Thursday 23 November 2017

'Friends and relatives would visit the house after a birth to help out'

Q Noreen Minihan Retired school principal, from Clonakilty, Co Cork

'I was born in Pearse Street, Clonakilty, in the early 1930s. There were six children in our family and all of us were born above the shop. Most women at that time had their babies at home. They'd be attended by the local doctor and a trained midwife.

"Mothers stayed in bed for at least 10 days after the birth because many people believed in an old piseog, which said that a metaphorical coffin was under the bed waiting for the mother who got up too early -- and became ill as a result!

"Once the baby's cord was cut, a special cloth called a binder was wrapped around the baby's middle over the navel area.

"Unlike today, where they are all dressed in baby-gros, babies -- boys and girls alike -- wore a long night-dress.

"We also used cloth nappies and steel safety pins to hold the nappies together on the baby -- there were no disposable nappies as there are today.

"The midwife would sometimes stay with the mother for a few nights. Friends and relatives also came to help out, so the house would be full of visitors after the birth.

"Most babies were baptised within a day of being born, so because the baptism took place so soon after the birth, often the mothers were not at the Christening. However, about a fortnight after the birth, a lot of women were 'churched'. This was a special blessing, a kind of thanksgiving."

in conversation with ailin quinlan

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