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“I wanted to cry when my husband had to leave”

Emer O’Neill on going through labour alone during lockdown…


I was due my little girl on May 2nd 2020 but just like my first child she was adamant that she would come early. I felt my first contractions at 9am on the 24th April. I had been warned that if I wasn’t at least 2 cm dilated, my husband would not be able to stay with me in the hospital, so I wanted to stay home as long as I could to ensure that didn’t happen. 

By 1pm the contractions had become very strong and a lot closer together so we made the decision to go to the hospital. With my son Kyan, who is six, I did most of my labour at home; being my first child, I didn’t realise how close I was to giving birth. 

On that occasion, I was checked into Holles Street at 6:30am on the 18th June 2014,  and had my son at 9:05am that same day. Hence this time around I was a little anxious not to leave it too late and risk having a home or car birth. 

This year, on the 24th of April 2020 at 1pm myself and my husband made our way into Holles Street to meet our baby girl. I remember my husband stopping at all of the red lights and driving strictly to the speed limit; I kept saying ‘do you want me to have this baby in the car?!’

Needless to say when I arrived at the hospital and was being registered just like that the contractions stopped coming so close together, and were suddenly not half as strong. The secretary laughed as she said she sees this happen to a lot to women who experience severe contractions at home and on the way in, but when they arrive at the hospital they stop. 

She has a theory that arriving at the hospital scares the baby back in;  I had a giggle at that. When I was examined in the delivery ward I wasn’t even 2cm dilated. With that my husband had to leave and I was brought to the maternity ward to get to work. Honestly I wanted to cry when he had to go. I spent the next three hours alone bouncing on my ball, squatting and trying to get through each contraction. 

At about 5pm the midwife suggested I take a shower to speed up the labour, so off I went. I put on a live Kings of Leon concert on YouTube and listened to to it on my speaker, and Bob’s your uncle within 15 minutes I was ready to go. At that point, I managed to walk back to my bed but when the nurse arrived at 5:30pm I was no longer able to walk because the contractions were so bad. So I was brought to the labour ward in a wheelchair, and told to ring my husband straight away and tell him to get up to the ward. 

When I arrived on the labour ward the midwife who had checked me in and who was also due to attend my delivery told me she was due her break so she was heading to go get coffee, but that I shouldn’t worry because I was only 3cm dilated, so we still had some way to go ahead of us and that she would be back in time. 

To her surprise when she came back  I was holding my baby in my arms. My husband arrived into the labour ward at exactly 5:45pm and little Sunny Rae was born at 6:18pm. Sean held Sunny Rae for 30mins before myself and my daughter headed back to the maternity ward. I had packed and prepared mentally to be heading home the next day, so I got a big shock when I was told I had high blood pressure and Sunny Rae had a strange rash that they hadn’t seen before. Due to this we ended up in the hospital for 6 days; the heart breaker was that my poor husband didn’t get to hold his baby girl again until she was a week old. 

It was a very tough time and I struggled a lot during those six days with my mental health. I had not prepared myself to do labour alone and then not see my husband or six year old son for a week. It was lonely and so different, but I tried to stay positive and acknowledge that there were other mothers in there who hadn’t been home for weeks. 

Having a pandemic baby was definitely an interesting experience and one I won’t forget in a hurry. I was very glad I was not a first time mom because I don’t know that I would have held it together. My heart goes out to all the first time moms who have had to go through similar situations, and worse. 

None of this experience was like the first time. My own mother couldn’t hold Sunny Rae for a month, which was really hard for everyone, blowing kisses and watching her grow and change so drastically from the door. Not to mention having no baby shower or people over after the birth. 

It was very full on initially, because unlike before, when we would have had people calling and holding the baby, and you would get a little break every now and then, this time around it was just so full on, with no real help or breaks. 

When lockdown was lifted, we noticed that Sunny Rae was a little strange around people initially  because she was only ever used to seeing myself, Sean and Kyan. On the plus side, we were able to have a lovely little bubble all to ourselves, with Sean at home Sunny Rae and himself were really able to really bond which was so beautiful to witness.