Baby is born

In April 1975 Anne was on maternity leave from the Tax Office. I was working in ICM, a small electronics firm in Tallaght that manufactured video tennis machines similar to Pong. We were living in a bedsitter in Rathmines and I would read baby books – Dr Jolly and Childcare Made Simple – as I travelled to and from work on the bus every day. Anne’s sister-in-law Deirdre was visiting with her own baby when Anne started having contractions.  Anne didn’t immediately realise that she was in labour, but Deirdre recognised the signs and urged her to contact me in work.

I was called into the office and told that my wife had called to say she was in labour.  I left work  immediately. I knew there were no buses at that time of day, so I sort of trotted and walked all the way back to Rathmines. Google maps tells me that journey should have taken me nearly two hours, but I don’t think it took me quite that long. When I arrived the contractions were regular and we knew we would have to go to the hospital. We hailed a taxi on Rathmines road and told the driver to bring us to Hollis Street. He asked if Anne was expecting. When he heard that her contractions were every few minutes he stepped on the accelerator and took every short cut possible to get us to the hospital on time. I’m sure he was terrified that the baby would be born in his taxi.

In Hollis Street they examined Anne and decided to admit her. I went with her as she was wheeled down a corridor towards a double door. At the doors I was told firmly that I could go no further. Anne said that she wanted me , but the nurses were adamant that fathers were not allowed. I was told to leave and that there would be no news for several hours. We were bemused the following year to read in the paper that Hollis Street was leading the country in encouraging fathers to attend the birth of their babies. The article was written in such a way as to suggest that the barrier was the attitude of the fathers, rather than the firm ‘no’ at the double doors!

Reluctantly I left the hospital and just walked around the city, up and down Grafton Street and around St. Stephen’s Green, wondering when it would be okay for me to go back to the hospital. On Grafton Street I met Áine O’Connor who had taught me drama in Drogheda a few years previously. She asked what I was up to and was taken aback when I said I was married and that my wife was in hospital having our baby. She said I must go straight back to the hospital. Just then I met our friend Pauline and she came with me. Andrew was born at 6:30 pm and a while later I was finally allowed in to see Anne. She had black eyes and looked like she had done a really hard day’s work. But she was glowing – our new baby boy was with her and we were both ecstatic.

A few days later we brought the baby home to the bedsitter and a few weeks later ICM went into receivership. This meant the two of us were able to spend endless time with our new baby all that summer, though it also meant that money was tight.

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