Paralympic gold medallist Kelly Gallagher has spoken of her joy at becoming a mother for the first time in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Kelly gave birth to Brigid Mary on 25 March in the Ulster Hospital.
“We were so anxious with all the coronavirus going on around the place. It’s an uncertain time anyhow when it’s your first pregnancy,” said Gallagher.
“But it was a lovely experience, even if it wasn’t the experience we were initially expecting. We are delighted.”
The 34-year-old added: “When you come out of the hospital you just want people to be around you but there were no balloons or flowers or visitors.
“We are trying to look on the bright side – it means that me, Gerard [Kelly’s husband] and Brigid get to really bond and hang out together.”
Gallagher, who is visually impaired, picked up her gold medal in the super-G category at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and is also a multiple World Championship medallist.
‘Brigid Tohill’s Diary’
The Bangor woman says the restrictions imposed by self-isolation and social distancing to help prevent the spread of coronavirus are necessary but make for a different experience for parents of newborns and their families.
“I was probably a bit naive in the run-up. I thought we would be able to show our baby off and be able to visit friends and family,” explained Gallagher.
“Before I went into hospital I was in and out of my mum’s house but it has escalated since then and now none of my family or friends can physically touch her.
“We are really in our own little self-isolation in order to stay home and save lives and make sure everyone is as safe as possible.
“I put together little videos on social media of her basically breathing and smiling and I call them ‘Brigid Tohill’s Diary’. We are trying to make the most of being close but being separated at the same time.
“It is heartbreaking when you are putting a baby up to the window so someone can have a little look.
“It’s a new way of life that has come on everyone so quickly but if it means more people are safe and healthy it is worth it.”
Professionalism of NHS staff ‘unreal’
The County Down native is fulsome in her praise of the care and attention she received during her hospital stay and the work being carried out by NHS workers in general during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Pregnant women are worried whether their husband or birthing partner will be there with them or what it’s going to be like in the present circumstances but the nurses and doctors are working so hard to make sure you are prepared and cared for.
“All the midwives and everyone else were so supportive and so helpful. The corridors are so quiet but the doctors are trying their best to make sure we are all happy and healthy.
“Their professionalism is unreal. All these people are pulling together and putting themselves and their families at risk.”
‘Like having a crazy friend to stay’
Gallagher adds that one-week-old Brigid is already making her presence felt in the Tohill household, a scenario which most first-time parents will empathise with.
“Wednesday afternoon was the change of our lives. We have a new boss and we are under a new regime,” she quipped.
“It’s like having a crazy friend to stay who is ordering you around your own house. Hopefully soon we will be able to celebrate together with everyone.”