Surprise delivery leads to nurse's midwifery career

IT was 1959 when Elaine Smallbane delivered her first baby _ and by her own words, she had no idea what she was doing.

Mrs Smallbane had been working as a nurse in the accident and emergency ward of a community hospital in Melbourne when a woman came in with abdominal pain.

``Everyone just said `keep an eye on her sis', as I was a junior . . . and within an hour and a half, she had pushed a baby out,'' Mrs Smallbane said.

``I hit the buzzer for help and the person that came didn't know what to do either and so we rang for the matron.''

It was after the experience that Mrs Smallbane knew she needed to learn about midwifery and so she moved to Hobart, where she began her training, before moving to Launceston, where she delivered 800 babies before her retirement two years ago.

Mrs Smallbane was one of a number of retired, private and general midwives celebrating International Midwives Day at the Launceston General Hospital yesterday.

The day was a time to spread the important truths about midwifery and the theme Midwives: Changing the World one Family at a Time.

Approximately 290,000 women and more than three million infants die around the world each year as a result of preventable pregnancy and childbirth complications, which is why there is a need for so many midwives.

Calvary St Vincent's midwife Sue Davis said witnessing a birth was a beautiful and overwhelming experience.

``After all these years, it doesn't change,'' Ms Davis, who started midwifery in the 90s, said.

``It's a new little life starting . . . I don't get sick of it.

``Labour ward isn't everyone's cup of tea . . . but you've just got to remember that it is a natural process and nine times out of 10, it's going to be OK.''

Private practice midwife Anna Halloway, who delivered her latest baby yesterday, said midwifery was often something many realised they wanted to do early on.

``Once you become a midwife, you often don't want to do anything else,'' she said.

Retired midwife Elaine Smallbane, private practice midwife Anna Holloway, student midwife Arielle Stephenson and Calvary midwife Sue Davis with newborns, two-day-old Harleigh Aitken and one-day-old Sophia O'Toole.  Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

Retired midwife Elaine Smallbane, private practice midwife Anna Holloway, student midwife Arielle Stephenson and Calvary midwife Sue Davis with newborns, two-day-old Harleigh Aitken and one-day-old Sophia O'Toole. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

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