I witnessed a miracle.

Whilst I am a character in this story, it’s not entirely my story to share. Consequently, I’ll keep the most intimate details out of the written narrative. The story? My beautiful, strong and determined daughter Siobhán gave birth to her gorgeous son, Ruairí Daniel Connolly at 18:19pm on the 7th of July.

I was with Siobhán and her lovely partner Aaron during the birth and it was the most amazing experience of my life. Don’t get me wrong, watching your daughter in pain (if you’ve had a child, you know how bad it is!) is agonising, I would have taken the pain for her in an instant if I could, despite knowing exactly what that decision would involve. It’s difficult to explain the helplessness I felt knowing that I couldn’t ease my daughter’s suffering and it has given me some insight into how it must feel for a father or partner in this situation. At least I had an understanding of the process and knew from experience that Siobhán’s reactions were ‘normal’ and the pain would pass, but as a father or partner on a maiden labour voyage it must be frightening to see the person you love in a very difficult place.

All that said, the experience was also extraordinary, and a privilege I will always be most thankful for. It was a relatively short labour for a first born ( just under six hours) but as an observer watching the scene it felt like the clock was stalling, the wee hand lingering with each and every contraction. And yet it was magical, an incredibly beautiful journey that was buoyed by celebration at each stage of progression, a sense of triumph as Ruairí edged ever closer to meeting his parents for the first time.

As promised, no intimate details, but I will never forget the look of absolute joy on my daughter’s face when the fantastic midwife handed her son to her. The connection was instantaneous; love in abundance, the beauty that encourages us to be everything we can be. Aaron immediately shared in the moment and it was quite beautiful witnessing this couple embrace the bond between them. I cried and felt such an overwhelming sense of pride that I simultaneously felt drained, as if every emotion I had ever experienced had leapt from my body and was perching curiously on the maternal scene.

This story, however, isn’t about me, it’s about new life, and an extraordinary one at that. Ruairí is perfect and I’m so excited to be part of his journey.

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At an early stage in the labour (jeezo, they don’t call it that for nothing!) the amazing 64-year-old midwife predicted that my grandson would be born around quarter past six. When her prediction materialised as more or less spot on I was completely overawed. I know it’s her vast experience that enabled her to make the call but I prefer to think of it as spiritual, a sixth sense, a knowledge that this is a magical story. A miracle, that I was fortunate to have witnessed first hand.

When Ruairí was just a day old he met his cousin Harris for the first time, my son’s gorgeous son. At just six months old, Harris was incredibly curious to see what all the fuss was about. I missed this moment so I’m incredibly excited that I’ll be spending some precious time with Harris and Ruairí and both their parents at Mullindress tomorrow.

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As a child I cherished travelling to Rathlin to see my grandparents. It is therefore immensely special to me that my grandchildren will also meet their grandmother on the island, and my children will have an opportunity to share their children in our lovely family home. I can only hope that this is the first opportunity of many, and that the tradition will continue beyond the existing generations.

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The story goes on. I can’t wait to experience the next chapter.

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