Little miracle of my longest midnight Mass...

It was Christmas Eve 1989 and I sat uncomfortably on a hard wooden pew at Midnight Mass.

My baby was two weeks overdue. I had a massive bump and I was more than a little frustrated that he hadn't made his appearance by Christmas Day.

Halfway through Mass I got my first labour pains. I nudged himself. "I think things are happening," I whispered, slightly panicked. "Let's get out of here."


It wasn't that simple. In those days, when Midnight Mass was actually at midnight, church doors were often locked to keep out those who had spent too much time in the pub enjoying their Christmas bonuses.

So this 'Mary and Joseph' were forced to wait until the service was over.

I couldn't believe that after the long wait things were actually beginning to happen.

But could lightning strike twice? Five years previously I had my appendix taken out on Christmas Day (I am not making this up). Surely I was not going to miss another Christmas dinner?

By the time we got home (to Clogheen on the outskirts of Cork city) the contractions were about 20 minutes apart.

I rang the hospital and I was told to wait a few hours before coming in as, being a first timer, things wouldn't move too fast.

Too excited and distracted to sleep, I stuffed the turkey, hoovered the house, and put the bird in the oven before I packed myself and my baby bag in the car at 5am.

I rang our neighbours Mary and Mick first. "I am in labour and am off to hospital to have the baby. Would you please come up to the house and turn off the oven at around 9? Oh and Happy Christmas."

They obliged.

It proved to be a long Christmas Day in the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork.

Stephen Edward Murray didn't make his entrance into this world until 10.35pm, all eight pounds and seven ounces of him.

It was a tough labour, and our baby was eventually delivered by an emergency Caesarean section (apologies again to my wonderful gynaecologist, Dr Paddy Kiernan, deprived of his Christmas glass of wine because of this drama queen).


It is hard to believe that the most exciting Christmas of my life was 21 years ago tomorrow.

And that the squawking little bundle who arrived kicking and screaming has now grown up into a fine young man -- all six foot three of him.

I am not a sentimental person but I can't help feeling emotional as my "baby" reaches this landmark.

He is now officially an adult and has his whole life ahead of him. He is in college, working hard at a part-time job, and is big into his sport.

There is a lot of doom and gloom around and commentators talking about the dreadful time ahead for young people. Unemployment and emigration is all they can expect, if you listen to most of them.

But I don't buy into all this negative stuff. When Stephen was born we were paying 15pc interest on our mortgage, unemployment was high and at least half of our college friends were working abroad because there was no work here.

We didn't have all the good trappings that were later to become the norm with the Celtic Tiger.

The idea of two or three holidays a year, when air travel was outrageously expensive, was unimaginable. The notion that a newly-married young couple would move into a fully furnished, carpeted and curtained house, was for the very wealthy. And the prospect of a secure, high-paying job was a long way off.

We worked hard building our careers, and appreciated what we had. In many ways the recession reminds us that not every so-called 'advance' was for the better.

Our young people had a sense of entitlement that came with the boom times. They expected everything to be handed to them on a plate. They hadn't been taught how to graft and earn the good things in life.


If Stephen does go abroad for a few years I will look on it as a great life experience for him -- and will expect him to come back!

Tomorrow I will think back to Christmas 1989 and the excitement (and pain!). I will give him a big hug and tell him how proud I am of him. And he will be mortified and will tell me to shut up and stop being so soppy.

And the day will be shared with his grannies, aunts, uncles and cousins. It will also be shared with his sister, Catherine, who is celebrating her 19th birthday on December 29. Alas I failed to make it a double (or a treble if you count the appendix). But I did try.