A Ballydehob resident says if she was to receive bad news during her pregnancy, it would have to be shared with her husband in a hospital car park. Emma Connolly reports on her campaign
A BALLYDEHOB-based physiotherapist is dreading facing her 20-week anomaly baby scan without her husband by her side.
Caroline Cumming is one of only thousands of women throughout the country impacted by strict restrictions introduced in all maternity hospitals nationwide since the outset of the pandemic.
In CUMH this means that only the mum-to-be can attend ante-natal appointments, and only one appointed person can join her when she is already in labour or called for Caesarean section.
‘I have my 20-week scan coming up in a few weeks, and while I am not at all a “worst case scenario” type of thinker, it is definitely in the back of my mind, that if there is bad news, I will be alone receiving it, and then also will have to be the one to break it to my husband out in the car park,’ she said.
Caroline, already a mum-of -two, felt so strongly about the anxiety the situation was causing that she started an online petition that has so far attracted an incredible 35,000 signatures.
She’s petitioning to: ‘urgently remove the restrictions that deny fathers/partners the right to be present with a woman at her ante natal scans and appointments, and more importantly to be able to support her throughout the entirety of her labour and beyond one hour after the birth of the baby, for the duration of the hospital stay.’
Caroline, who is due in February, feels the restrictions were understandable in March at the start of this pandemic: ‘But we are now six months on from then, and numerous restrictions across society have been lifted and are easing, and yet nobody seems to be giving any consideration to these ones. Considering how much distress these restrictions have caused so many women and couples, I would have thought they should have been among the first to be revised.
‘I find it hard to accept that we can go to restaurants and gyms, book flights and our children can go to school, but these extreme measures in maternity services remain in place. I am asking that the question; “how can we make it safe for partners to be there?” to be considered. If it entails testing, screening, PPE or whatever, so be it. I am also not asking for large numbers of visitors be permitted on to the wards. Just new fathers and partners, who have a right to be there.
‘My big fear is that a lot of these types of rules will all too easily become the status quo, if they are not questioned. With all the talk about the pubs reopening in a few weeks’ time, I really wanted to just ask that the revision of these restrictions be given the same level of consideration.’
Caroline said her husband was with her from start to finish for the birth of her two and four-year-olds.
‘I could honestly not have managed without him. I was induced with my first baby, and being honest I was very scared going in, and as the process got underway. This would be one of my biggest anxieties now, to face an induction without him at my side from the start. My second baby came very quickly, and involved a high speed ambulance dash from West Cork to the CUMH, so I also have in the back of my mind that if this next labour is that quick, there is a big chance he could miss it entirely.
‘But also some of the happiest memories of my life are the few days in hospital after having the two girls, with my husband there at the bedside and the two of us in that magical “newborn bubble”. Picturing that time now without him being there really makes me not look forward to this birth at all, and I will probably ask to leave and go home early if that is the case.’
Caroline stresses that she is in no way advocating for any measures to be introduced that will increase the risk to the maternity hospital staff or patients.
‘In fact I want to say a huge thank you to all the staff who not only have been working under very trying conditions for the last six months, but from all accounts have really stepped up and provided a lot of extra support, physically and emotionally, to the women under their care. I cannot speak highly enough of the level of service that I have always received at the CUMH, and I have nothing but praise for the wonderful staff I have encountered through all my appointments and time there.
‘All I am asking, is that it is acknowledged that these restrictions on partners, which were brought in back in March under very different circumstances, now be revised in light of the situation as it is currently.’
Restrictions at maternity hospitals have, in the past week, become a national issue with hopes they’ll shortly be eased, even partially.
Social Democrat Holly Cairns is very supportive of the campaign, Caroline said.
‘I raised this issue in the Dáil last week,’ the Cork South West TD said this week. ‘Families are rightly very angry and upset about the ongoing visiting restrictions in maternity hospitals. We all know that public health is the priority, as it should be, but it’s difficult to understand why you can go out for a meal or attend weddings but a partner or a close family member isn’t allowed to support a mother at an incredibly challenging, and sometimes traumatic, time.’
Deputy Cairns said she had attended a meeting with Cork/Kerry HSE on Friday and raised the issue of ongoing restrictions in maternity hospitals. ‘They informed me that they will review the restrictions for the region and that this is likely to take a couple of weeks.’
The petition is at uplift.ie.