I HAVE to admit that I never paid much attention to the porters at the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street. They man the large desk at the front entrance and I generally figured their role was part security, part receptionist.
I got to know them when my second child spent a few days in ICU after he was born. I'd pop in twice a day to feed him and the porters always nodded politely as I said "hello" on arrival and "thank you" on departure.
On my last baby I did some serious miscalculations. Firstly, I went into labour seven weeks early and stubbornly refused to go to the hospital after my waters broke. Two weeks earlier, I'd been rushed to hospital after losing a large amount of blood. It was the day of the Flora Women's Mini Marathon and the roads were closed in the city centre. I still remember the clunk of the ambulance roof as it hit off the starting line marker on Merrion Square.
At Holles St, it seemed to take forever to locate my baby's heartbeat as I lay there fearing the worst. Two doctors and a change of technology later, they declared my baby alive. I bawled with exhaustion and relief.
Four days later, I was discharged and all seemed fine until the following week when there was more blood. I spent another three days in Holles St. There was no apparent reason for the problems, so bump and I were sent home.
So, when my waters broke the following week, the last thing I wanted to do was rush back into hospital again. I calmly tidied the house, read a book late into the night and played word games in my head to help me through the contractions. This baby would be almost two months ahead of schedule and, despite my earlier complications, I knew my home would be more relaxing than hospital.
At 4am, I woke my husband. "I think I've miscalculated my contractions," I said in panic. He timed them at just two-and-half minutes apart. His sister lives close by and was on standby. She arrived at 4.25am as we sped off down the road.
On arrival at Holles St, the porters asked me to take a seat. The admissions office was busy and they'd call me momentarily. I declined the seat and paced the reception puffing and huffing my way through each contraction.
After several minutes, the porters came out, unprompted, from behind the desk with a wheelchair. They hadn't discussed my case with anyone else, they merely decided I should bypass admissions and go directly to the delivery room.
At 4.46am, minutes after arriving in the delivery room, I was holding a tiny baby girl, just 4lb 11 oz. The men I'd always assumed were merely security guards and receptionists knew a whole lot more about a pregnant woman than I ever credited them with. My daughter had been in an awful hurry to arrive and I'll be eternally grateful they read the signs perfectly from behind their desk.
All three of my kids were born in Holles St (the first two with a lot less drama) and long after it closes and moves to Dublin 4, I know I'll still find myself staring wistfully from Merrion Square's traffic lights at its imposing facade and recalling my life-changing visits to this Dublin landmark.