Our lockdown baby


The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

In the end it felt like a drive through experience.
I was summonsed at 9.35am and just 45 minutes later, I was back in my car. In between, at 9.45am, our third child was born. Our second son, Séimí Hugh, was born a strapping nine pounds, 13 ounces.
With Covid numbers spiralling all around the country, by the time Aisling reached the maternity ward on Monday, January 11, restrictions had increased considerably.
That morning we found out that there would be no visiting at all in the evening, a change brought in only 48 hours previously. Up to that, there had been an hour’s visiting time for partners every night.
So I’d have to drop Aisling off in the morning, leave her and her bag at the door of maternity and return to the car.
All I can say is I’m glad it wasn’t our first child, because that would have made it so much harder. I’m so relieved too that everything went well. Being across the road in a car if things went awry does not bear thinking about.
This is not to complain about the restrictions. I’m glad they were in force. Cases in Mayo University Hospital were, and remain, high. The restrictions are necessary for everyone’s safety.
But it was a challenging and surreal experience, waiting nervously out in the car for the call.
After previous births, I’ve said that never can a man feel more useless than in a maternity ward. I was wrong. At least when you’re at your partner’s side, you can try to provide some comfort, grab whatever they need. It just ain’t the same WhatsApping from your car across the road.
But this ain’t my story. Only when you have kids of your own do you start to appreciate what your own mother went through in carrying you and welcoming you to the world. Mothers are heroes for what they endure in pregnancy and in the labour ward. Especially so in these times.
Frankie, aged four, sensed this in the final weeks of pregnancy as the pressure on Aisling’s body increased (remember, an almost-ten-pound baby was moving and kicking inside her).
As Frankie said goodnight to Aisling on the Sunday night, she said sensitively, ‘Mummy, when the baby is out, you won’t be sore, I love you’. No midwife could have offered a more soothing message at that time.
As the days were counted down, a lot of people expressed concern for us having to go to the hospital in the midst of a Covid crisis. We were nervous ourselves.
The great people in the Maternity Department have always been exceptional, and this time round was no different. They were on top of their game.
During your brief time in there, you realise acutely that for all the worries you might have,  staff throughout the hospital are coming in and out every day, running the gauntlet while fearing the virus and worrying about bringing it home to their families. Yet they keep turning up for work. Heroes, all.
Because everything was so different about this birth, I’d not really thought about the arrival and when I saw Séimí for the first time, it was overwhelming. Every concern and fear washed away as I saw him for the first time and for a few, worrying seconds, as I waited to hear him cry.
There ain’t a thing like it in the world, welcoming new life.

> In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.