Best present ever: We got to bring our premature baby home for Christmas

Back in November, baby Siofra’s story captured the hearts of our readers, when we marked World Prematurity Day. She was born weighing just 2lbs 9oz. EMMA CONNOLLY caught up with the Cork family
Best present ever: We got to bring our premature baby home for Christmas

Baby Síofra, who featured in WOW! to mark World Prematurity Day back in November.

IT finally feels like she is our own baby... That’s how Amy Fogarty summed up being able to bring baby Síofra home from Cork Maternity Hospital over seven weeks after she was born there.

Amy, a junior doctor, who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology, had become concerned by her baby’s lack of movement while pregnant and decided to get checked out.

Baby Siofra with parents Amy Fogarty and John O'Connell at home in Midleton, County Cork.
Baby Siofra with parents Amy Fogarty and John O'Connell at home in Midleton, County Cork.

After various tests, it was decided that the baby was better out than in and Síofra was delivered 10 weeks prematurely on October 26, weighing just 2lbs 9ozs (1.18 kilos).

Since then, she’s been cared for in the neo-natal unit at CUMH, and Amy and her partner John O’Connell had an expectation of being able to get their baby girl home by her due date of January 4.

However, being the little trooper that she is, Síofra gave her mum and dad the best Christmas gift ever by being discharged early on December 16, weighing 2.4 kilos, double her birth weight.

Speaking from their home in Midleton, Amy said she was relishing what was now an entirely different experience of motherhood.

“It just feels so totally different now, being there for every feed, not having her on a monitor,” said Amy, 34.

“It feels like she is ours now, whereas it never really felt like that before, there was always that feeling of disconnect, which isn’t there now.”

Síofra was born weighing 2lbs 9ozs
Síofra was born weighing 2lbs 9ozs

Theirs is a happy ending, but Amy and John went through their fair share of ups and downs over the past seven weeks since their daughter was born.

When the Echo first spoke with the couple, they were coping well with their circumstances, and with Covid restrictions which meant only one of them could be with Síofra at a time in the unit.

At the time, Amy said: “Having separate times gives dads a chance not to be standing in the background and also takes the pressure off the mum, who might feel she has to be there all the time.”

But as the weeks went by, Amy honestly admitted that between the exhaustion, and being alone in the unit day after day, the situation became ‘horrendous.’

Baby Siofra asleep under the glow of the Christmas tree, at home in Midleton.
Baby Siofra asleep under the glow of the Christmas tree, at home in Midleton.

“I would go in every morning and come home in the late afternoon, and then John would go in at night. It was so hard to relax in the evening.

“After a while, not having John with me in the unit, really took its toll. It was manageable at the start but it became very difficult.

“The day Síofra was discharged was the first time I’d seen him hold her, and the first time he saw me hold her. That was a really special moment for us.”

She said they’re only now realising the strain of travelling from Midleton to the city every day, negotiating traffic and the tunnel, and are loving every moment of being able to relax and stay at home.

Amy’s originally from Dublin and she said while her family can’t wait to see the new arrival, they’re making do with FaceTime for now over fears of Covid.

“My parents are more afraid of bringing the infection with them, than getting it. So we’re just enjoying getting to know each other for now,” she said.

After more than seven weeks on a monitor, Amy says, she has hardly put her daughter down and is making no apology for it!

“She’s never going to be out of someone’s arms — she’ll be totally spoiled.

“We don’t even care about the sleepless nights. Having her home is the best Christmas present ever.”

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Called Droid, our next story is about a boy who designs a robot at UCC and chaos ensues. It was written by Margaret Gillies, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC.

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