Wednesday 13 December 2017

Trials, tribulations and drama of the labour ward revealed

Master of Holles Street Hospital says every day is different as the first 2017 babies arrive, writes Niamh Horan

Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital Holles Street on her morning rounds with Jeanette Dempsey and her baby girl Irenea Croi Picture: David Conachy
Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital Holles Street on her morning rounds with Jeanette Dempsey and her baby girl Irenea Croi Picture: David Conachy
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Some husbands have been kicked out of the labour ward for reading a newspaper, others ejected for over-enthusiastic cheerleading - then there was one who was carried out on a stretcher. The ecstasy and madness of what goes on in Ireland's busiest maternity hospital has been revealed at the end of another year.

As mothers welcome the first 2017 babies into the world, Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of Holles Street Maternity Hospital, says that - after 20 years delivering babies - she still laughs at the high-octane drama between parents.

"We have a lot of fun in the labour ward and there has been great banter between couples," she told the Sunday Independent this weekend.

"Sometimes we get the 'we don't want an epidural men' but we make sure to listen to what the mother wants," she laughs. "Then there have been men ejected from the delivery ward for being a bit too enthusiastic with their breathing and pushing techniques.

"There was one husband, who was complaining about the pain he was in mid-labour and we said to him 'ah listen here, your wife is having the baby' and in fact he had appendicitis. He ended up missing the delivery and I felt sorry for him because all he got was a bad appendix while she had the baby."

In her two decades overseeing the miracle of birth, she also says she still sheds tears in the delivery ward.

"You do remember the difficult cases over the years and you collect your scars," she says. "You want everything to be perfect but life isn't like that. It's heartbreaking and you see people go through extraordinary challenges in order to have a baby, but where I have hope is when you get to know patients over the years and you will frequently see people coming back who will have the joy of a new baby after their loss.

"I think it's important to highlight that there will be people this weekend for whom it has been a sad year and who will be reflecting on that. We are very conscious of those and we never forget their babies. Every October we have a Mass for them and it's very important to us that they will never be forgotten."

Master of Dublin’s Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony, who has been delivering babies for 20 years, says she still laughs at the high-octane drama during childbirth Photo: David Conachy
Master of Dublin’s Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony, who has been delivering babies for 20 years, says she still laughs at the high-octane drama during childbirth Photo: David Conachy

By midnight last night an estimated 9,000 babies were born in Holles Street Hospital in 2016 (an average of 25 babies a day) the lightest weighing in at 510gram (1.1lb) - the heaviest, an eye-watering 5.6kg (12.3lb). Dr Mahony says if she has one tip for those looking after new mothers, it's to do something nurturing such as make a frozen meal for their family in the weeks that follow, rather than the standard box of chocolates.

One mother who was celebrating a New Year's Eve baby is Rekha Visuanthan, a midwife who works at the hospital. Another is Janet Dempsey from Milltown, Co Dublin. Twenty years ago she gave birth to her first child on her own, as a teenage mother. With no parents, partner or siblings, she remembers the staff at Holles Street Hospital comforting her through her tears and loneliness. She raised the child as a working mother, and her daughter has now gone on to university in the UK. Six years ago she met an "incredible and loving" partner and this weekend they are celebrating their new little arrival, baby Irena.

Sunday Independent

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