Tuesday 17 July 2018

'I had my baby in the front seat of the car in Rialto'

Linda Daly

Heather Whelan was a day overdue on her second child in November 2011 when she went into labour. Living in Navan, Co Meath, she had been to the Coombe hospital that morning for an appointment, but was sent home.

At about 6.30 that evening she started experiencing pain, and upon timing it she realised it was coming at seven-minute intervals. An hour later, she timed them at every three minutes.

Heather rang the hospital and was told to come straight in. But there was a problem; she and her husband Paul couldn't get hold of anyone to mind her three year old, Aliyah. It was another hour before her mum arrived to do babysitting duties.

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"She looked at me and said there was no way I was going to make it. I grabbed a towel as I left the house."

Navan is about 42 minutes away from the Coombe hospital by car, and traffic was okay until they reached the Chapelizod bypass. There was a bus broken down in the middle of the road, causing a traffic jam.

At that stage, Heather's contractions were two minutes apart. By the time the couple reached Kilmainham, Heather's waters broke.

"Driving down South Circular Road, I was tempted to go into St James's Hospital, but I kept thinking I was going to have the baby, that I'd reach the Coombe, which wasn't too far away."

However, she wasn't to make it to the Coombe. Just two minutes later, in Rialto, Heather got Paul to pull over and ring an ambulance.

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As she sat in the front seat of her car, baby Noah slipped out. "I grabbed him and picked him up. He wasn't crying but I knew he was breathing. It didn't even enter my mind that he was still attached. I rang my mother and told her I'd just had my baby in my car."

A few minutes later, the Dublin Fire Brigade arrived, and Heather was surrounded by about 10 men, among them a paramedic.

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"They took Noah away, wrapped him in foil, and the ambulance had come in the meantime. I pulled up my trousers, they covered me up and brought me in the ambulance. The paramedics were lovely, telling me how Noah was doing. By the time we got to the hospital, they all knew what was happening, and there was a team waiting for me."

It wasn't until she got to recovery that Heather broke down in tears.

"The trauma of the event finally hit me. I got my first pain at 6.15pm and had Noah at 9.30pm, but afterwards I felt great because I didn't have the epidural.

Heather has since had a third child, Kyle, who turns two in January. She had Kyle in the comfort of the hospital.

Irish Independent

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