New mum Sarah ready for return to football
NI player in action just eight weeks after birthexplained
Sarah McFadden sinks into a plush lounge chair, a meditative serenity to her smile and deep, thoughtful breaths.
The Northern Ireland midfielder has returned from a strenuous training session, but is still glowing from a peaceful night's sleep, after having only given birth eight weeks ago. Savouring such blissful moments are rare pleasures for new mothers.
"This should be a bootcamp but it feels like a retreat," the new mum from Magherafelt jokes.
McFadden has joined up with her international teammates ahead of their next World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Tuesday, and is hoping for her first minutes on the pitch since she and husband Damien welcomed baby Harper.
"I felt fine after a couple of weeks to be honest," the Dundee Ladies ace said. "I played a few games with my club, knowing I was pregnant, and continued to play until I got to about 12 weeks, and that's when I thought I ought to stop.
"I was still running and training with the team, though, as the advice was to stay as fit as possible, because it helps with getting back into it after childbirth.
"Alfie Wylie, our Northern Ireland manager, has been great. He invited me to the join the squad and just to see how I go, but I really feel good, am looking forward to going to Slovakia and hope I get to play."
While her club doctor was on hand to support her return to the field, McFadden insists there's no exercise rulebook for new mums.
"I'm not a full-time professional so while athletes like Jessica Ennis-Hill for instance will have specialist medical advice," she explained, "I didn't consult with anyone in particular.
"The doctor at the club and my midwives were great, though, and very supportive. So much of it is just about how you feel, I believe it's very much down to the woman herself. Nobody should feel under pressure to rush back.
"Damien plays five-a-side a lot and I joined in with them to get my fitness back up, but it was easier than doing it at my club because it's just about having fun, rather than competing.
"I was running but also lifting quite a lot, so I was able to retain some muscle mass and my bump stayed quite small throughout my pregnancy, so that helped me come back.
"I did my anterior cruciate ligament a few years ago, and the injury was definitely harder to come back from than pregnancy."
McFadden added: "I am just happy to be back with the squad, which also has so many young and new faces in it. It's a privilege to be back with the girls and see just how competitive things are, as women's football here is really on the up.
"I feel as if I have to be back here to defend my place in the team, and if not, at least I'm enjoying a bit more sleep while on international duty!"