Thirty years on from the labour ward in the Coombe, friends still meet up
(from left) Patrick Quinlan, Eoin Conlan, Caoimhe Whelan, Caroline O’Leary, Helen Conlan and Kathleen Burke on Portmarnock Beach. Caroline, Helen and Kathleen met at the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital in August 1991, their babies born within 12 hours of one another. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland

Thirty years on from the labour ward in the Coombe, friends still meet up

THREE mothers who first met in the labour ward of the Coombe 30 years ago – and had their children within 12 hours of each other – held their 30th annual meet-up last month.

Clondalkin woman Caroline O’Leary met fellow expectant mothers Helen Conlon and Kathleen Burke when they were in the maternity hospital in August 1991, and formed a strong bond.

The trio hit it off, with Caroline giving birth to her first child, Caoimhe Whelan, while Kathleen was also a first-time mother when she gave birth to her son Patrick Quinlan, and midwife Helen Conlon gave birth to her fourth and last child, Eoin Conlon.

“At that time, it was mandatory for new mothers to stay in the hospital for five days,” explained Caroline, as the women would be shown how to look after their babies before leaving the hospital.

Helen had stayed in the hospital because her son, Eoin, was receiving treatment in the special baby unit, so the three women decided to meet up the following year as they didn’t get to see Eoin.

The three friends promised that they’d meet up annually, where possible, in order to keep in touch and see how their children were doing over the years.

Last Friday, August 27, the three women and their children met up on Portmarnock Beach, 30 years on from when they first met in the Coombe.

“We had no idea that it would go on for this long,” added Caroline. “I’ve albums full of photos from it. The photos from the first 15 years are all printed out in photo albums.

“The ones from the last 15 years are all digital, so we’re going to put them on a memory stick. When we met the other day, we were all reminiscing.

“We always have a great day.”

From when the children were young, Helen always brought a chocolate biscuit cake to the group’s annual meet-up – and this year was no different, with Helen baking the confectionery into a ‘30’ shape to mark the occasion.

“I think the pandemic made us value it even more, because we couldn’t see each other before,” added Caroline.

Looking ahead, Caroline said the three families are looking forward to continuing the tradition for many more years to come.

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