A pregnant Dundalk mum is pleading with the HSE to change the restrictions which currently do not allow partners to be with their pregnant loved ones for any ante-natal appointments or post-natal recovery.
Laura Brunton, originally from the lower Avenue Road in Dundalk, but now living in Oldcastle in Co Meath with her husband and three kids, says that for the past six months “the women of Ireland, along with their partners have had to endure the great difficulty of going through their ante-natal appointments and post-natal recovery alone due to Covid-19.”
Laura, who left Dundalk when she was 19, has now set up an online petition calling on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to ease the restrictions in ante-natal and post-natal wards across the country. To date she has managed to accumulate over 2000 signatures.
Speaking to the Democrat last week, Laura - who is 26 weeks pregnant - said that she had just gone through a foetal echo last week, but again, her husband was not allowed to be present with her.
“The foetal echo went well, from what they could see,” she explained, “but it doesn’t show all abnormalities, so baby will need another echo in the days after she’s born and at the minute I’ll have to go through that alone also.”
Just last week, Laura says that there had been some small movement regarding improving the situation, but it's still not enough, she feels.
“Last week the government said they were looking at doing conference call-type scans so the daddys can see them that way.”
Pregnant with her fourth child, Laura revealed to the Democrat, the previous heartbreak she has endured.
“Sadly my first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage back in 2009. Thankfully (with) my second pregnancy we gave birth to a beautiful girl called Ellie. I had an extremely hard labor with Ellie which resulted in a lot of post-natal recovery and having my husband by my side through this was really an amazing help.”
Laura continued: “On my third pregnancy we gave birth to another beautiful baby - this time a boy called Zach - who unfortunately was born with a very complex heart condition which was undetected through the pregnancy.
“Zach’s heart condition didn’t didn’t cause huge problems until after the first 24 hours of life which is when he became really sick really quickly. Zach spent the first four months of his life in Crumlin hospital with the amazing nurses and doctors there and currently he is a typical 19 month old boy full of mischief.
“Luckily, throughout all my scenarios my husband was there during every single second of it. He was my tower to lean on. Now I am 26 weeks pregnant with my fourth child.
“The foetal echo was done to hopefully rule out any congenital heart defects with this pregnancy. The chances of having one baby is 1 in 100. The chances of this re-occurring is now 1 in 20.”
Before the appointment for the foetal echo, Laura again asked the hospital if her husband could be by her side.
“I made a call to the hospital to ask if my husband could come along to this appointment given our history and the answer I got was 'no'.
“I need my husband like a lot of other women out there did and will do too.”
While you can sense her worry and also anger at the situation, Laura says she is not directing her anger towards the hospital - the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital.
“They are simply following government guidelines. But this needs to change. Not every mother who goes into hospital for a check up gets the perfect scan photo and amazing news. Not every mother who has just given birth is able to get out of bed and look after their new born. Not every new born is as healthy as what it first appears to be. And for the women whose pregnant and labor is textbook and all goes according to plan they are no different to me. Women need to see their partners afterwards. Babies need to see their fathers and fathers need to see their babies,” she adds.
With the reopening of pubs recently, Laura is asking why are hospitals still needing to enforce such tough and at times, heartbreaking restrictions.
“If this (pubs reopening) can happen why can men not be allowed in to visit their girlfriends/wives and newborns. I am not asking for full blown visiting hours and full access to all ante-natal appointments but I am asking that the government at least review these restrictions and allow partners into anamoly scans and for a couple of hours visiting each day after the baby is born.
“I have done everything along with the majority of Ireland our government has asked in dealing with this pandemic. Now I ask them to please review this matter.”
The Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital issued a statement to another newspaper last week, saying: "Restrictions continue to be reviewed by all of our hospitals on an ongoing basis throughout this unprecedented pandemic. It remains our sincere hope that visitor restrictions due to Covid 19 will be lifted as soon as is safely possible to do so for patients, their families and all staff."
Sign the peition at change.org, search: Laura Brunton