“I was very, very artistic growing up. I went to art college and I thought “yeah, this is where I should be. I’m going to move to Paris, I’m going to be an artist” just going to be… “I’m never having kids. I’m just going to be me”…

I think I was in college, maybe two months, and I actually got pregnant. I met this older Italian gentlemen, well he wasn’t a gentleman, and… I felt like I had no choice, but to leave college… coming back home to Kells within three months was like a spectacular crash and burn. So we’re back in Kells with the Italian in tow…

I’m from the school of hard knocks and that’s through no fault of my parents, it’s my own, I always do things the hard way. The only time things have ever gone really well for me are when I’ve actually listened to that inner voice and trusted my gut and listened to what it’s been saying to me.”

Nicola Lawless

And that, above, is just the beginning of a most extraordinary journey, a roller-coaster ride through life to date that this fascinating resilient woman took us on.

Nicola is a mother to four and disability advocate, due to her second child having serious developmental issues, an entrepreneur, and a down-to-earth, straight talking strong woman.

A woman of opposites – measured, calm and laser focused, she is also spontaneous, intuitive, and trusting, and as a result accepts life on life’s terms.

Described as someone with business acumen that is very targeted, she designs, plans and executes in her business life, but family and friends are her most important focus. Nicola feels that her sense of humour has gotten her this far and looks forward to lots of adventures in her future! She joins us here to entertain us in her own inimitable style.

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to stick on the kettle, grab a coffee and think along with Nicola Lawless and Yours Truly for a short while in your preferred way.

Jaw-droppingly challenging and belly-roll laughing in equal measure.

Meet Nicola Lawless on The Coffee at Eleven Show.

Nicola Lawless Highlights

Yours Truly: Ladies and gentlemen, you are more than welcome to this, another episode of The Coffee at Eleven Show brought to you by WIG-WAM and indeed supported by the Limerick Post, keeping limerick posted, #LimerickAndProud. You’re very welcome. Delighted in particular to welcome our very special guest, all the way from The Kingdom this morning, and it is Nicola Lawless. Nicola, please say hello and cheers us with your coffee mug.

Nicola Lawless: Hi, everybody.

Even though both my parents came from large families and we had a large extended family, we had moved to the country and I always kind of felt like I didn’t really belong anywhere. And I know that was just incidental to the moving around but I never really felt like I belonged anywhere because I would start a new school every couple of years, and I would have to make roots and then we might move on. We didn’t move all over the country. We stayed within sort of the general area of Cavan and Meath, but it just left me with a sense of never really belonging because I had very much belonged in Dublin with all my extended family around me. So I think that kind of shaped me a little bit.

And I was very, very artistic growing up. I was nearly always seen with pen and paper and pencils and watercolors in hand. So when I left secondary school, I got a good Leaving. Don’t know how, I really don’t know how. I used to have this ridiculous ability to retain useless information. So I think that kind of saw me through. But when I left school, I went to art college and I thought “yeah, this is where I should be. I’m going to move to Paris, I’m going to be an artist” just going to be… “I’m never having kids. I’m just going to be me”. And I was reading all of these of these books about the set in Paris, all these great writers, American writers, French writers, all of this. And I was “yeah, that’s a bit of me”.

So I think I was in college ,maybe two months, and I actually got pregnant. So I met this older Italian gentlemen, well he wasn’t a gentleman, I’ll be honest. But anyway, I met him and next thing I find myself pregnant. So there’s this one who… I was one of those kids at school who would be wearing the long black coats and the Doc boots up past the knee and stuff like that. And Gareth will actually attest to that because he noticed me, might I say long before I noticed him. But anyway, I was kind of like the cool kid sort of, slightly, not hugely, just slightly. So getting pregnant and at that time I felt like I had no choice, but to leave college and coming back home to Kells within three months was like a spectacular crash and burn.

So we’re back in Kells with the Italian in tow…

Yours Truly: Oh, Didn’t see that coming.

Nicola Lawless: Yeah, yeah, yeah, he came back. But then, so we settled into a nice little flat and all the rest while waiting for the baby to come. And then I think it was about seven and a half or eight months pregnant and he said to me “Do you know, I think…” I’d do an Italian accent only I’d butcher it but he said, “I think I’m going to go home for a little break before the baby comes. I’m sure you can’t fly now because you’re past the stage where you can fly”. So you can see where this is going. So anyway, off he went and that was it.

And actually what I wanted to touch on was something that Eamonn brought up in his grounding thing, because one of the things I’ve written down here is listening to your inner voice. And whenever… I’m from the school of hard knocks and that’s through no fault of my parents, it’s my own, I always do things the hard way. And the only time things have ever gone really well for me are when I’ve actually listened to that inner voice and trusted my gut and listened to what it’s been saying to me.

And anyway, I knew he wouldn’t come back and he didn’t, he didn’t come back until my son was about two months old, three months old. But by that stage, my dad in particular was “maybe it could make a go of this”. And again, listened to my gut and said, “no, no, I’m not having this”. And that was that.

Well, I mean, obviously I didn’t stay on the shelf for long. No I’m only joking, Gareth came along then when our eldest was about eight months old. So things started going a bit better then, and we went on to build a life together and we have three further beautiful children together so we’ve four gorgeous children.

Okay, but how did you meet?

Actually, the first time I ever met Gareth, we were both about 12 and he was serving mass and he was actually too cool for school. So he was splayed out on the steps to the altar like this and he still drives his car like that, kind of like this. And yeah, so that’s how we first sort of met each other. But we met through mutual friends, essentially. And Gareth had a job just up the street from where I lived so I would see him passing by and he would see me passing by and that’s how we met. We kind of mooched around the peripheries of the same circles.

I don’t think I realized what a profound impact moving around as a child had had on me until I did this because our eldest was 12 at the time and he was just going into first year and he felt the impact of moving 200 miles away. So I don’t think I really understood that until then. But we came to Kerry in 2008 and we made our lives here.

The advocacy bit comes from constantly having to fight. Always having to fight for services. And we came to realize fairly early on as well, that if we didn’t fight for things, he wouldn’t be in the system. And if he wasn’t in the system, he wouldn’t be entitled to anything. So even just getting him from school into his day placement was a fight and it was just constant fighting. And I don’t think I realized the toll that was taking on me because I had quite a stressful job as well and we’d moved and we had four kids and all of these things going on around us.

And then in February 2016… So I don’t know if anybody remembers this, but it was a bit of and epidemic at the time, not a pandemic, but swine flu H1N1 was going around and there was 32 of us working in the company at the time and I think about 20 of us got it. And we had to actually make an emergency call to the doctor and the doctor came out and he listened to my chest and he said “Hospital, I’m calling an ambulance” and I said to Gareth “look, don’t call an ambulance. We’ll drive in”. I didn’t want to scare the kids. So in I went into the hospital in Tralee, Kerry University Hospital. And I went in there on a Sunday night and on the Wednesday morning, they put me on a ventilator and they called my family and said, you got to come down and say goodbye to her.

So they call Gareth at something like 2AM in the morning and they’d moved me to ICU and they brought Gareth in and I couldn’t talk at this stage. So I motioned for the phone and I got the phone off and they said, “Look Nicola, we’re going to have to ventilate you won’t survive otherwise”. And I typed into the phone “Three days, wake me up after three days I don’t leave my side”. He was “Er, yeah, okay”. When I think about it, I just thought I was still in control.

That was it. I woke up three weeks later in CUH, but it took them nearly a full day to get me to CUH because every time they tried to move me onto the portable machines, I’d crash. So it took them all day.

Anyway, so this is obviously very stressful and very tense for my family. And eventually they had managed to get me on the mobile machines that night and they started wheeling me down the hall to bring me out and everybody was kind of standing, I don’t know I wasn’t there, but this is the story I’m told. Everyone was kind of standing to one side going “Oh Jesus Christ, hopefully she makes it” and as they’re wheeling me down the hall and everyone’s hoping I don’t crash, the ambulance man’s phone goes off and it plays the theme tune to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, you know that song? Doodaloodaloo do do do. And my brother had to run out of the hall and his wife because they were like “she would f**king love that” like I’m just going down the hall, in bits but they’re playing my theme song.

So eventually Mother’s Day in 2016, they said, “look, we’re going to start taking her out of sedation tomorrow and see how she does” and they said, “Now it’s going to take a couple of days. It could even take a couple of weeks”. And dad was like, “Right, listen, forget about that. This one never even slept in the car when she was a kid. So you start turning down that sedation, you better be ready”

So I remember waking up and I had terrible ICU delirium, but I really, really knew. I knew I was in Cork. I felt like I’d run an ultramarathon and I woke up like this “Yeah, yeah” They’re all like “Whoa, whoa”. Dad and Gareth come in and I grabbed the two of them and I was like “Ah, me boys”. Now it wasn’t that coherent, let me tell you. And all the tubes were pulled out and the nurses were like, “oh, come on, settle down, settle down” and I actually even punched one of the nurses, I was like, “get away”. and I was like, “Come on lads, let’s go”.

And they gave me the phone to talk to my kids and I said to my daughter, Fia, “Listen, I’ll be out of here in a couple of days. Do you want to go and do a bit of shopping and we’ll get a bit of lunch” and they were all like, “Oh Jesus Christ, she’s off her head”. So we had a fun couple of days. We had a very fun couple of days. I drove the nurses nuts.

Yours Truly: Two quick questions if you don’t mind, Nicola, please. First question is Nicola Lawless, What did you find in COVID that you’re not letting go of what are you taking with you from COVID?

Nicola Lawless: I think that, again, going back to Eamonn’s opening, everything we have we need, everything we have we need. I spent COVID actually downsizing because I was actually embarrassed by the abundance of things I had that I just didn’t need. I did not need them. It made us stop and pause and it allowed that power to emerge and just to step into your self and step into your power, we don’t need all those trappings. And some of my dearest friends, I’ve never actually met in person because that pause allowed me to be true to my self and be able to make those connections on a much deeper level.

So that’s the first thing.

And the second thing I’m taking from COVID is that my hairdresser is now more important to me than some of my family. So just some, just some of my family, but no, I’m only joking. But yeah just that we are so… connection is so important and that was what that kind of life-threatening illness taught me. And I never actually felt like I belonged until that happened, because I could feel this warmth and this surge of love and positivity for me, and that’s something that I spent the last five years trying to build on. So COVID was great because sometimes we get caught in the rat race, in the hamster wheel and it actually made me stop again and I thought “Jesus Christ, if you didn’t listen five years ago, listen now.

Yours Truly: And the second question, before we go to Princess Shelley, is you meet a friend, you come across somebody old or new and you realize by listening to them that they are in fact struggling, at the end of their tether, in terms of everything that’s gone on over the last fifteen, sixteen months, what’s your advice?

Nicola Lawless: I don’t think I would have any real advice for them because I would feel like, I wouldn’t diminish their experience. I would just try to be there for them. And if there were things that I could do that they were struggling with, because we all struggled from time to time and there’s small tasks that seem insurmountable, to all of us. I know I get that from time to time and being overwhelmed. So I try and help where best I can, I’m more an action person. So I would try and help in any little way that I could and I would listen because at the end of the day, I’m not getting it all right. And I’m certainly not getting it right all the time. So I would just try and be there more so than anything else. I think that’s really important because I would not be where I am now without people who have been there for me.


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