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Laurence White: Not being able to hold our new granddaughter is surreal, but it's still a time of great joy for us

Belfast Telegraph writer Laurence White on welcoming his 11th grandchild this week - and the challenges of finally getting to see her during lockdown

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Bundle of joy: Laurence and Roisin White with baby Margaret Jane

Bundle of joy: Laurence and Roisin White with baby Margaret Jane

Bundle of joy: Laurence and Roisin White with baby Margaret Jane

"We have become a grandmother", Margaret Thatcher regally proclaimed in 1989 when her first grandchild, Michael, was born to her son Mark and his then wife Diane.

That phrase - which led to the Iron Lady being roundly lampooned for her adoption of the royal 'we', (why is Margaret Thatcher like a pound coin? She is thick, brassy and thinks she's a sovereign) - came to mind for some strange reason in the early hours of Sunday morning when my wife Eileen and I became grandparents again.

Margaret Jane White (named after her parents' grandmothers) is our 11th grandchild so it was a bit late in the day for us to be given to regal pronouncements on her birth or posting the news on our garden gate in the manner of Buckingham Palace. Yet she forever will have the unique distinction of being the first in our family tree to be born during the time of lockdown.

For her parents, our son Laurence and his wife Roisin, the impending birth of their first child was a time of excitement as well as a little apprehension. How would hospital visits go? Was there a chance of contracting coronavirus - expectant mums were a high risk group? Would dad be allowed to be present at the birth?

As the time for the birth approached it was clear that dad would have a lesser role than he would have wished.

Roisin was admitted to the Royal Jubilee Hospital on Saturday and Laurence had to leave her at the door. He was told that he would be contacted later when Roisin was moved to the delivery suite.

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Grandparents Laurence and Eileen

Grandparents Laurence and Eileen

Grandparents Laurence and Eileen

It all added to the tension for the couple. Before Laurence was finally admitted some hours later his temperature was checked to ensure he was not showing any sign of infection.

However, he was allowed to be present for the birth and once baby was born - she weighed in at 7lb 6oz - he was able to spend some time with the two most important women in his life and even send a photo of the new arrival.

On all other occasions the day following the birth would have seen a steady stream of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and seemingly anyone who had a transfusion of the family bloodline appear at the hospital or the couple's home to welcome the new baby.

Hospital visits of course are now totally out of the question and both grandmothers have developed twitches due to their inability to hold the baby or even lend a hand in doing some chores while the new parents adapt to the demands of their little girl. Immediate family members - as long as they have not been working outside the home - are allowed to visit the couple's home, strictly observing social distancing.

And only two visitors are allowed at any one time. I would not be surprised if two-metre markings soon appear on the floor similar to the local supermarket.

Anyone else wishing to view the new arrival must do so through the window. It is a totally surreal situation.

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Proud mum: Roisin White with baby Margaret Jane

Proud mum: Roisin White with baby Margaret Jane

Proud mum: Roisin White with baby Margaret Jane

Not being able to hold the baby is one drawback but trying to find presents for the new arrival is an equally fraught experience. Eileen spent an entire day seeking out baby clothes online, ending up so frustrated at the lack of anything suitable or tormented by the lengthy delivery dates - the child could be six months old before some goods tumbled out of the courier's van - that I quickly removed the laptop from her grasp lest it suffered collateral damage.

And yet, despite the drawbacks and the restrictions, it is a time of great joy. The only important things are that mum and daughter are doing well and, given some space and time to relax, may well appreciate lockdown.

Belfast Telegraph