Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Mike and his lockdown baby

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Mike, who welcomed a baby boy into his life during the lockdown. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in Lockdown

Common Story

When lockdown started here in Wales, I was sitting in the office with a workmate talking about how the company would react to the possibility of shutting down. There had already been an email the week before about the potential of home-working and the conversation moved to how we would cope with balancing work and all the rest of life in the same space. Bethan said that being stuck at home might give her a chance to rediscover some old hobbies, or start new ones. And that she was going to start her day as early as possible and really put those regained commuter hours to use. I was looking forward to the birth of my child, due on April 20th

It couldn’t have gone 10am when there was another company-wide email advising all employees and visitors to leave the Cardiff office with all of the equipment that was needed as soon as possible. There was quite a bit to be fair. I was thinking of how I’d get the monitors I needed back to the house on the bus when I read the last paragraph of the email which strongly advised against using public transport. In the weeks leading up to lockdown I’d like to say I was casually cautious – I didn’t wear a mask when I went shopping and I wouldn’t avoid seeing people that I needed to, while physically distancing of course. I wouldn’t cross the road when people walked against me, and I didn’t panic when people got ‘too close’ as some saw it. Even on the bus earlier that day on the way in when someone coughed, I just turned to the window and wondered how awkward that person must feel that they might have upset someone or made someone paranoid that the disease sweeping across the globe was on this very bus.

When the email came at work the chatter started to build and build around me. People got out of their seats and got into action. Laptops and paperwork were shoved into bags, monitors were unplugged, and comfy office chairs were loaded up with all they could carry, then pushed cautiously towards the elevator doors. It was pretty surreal. I had the image that we were a front for some illegal business and about to be raided. The building started to empty, and from the third floor I could see the line of traffic leaving the car park and speeding up the road. 

It was just Bethan, myself and a handful of others left in a wide-open room that usually had 70 to 80 people moving around it. It was the first time I thought that there could be a chance that I could bring this thing home and that Lisa and our kid due in the coming weeks could be affected. It had seemed so far away. Something that could be prevented by staying away from anyone who had symptoms and washing your hands for the duration of a short song.

As people had left the building and the distance was put between us, the sudden fear of catching something grew closer. I thought of the lady who had coughed that morning, and of a trip I had taken to Berlin a couple of weeks before, and the amount of people I must have passed every day since the start of the year as this thing was growing and spreading.

Bethan asked if I wanted a lift home with all of my stuff, even though she’d have to make a second trip for the rest of hers. I would honestly say I’d have declined on any other day previous to that, but that day I thanked her all the way home. 

It was weird at first, being home with the person I had shared my life with for 12 years, but only usually 30 hours of my waking week with for a long, long time. We kept busy and made a list of the remaining things we’d need before the baby arrived – any list feels like a long list when it’s for a baby. As shops closed and deliveries were delayed those last few things put pressure on us. And Lisa was feeling the pressure doubly, our daily walks got slower and we didn’t go as far. Then again, there was nothing open to go to, so we just saw less of the park.

News of restrictions for visitors at hospitals and between countries became worrying. Our parents and most of our family and friends lived in Ireland and it was looking like we would be on our own when the baby arrived. Of course, I should take a moment to say that those poor people who lost their lives and the families that they left behind were in our thoughts also.

There were updates every couple of days and it became apparent that Lisa would have to go to hospital alone when the day came to deliver, and I could only be there for the main event. She was becoming more stressed by the thought of going through labour alone as the days went by. As there was still time to choose where she wanted to have the baby, she decided on a homebirth. This, without any shadow of a doubt in my mind, was the most anxiety-inducing thought I have ever experienced. Lisa then told me she had been thinking about it for a little while and her dad suggested that I should learn how to deliver a baby, just in case no-one could make it out to us. That then became the most anxiety-inducing thought I’ve ever had. After my mind melted and reformed it was weird to think of a place in our house that would be a good setting to bring new life into the world. 

I woke up on Saturday, April 25th, around 6am and noticed Lisa wasn’t in bed beside me. She was five days past her due date. I got out of bed to go and look for her, finding her downstairs bouncing on a yoga ball. The contractions had started and were happening close together and then quite far apart. We had learned that this could happen and that labour for first-time mums could take a while. So, I got Lisa some water, gave her a big kiss, and went back to bed for an hour. Then when I woke, I went back downstairs to find Lisa frozen solid. The contractions were really close together and she was in serious discomfort. I called the hospital and was told someone would be out in a few hours. Lisa was having a hard time of it and, when the first midwife arrived, she was in a lot of pain. But there was a long way to go we were told. 

Hours passed before the next midwife came. I had called the hospital again with my best effort at staying calm. There’s something that hurts so much when you see someone you love in pain and you can’t do anything but hold them and say breathe. We were told that Lisa still had a ways to go and the second midwife left. The contractions had been minutes apart for hours when I called the hospital again and, looking at Lisa, asked that someone come now please, that now would be really good, please. I think that’s all I could manage to say after our names. Chrissy arrived at 9pm and at 11pm her colleague Ruth came with a tank of gas. The midwives and the gas are what got Lisa through the last few hours. I did my small part again, continually chanting breathe interspersed with offering water. 

At 3:54 on April 26th Lisa brought our son into the world. He cried, and it was one of the strangest and most beautiful things I have heard in all my life. I told Lisa I loved her and then I cut the cord. After I held the boy for a while, just looking and chatting at him, I helped the midwives load up their gear. It’s a terrible time when you can’t hug someone for any reason. Lisa put the boy to bed for the first time and I helped her into the shower. When I put her to bed I went down to where the boy had been born. I noticed the adrenaline as I loaded the washing machine. I floated around cleaning up for another hour or so before I poured a small glass of whiskey. Then, with the sun climbing, I called my brother in Australia to give him the news. He was the only one I knew who would be awake at that hour. We didn’t have a name then, and for a few days after he was just called the boy or the baby. He has one now, it’s an old Irish one. And hopefully Oisín will see his family and his father’s land across the sea before too long. 

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