Article from the Grange Parish Book suggested for reading this week (week 47)
Childbirth Through The Years
It is fair to state that the nursing profession is one of the most highly-regarded and appreciated world-wide. In the developed and developing countries and increasingly elsewhere, the newborn is likely to be held by the midwife before being placed in the arms of the mother. Throughout life, we rely on the caring, expertise and professionalism of nurses, whether in acute hospital, specialist care, long-term care, community or terminally ill settings. It can be said that in our arriving and in our passing, expert nursing care is likely to be at hand.
In Ireland, we know from experience that when the nursing profession, from time to time, seeks improvements in terms and conditions of employment or enhancements to manpower levels in our public services, the general public is invariably very highly supportive. This is a testament to our widespread regard for and appreciation of nursing services in all settings.
This marvellous article focused on birth, the 'arrival', and it was written by the retired midwife, Frances O'Connell of Lower Grange. Frances practised midwifery for 37 years up to her retirement in 2011. In the years prior to retiring, Frances occupied the demanding role of Assistant Director of Nursing at the Regional Maternity Hospital, Ennis Road, Limerick.
Over the many years of her career, Francis experienced many moments of great joy and
celebration in the birthing suites at the hospital. Not all arrivals at the hospital took place in the suites - as Francis said, she delivered babies in the car park, the lift, bathrooms and corridors as well! There were times of great sadness too when the compassion and the caring of the midwife were very important. Of course, not all arrivals that Frances attended were in the hospital - Frances found herself on a few occasions in less than ideal circumstances when an emergency delivery was necessary - the new arrival would not wait! You will have to read the article for the details!
At the outset of her article, Frances stated the following:
I have the privilege of being a member of one of the most rewarding and exciting professions. My public service midwifery career began in 1973 and lasted for 37 years up to my retirement in December 2011. I witnessed the birth of thousands of babies, but the excitement never waned. The thrill and relief when a baby is born are indescribable; it is a miracle. The happiness generated for mother and father is pure joy to behold. The same adrenalin rush and excitement is present for the midwife at every birth, and there is nothing better than handing a baby to mum and dad for baby’s first cuddles. Of course, there were difficult occasions too when a birth didn’t go to plan and complications of one kind or another arose, or when the health and well-being of mother or baby were at stake.
Frances told a number of entertaining tales in her article - one of these is as follows:
In all the babies I have seen born, I will never forget the first and by coincidence it was a Grange baby – Paul Hourigan, born to Nora and Jimmy at the Regional Maternity Hospital, Limerick. I was so nervous and apprehensive when I was with Paul’s mother, Nora, while she was labouring, but the excitement and joy soon came when Paul was born. I was elated, but Nora was over the moon with her new son. There is a side-story to tell: my brother-in-law to be (at the time), Tommy O’Connell, gave my father-in-law to be, “Toastie”, a bottle of brandy for his birthday. At the time, Jimmy Hourigan, Nora’s husband, was in bed sick. Toastie, being a Good Samaritan, brought the brandy to Jimmy in his sickbed, exhorting Nora to join Jimmy in a drink. Enough said - local mathematicians and astrologists blamed Toastie for Paul’s arrival into the world, nine months after the brandy event!
Towards the end of her article, Frances wrote:
Being a midwife is the most rewarding and exciting profession and over all my years, that didn’t change at all. The changes that I experienced over my long career were the phenomenal technological advances. Today, mothers are screened for assessment of fetal well-being and maturity. Baby’s heart is monitored for irregularities during labour. Contraction strength during labour is monitored. Scalp electrodes can be attached to baby’s head before it is born to assess fetal well-being, by measuring the pH of the blood. Technologies that assist in bringing babies into the world safely are simply marvellous, and, no doubt, over the decades to come undreamt-of new advances will be made.
Next week (week 48) we will suggest another book article for reading.
Kind Regards to All.