments where I realised I needed help.
Mum was brilliant and came down from Queensland to Melbourne many times to help out, even sleeping next to the cot so that we could sleep.
Mum had been to sleep school with my brother, Byron, 30 years earlier and said to us, ‘You need to go!’
Jennifer Keyte [Channel Seven news presenter] had also mentioned a couple of friends of hers who had gone to sleep school. Jennifer has two boys and said she wished she’d taken her kids.
So there were a few people who were positive and felt strongly about the whole sleep school idea.
But the major catalyst was when I was driving the car with Zander in the back and I went through a set of traffic lights. I couldn’t have told you what colour they were. That’s when I thought, ‘Okay, I have got to swallow my pride, otherwise I am going to kill us both.’
That was the real light-bulb moment.
Sleep school was amazing and liberating and has changed – and saved – our lives.
The nurses were beautiful and addressed a lot of problems I hadn’t seen or thought about. And Zander was quite challenging.
It took him until the last night to sleep through – when he did I thought he had died!
I found the whole experience incredible and the best thing we did. I’ve since said to a few friends who are struggling I can’t recommend it enough.
I’m in a phase now where I’m thoroughly enjoying being a mum. Zander is very active and keeps me on my toes. Everyone tells me little boys are very active, but I did ask the maternal health nurse, ‘How active is too active?’
When he’s awake he’s as happy as Larry but he needs to burn off all that energy. That’s one of the things I learnt at sleep school. He needs to burn it off and then he sleeps better.
Zander is strong-willed and independent. He wants to do things on his own, without help, and is very persistent, stubborn and determined.
Sam and I joke he shows characteristics that’ll be useful when he’s older, but are not so useful for a toddler!
He’s a bit of a mixture of Sam and I but Mum says when I was young I was the cruisy child, quite placid and happy to go with the flow. And it’s only as I got older that I developed a lot of the traits Zander has.
I’m definitely stubborn and persistent. I’m independent but I also love being able to rely on others.