A proud Colin and Maggie with their new arrival Eliza Rose Regan. Eliza’s blanket was crocheted by Margaret McPartland, Drumshanbo, who generously sent it to Eliza to mark the occasion
Back in my world, two has become three. Was it a boy or a child? It’s a beautiful baby girl, Eliza Rose Regan.
It’s the first grandchild on the Christie side of the family, so they are completely beside themselves with excitement.
A brand spanking new mother, grandparents, and a couple of virgin uncles, created simultaneously with the new life that joined the world at precisely 1.35am Friday morning, November 24th.
There’s already been so many generational additions to the Regan clan (both grand and great grandchildren) that a new kitten in the Derryloughan homestead is causing more fuss and getting more attention than Eliza.
Not quite true.
Mum rang me more often on the days around the birth than all other times in my life combined. A mother of 12, she knows the perils that come with bringing another life into the world and despite having seen pretty much everything that life can throw at you she was anxious for Maggie and me and her latest little grandchild.
I’ve always had the utmost respect for my mother, but now I’m in complete awe of her. How did she do this twelve times? Maggie screamed the same thing at me in the delivery room after a day and a half of labour.
I must say, Maggie played a blinder in difficult circumstances. Being induced ain’t easy. Through medical intervention you are trying to fool the body into labour.
But the body – and perhaps more importantly the mind – isn’t easily fooled.
You are working against the natural rhythms of things in many ways but I guess that’s the nature of much of modern medicine. It’s a real conundrum. Maggie suggested another word for it, but this is a family paper.
The Rotunda staff are heroes. We should applaud these people home after every shift. The hospital was implementing a new IT system last week and despite the understandable stress this was adding to their already highly pressurised jobs, they were delightful throughout.
It all added to the surreal nature of the few days. On numerous occasions, the midwife requested of Maggie whether she could bring into the delivery room one of the 40 IT Support Team that were over from America to assist with the transition.
On one memorable occasion Maggie, in the middle of her seventh contraction in 15 minutes, replied: ‘I couldn’t give a flute!’. At this stage I tried to get a hit from the gas Maggie was now guzzling at the rate of a 5-litre engine but was promptly advised that this was strictly for the mother. It was probably for the best.
Moments earlier we were both in hysterics laughing, tears literally running down our eyes. The midwife and her student placement, who was along for observation, didn’t know what to think. ‘I haven’t seen that happen before,’ the student noted and the midwife assured her it wasn’t normal behaviour.
When things calmed down later we explained the source of our mirth.
We were practicing an active birth with Maggie seated on a Swiss exercise ball while leaning on the bed for much of her contractions. One of my jobs was crouching behind her providing counter-pressure at the hips as each contraction kicked in.
This top tip was given to me by my mate, former Leitrim goalkeeper and physical therapist, Gareth Phelan, a two-time father himself. Maggie, and his partner Ciara, sweared by it as a natural pain relief. Maggie sweared a lot too.
Anyway, during one particularly prolonged and intense contraction I squatted a little too deeply and ripped a hole in the arse of my jeans. I whispered into Maggie’s ear what happened and the laughter started and we couldn’t stop.
The whole thing appeared to be taking on the life of some weird TV show crossover – Carry On meets the IT Crowd meets Casualty – so throwing some gas into the equation probably wouldn’t have enhanced things.
It’s a woman’s world, a maternity hospital, and rightly so. From the first meeting with our (female) consultant, I began to wonder whether the Rotunda inhabited some sort of alternative universe in which the male of the species was rendered invisible.
I was there beside Maggie as consultants and midwives quizzed her on all manner of topics, including at times whether she was married. They never so much as glanced at me. I tried coughing, shifting in my seat. Nada.
Maggie appeared to take on similar supernatural qualities to those experienced by the little boy in the film ‘The Sixth Sense’. Except where he could see dead people, Maggie could see male people. Namely me.
On reflection, it was a good experience for a man used to being the centre of attention in a patriarchal society.
So, it was all the more surprising and wonderful when the star of the final stages of Eliza’s arrival turned out to be a male anaesthetist, Keith. Due to some complications Maggie ended up requiring an emergency C-section.
This was traumatic news. Matters were being taken out of our hands due to some escalating risk factors. But Keith set Maggie’s mind at ease immediately. I have rarely witnessed such empathy displayed by a man.
It was flowing from all the midwives … this is their profession, their calling. But Keith cruised in at the tensest moment of a tough few days, tuned into Maggie’s fears and needs, and set about dismissing the former and attending to the latter.
But perhaps his most important attribute was his sense of humour. It lightened the atmosphere and put a welcome smile back on Maggie’s face.
Eliza ended up having to spend 24 hours in ICU where a midwife Paula also went way above and beyond the call of duty to ease some of Maggie’s fears and worries. We’ll be forever grateful to all the staff in the Rotunda, but Keith and Paula deserve special mention.
That smile I mentioned hasn’t left Maggie’s face since she and Eliza arrived home.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but I couldn’t be happier. Thanks to everyone who sent us warm wishes after my last column … it meant a lot.
As for fatherhood and my associated fears? As with most fears, once you face them you find they were constructs of the head rather than the heart. Eliza has dissolved them and has replaced them with unconditional love. It doesn’t get much better than that.
l Congratulations to Colin and Maggie from all at the Observer on the birth of Eliza Rose. As you can understand, Colin's column ran over a little this week so you can read his thoughts on the Leitrim Sports Star Awards and next Monday night's Leitrim GAA Convention on page 79 of this week's Observer.