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I found out I was having a miscarriage this week. My husband wasn't allowed into the hospital.

In spite of all the calls for hospitals to ease their Covid measures it was impossible to get a clear answer on whether my partner would be allowed in, our contributor writes.

I HAD A miscarriage this week. The moment I found out for certain, I was in the emergency department at the Coombe. My husband was outside the hospital’s front door awaiting news on the fate of our baby. He wasn’t allowed in due to Covid restrictions.

There is a lot wrong with this. It’s wrong that I went through it without him – without his hand to hold and his clear head to ask questions. It’s wrong that he had no idea what was going on while he waited outside. It’s wrong that he was left wondering whether he’d be allowed in. It’s wrong that I had to try to tell him what was happening to our baby via WhatsApp.

The previous day, I’d had worrying signs. Spotting, cramping, lightheadedness. Initially I hadn’t been too worried – but I knew it was worth getting checked out. As the symptoms worsened, I thought I’d make sure he’d be allowed into the hospital in case there was bad news.

For weeks, I’d been reading news stories about various senior HSE figures and politicians saying it was time for maternity hospitals to look at the measures they had in place and to relax them where possible.

The Coombe’s website had information relevant to women going into labour or being admitted to antenatal or postnatal wards. There was a section on scans (partners weren’t allowed come to routine scans, it said – but they could come to the 20 week anatomy one). The ‘Emergency Information’ section on the homepage was for women with Covid symptoms – not for pregnancy emergencies.

“We will continue to facilitate attendance of partners where a significant issue is diagnosed,” it said in the section on restrictions. I realised later that this was closely in line with national guidelines the HSE had offered for situations like mine. The sentence seemed relevant or at least as relevant as any current advice I could find – but there was still nothing definitive. 

No clear communication 

He’d surely be allowed in, I imagined.

I phoned to check – three calls in total, at different times of the day and night as I became more concerned. Nobody could give me a clear answer. One person I talked to said that there was usually a note left if the rules had been changed – since they didn’t see any notes around, they were unsure, but maybe I could ask the midwife?

Another staff member recommended going to the GP first, which we did. The doctor at our local clinic provided a letter referring me to the emergency department and the early pregnancy assessment unit. The letter said I was being sent for a scan to assess whether I was miscarrying. As we drove I called the hospital again. I explained I was likely miscarrying and asked could my husband come in with me. I was only able to leave a voice message though – so I was still unclear. 

We decided to ask again at the front door, and continued driving. Maybe I’d just been talking to the wrong people? Surely once I showed the GP letter and once they realised I was likely losing my baby they’d obviously have the dad there? To support me emotionally and to support me physically if needed. But primarily because – and this shouldn’t need to be said – it’s his baby too.

Once we got to the hospital the cramps were worse, the bleeding was awful.

Our first stop, at the hospital’s front door, was the Covid check, where the lovely woman told us that once I was through admissions and into the emergency department, my husband may be allowed in then. She helpfully went through the checklist questionnaire (symptoms, travel history etc etc) with him as well as me to speed up the process.

I was assured by the admissions department that I wouldn’t be left waiting long in the emergency department. From there, I was led efficiently and discreetly to a private room. I asked a member of the medical staff if he could come in then – and she said she’d ask the doctor once we got to see her. Maybe then.

I waited for another few minutes while she spoke to the doctor. Once I was taken into the room where the scan was to take place, I asked again – can my husband come in? I was told – politely and sympathetically, but clearly and finally – sorry but no.

“We will continue to facilitate attendance of partners where a significant issue is diagnosed,” the Coombe’s website says.

As my diagnosis was made clear to me on the grainy black and white screen, I was told “we’d expect to see more in the scan at this point in the pregnancy”.

Still there was no sign of my husband being sent for. It was over an hour since I’d last seen him. He was still pacing up and down at the main door, watching his phone. I’d have to break the news to him in the car park.

Unanswered questions 

To be clear, I’m not blaming the doctor for the decision in the room. I’m not blaming the admissions or reception staff or anyone I spoke to for the lack of clear communication.

The medical care was of the usual high standard I’d encountered during my previous visits to the hospital.

The staff in the room with me were efficient, professional and supportive. The midwife held my hand and stroked my hair as the doctor examined me. She said she’d be there with me throughout. I remember thinking – that’s great, but you’re not my husband and he’s who I need.

I couldn’t even say that much. I couldn’t stop crying. I knew what was happening – we all did. I couldn’t articulate myself as I usually would. I couldn’t ask the questions clearly. 

011 The Coombe Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

More than a year on from the start of this pandemic, where restrictions, levels and phases have been rewritten and restructured again and again, those surrounding maternity care seem to be immovable, uncompromising. At this stage there should, at the very very least, be clarity for those in an emergency situation.   

Yesterday – around the same time that Paul Reid was telling the media the time was right for restrictions to be lifted, and as TDs again raised the issue in the Dáil – I called the hospital again. I’d been given an appointment for a follow-up scan. Would my husband be allowed to attend that?

A staff member called back to say no, that restrictions brought in last March still stand “until further notice”.

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