‘We got bad news at the first baby scan – the only scan my husband could attend’
Pandemic Pregnancy: The hospital is eerily quiet, bemasked women sitting four seats apart
Aisling and Lanah at the first appointment.
I bring my daughter to her 13-month vaccinations. The last vaccinations. (Such a big milestone! Is that her reared?)
She bawls. Like, really goes for it with the roaring crying. She has only a few words, but she loves saying them so much that I can distract her with “Tell the doctor what the duck says”. She immediately halts mid-scream and with tears rolling down her face gives the saddest “quack quack” you ever did hear.
I double up the appointment and tell the GP I’m pregnant. (I’m feeling very organised, like a multi-tasking woman who has it all. Did you ever see anything like this for time-saving?). She congratulates me, confirms the pregnancy and starts to tell me a few things like take folic acid, take vitamin D before cutting herself off with “Sure you know all this!”
What? No. I wasn’t really listening the first time. Tell me again.
In those early weeks of pregnancy, you’re caught in the awkward position of not telling people you’re pregnant, but at the same time wanting to pick your friends’ brains for some first-hand information. I try to casually ask a few questions about their hospitals and care. “Is the food in the Rotunda really that good?” “YES!” is the overwhelming consensus. Future further lockdowns are already looking likely and I consider which hospital is the furthest away – just so I can really get bang for my buck with any essential journeys to appointments.
Partners are allowed to attend and it turns out this is the only scan my husband will attend. And lucky he could because it’s not good news.
We thought we’d be more relaxed this time round, but, as it happens, we’re not and we book an early scan in a private clinic. Partners are allowed to attend and it turns out this is the only scan my husband will attend. And lucky he could because it’s not good news. The baby is small – 11 days too small for my dates.
They suggest I might have my dates wrong (I don’t) or that there could be something wrong with the baby. A scan in a week’s time will determine if the baby has grown sufficiently or if it’s not likely to survive.
We had planned to get a celebratory lunch, but, well, now we’re not really in the mood and just want to get home. We walk out on to Grafton Street and heading for the car hear a “Hey there!” Who could that be? On a weekday in town? Everyone we know is working from home. It’s my brother (okay, almost everyone). He’s bright and breezy and walking home for lunch. We tell him we just popped into town to buy lunch (an unlikely story in my eyes seeing as though we haven’t been for a meal out together since November, 2019), but he seems to buy it and carries on his merry way. I’m convinced he knows what has just happened.
After a long week where I try not to think about it, but think only about it, I have a scan in the early pregnancy unit at the hospital. The hospital is eerie. It’s a “Women & Infants” hospital so it should be no surprise to see women there but on previous visits it was always full and – bustling, really – with men and children and toddlers everywhere.
A security guard patrols the line, checking names off his clipboard, looking like he’s liable to say at any moment ‘Not tonight, pal’
Now it’s almost completely silent. There are only bemasked, pregnant women, all sitting four seats apart, as far as the eye can see.
Men can be seen sleeping in cars in the carpark, presumably awaiting the call that it’s show-time (after their partners inside have endured the earlier (and hardest) stage of labour alone). My husband is in the carpark among them, awaiting our own news, whatever that may be.
There are three of us in the queue for this unit and I’m reminded how much women can share with perfect strangers. The woman opposite tells us in detail how much she is bleeding and how many miscarriages she’s had and the chat feels as natural as if we’re discussing the weather.
My scan thankfully shows that the baby has grown accordingly and looks well.
I exit the quiet hospital, passing a line of 12 men outside, queuing to get in, each carrying an empty car seat. A security guard patrols the line, checking names off his clipboard, looking like he’s liable to say at any moment “Not tonight, pal.”
I wonder if it will still be like this in April. Surely not. But then I’ve underestimated the length of the pandemic at every step. So what do I know?
Part 1: ‘This is all getting a bit Angela’s Ashes’