A Galway Girl

Anne was heavily pregnant in 1976. We had a number of visitors in the house. Fran and Pauline had got married and moved in with us for a while, and Jane was just visiting. I cannot remember who else was there. Anne had gone upstairs to bed as she was tired. After a while she came to the top of the stairs and I remember Jane looking up at her and asking was she okay. Her waters had just broken and the panic began. Fran had a green second-hand Renault 4 that had previously been a post office van. He offered to drive us to the hospital so Anne and I quickly gathered the hospital bag and we were off. Fran’s eyes were fixed on the road, but I didn’t realise how panicked he was until he drove through a red light at the Claddagh Palace. Luckily, it was late in the evening and there was no other traffic. We continued up to the hospital.

Unlike with Andrew, I was allowed into the delivery room in Galway. I think this is because things were a little more haphazard in the Regional than they had been in Hollis Street, rather than that they had a more accommodating policy in relation to fathers. I stood at Anne’s side saying soothing things and not really knowing what I was doing, except being there. Sometime after two in the morning Heather came out in one smooth movement. I remember seeing here purple crumpled body before I heard her cry. Afterwards I skipped all the way home, delirious, and was nearly back at the house before I noticed I was still wearing the surgical mask from the delivery room. I wrote a poem about it later.

Anne was determined to feed Heather as soon as possible, to avoid any of the problems she had with Andrew. You weren’t allowed to breastfeed in the ward in case you offended the other mothers or their husbands or other visitors, which meant she had to haul her worn out and bloodied body to the special feeding room a few times a day. Meanwhile visitors gathered in the ward admiring the little babies, new to the world, while chain smoking over them. Different times, different priorities. 

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