On the day myself and my husband, Daniel saw the word ‘Pregnant’ on the test, we were elated and hugged our little seven-month-old baby Noah, delighted that he would have a younger brother or sister by next year.
We did not know, nor did anyone, how much the world was going to change between then and the due date.
Daniel came to my first hospital appointment with me and we saw our little baby on the scan for the first time —that was on December 23 and it was the last appointment he was at. The next time he went inside the doors of the maternity hospital was six months later, to meet his second son for an hour and a half before leaving us there for the next four days.
Looking back, I feel really lucky and glad that he was with me for the first scan, as it is a really special moment.
Not having him at routine appointments felt strange and unnatural, but wasn’t a huge thing for me, as the appointments were so much quicker and the clinics were smaller with less women attending, so I felt safer overall, by not having additional people there.
Perhaps if it was my first baby or if there were major complications, I would have felt differently and I know for women, who would have been hearing tough or heartbreaking news at these appointments, it was extremely difficult to be alone.
Working in the media brought with it the strangest connection to Covid 19 — I remember reporting on the news that the first case had broken out in Wuhan. I remember the day we covered the Clare family who were all sick from the virus and I remember how quickly things started to change.
Just before St Patrick’s Day, I left my office for the last time and as childcare providers started to close, I realised I would now be heavily pregnant, working from home and doing all of this with a very active toddler.
Once lockdown restrictions came in, Daniel had to take mornings off work to stay with Noah while I drove myself to appointments. I remember thinking how strange it was to be stopped by Gardaí, being asked where I was going and where I lived.
In May, when we found out the gender, I asked the radiologist to write it down so we could find out together later that day. Again, it was one of those moments he should have been there for.
Family and friends were observing my growing bump via WhatsApp video calls and Zoom chats and while I was home with Noah, we couldn’t do any of the things we would have otherwise. There were no swimming lessons, no baby and toddler group, no walks in the park, no visiting relatives. It was just us at home.
I was most nervous about actually going into hospital to have the baby. When I had Noah 16 months previous, he was admitted to the neo-natal unit when he was two days old. Daniel was with me every day. We would go up and down to Noah in NICU as often as we could and as I was breastfeeding, my days were split between resting, pumping milk to bring to Noah and having visitors.
When we got home with the first baby, there were people here almost every day initially, everyone was very excited to meet Noah and the house was a hive of activity for most of Daniel’s paternity leave. This time around was very different.
I was going in for a planned C-Section due to complications I had with Noah. As with anything related to a surgical theatre, there was no certainty as to when I would be giving birth.
While I lay in a bed in the post-natal ward from 7am, Daniel was sitting in the car awaiting a phone call. This was the worst time for Daniel I think — he likes to plan things and be early, so not knowing an exact time was torture for him. Finally, at ten to two, I rang him and told him to come in. I met him outside my ward and we walked up to theatre, holding hands and feeling equally anxious and excited.
Daniel was with me as they went through the surgical procedure, then I was brought to get a spinal block, be prepped and he joined me once the surgeon was ready.
As they operated, he was right behind me, holding my hand, looking me in the eyes and talking to me as we waited eagerly to meet our little baby.
Sam Noel Patrick O’Halloran was born at 14.47 on June 23 weighing a whopping 9 lbs 6 oz. He was brought over to us and Daniel held him for a few minutes. He then got to sit with Sam while I was being closed up and this was utterly precious to us, as Noah had been whisked away to the neo-natal unit for checks immediately after birth.
Daniel got to stay with us in recovery until we were brought back to the ward and the next time we saw him was when we were discharged.
It was difficult not to have him there to help with nappy changes, to stay with Sam if I wanted to stretch my legs or shower, or even just to help out with holding or burping him while I was getting ready for feeds.
It was strange not to have visitors and for people to not be able to meet Sam, but it also had its perks. Having no visitors in the hospital and knowing only staff were going to walk in meant that women were very comfortable and often exposed, as they established breastfeeding and did skin to skin with their newborn.
When Noah was born, Daniel took four weeks off to be with us. This time, he did the same — it has been invaluable to have him at home to help out with lifting Noah, doing things around the house and feeding me while I feed Sam.
In terms of visitors once we got home, we knew that we wouldn’t be having anyone over for a few weeks at least. Sam’s lack of immunity combined with my own compromised immune system led us to this difficult decision, because even though restrictions have been lifted, the virus is still as much of a threat as it was before.
The advice from the midwives, which we are heeding, is that people wear a mask when they meet the baby, wash their hands on arrival and that nobody holds the baby for more than 15 minutes. They also advised the removal of jackets and shoes, as these are items rarely washed and which could be carrying the virus.
The most difficult part of this is that they advised nobody meet the baby for at least four weeks.
Sam has been seen by family only through a screen.
While it is obviously very difficult for family not to be able to meet the newest addition, this is the safest option for right now and when things are safer, they will get to have those precious first moments, cuddles and photographs.
This is one of the many things which this pandemic has taken from so many.
Sam will grow up knowing that he was born into the world in the strangest time in living memory — in a time when workplaces closed, businesses ceased trading, playgrounds shut their gates and the world came to a standstill in so many ways.
We have all changed because of this pandemic and some of those changes will stick for the better.
This part of history will become part of who Sam is and part of who we all are.