There was double delight in Londonderry on Saturday as sisters Ciara Tracey and Karen Doherty had their babies christened after lockdown measures were eased on Friday.
Long Tower Church on the edge of the Bogside was the setting for the family gathering where smiles beamed and relief was palpable as another step towards a new sense of normality took shape.
“I’m just so delighted about today,” said Ciara Tracey who works in the health service. Her proud husband, Shane, is also a member of a local paramedic crew.
Baby Anna Tracey was born on 6 April.
Ciara acknowledges there had been a lot of tension around Covid-19.
“Despite all that, I felt as if I had a quite peaceful pregnancy. It was all really calm and quiet in spite of all that was going on,” she said.
‘There on my own’
“I must admit it was a bit scary, in fact really scary, in the hospital with all the staff wearing masks and other personal protection equipment.
“It was also difficult for my husband, Shane, who had to just drop me off and go each time I had to go there just myself for scans and that.
“It was great he got in for the birth which was a C-section and he was there for around an hour or so. So that was great.”
Ciara said she was worried for baby Anna’s health during this time.
“She did have some problems with her breathing for a time so you are constantly concerned about any contact she may have with people,” she said.
“At the same time, it’s lovely for family to see her but there were obvious restrictions in place.
“I’ve been so looking forward to the christening as it’s been a while coming.
“It’s such a special day.”
‘It was devastating’
Ciara’s sister, Karen Doherty, reflected on her pregnancy during lockdown, before she gave birth to her son, Martin.
“In my last week of pregnancy lockdown had just started which made me even more anxious and nervous,” she said.
“I was due to get a planned C-section and when I went over for my pre-op they told me that my partner could not be with me until I was going to surgery and couldn’t stay afterwards.
“I found this devastating at the time, but understood the reasons these restrictions were put in place.
“All my worries were for nothing as it was the most amazing experience, the staff were amazing in the way they handled the new regulations.
“I don’t feel like I missed out on anything at all as both me and baby are safe and healthy.”
Karen added: “Today is an exciting day, not only for us but for Martin. The most important aspect for us is for him to be christened and even though all our family cannot be there it will still be special.”
Across the city, there was another joyous occasion as Cat O’Callaghan from Cork tied the knot with Stevie Ryan.
The couple were due to go to Las Vegas to get married on 25 June. They organised their special ceremony in Northern Ireland in just five days.
Venues have been advised that their size will determine how many people can safely attend weddings and civil partnerships.
Cat said she was “just delighted” at how it had gone.
“It was a lovely ceremony and so many people were able to come. It’s just amazing,” said Cat.
“It wasn’t the wedding that we planned, but in a way it worked out better because we had more people here.
“If we were in Vegas a lot of these people couldn’t have come, so it did, it worked out better for us in the end and I’m just delighted; so happy that it’s finally happened.”