Wednesday, August 26, 2009
A Strange Delivery
My mother was a midwife. A damn good one. I don't know how many babies she delivered or mums she helped with the fourth-day blues or showed how to suckle a reluctant infant but she was highly-skilled and well-loved at the hospital where she worked. She lived her work, she cared deeply for her patients and she suffered when they did, shared their joy when they did and loved her work more than anyone I know.
She denied promotion in to more administrative positions because she was 'hands-on' and loved the contact with young mums, delivering babies and helping those first formative days become as natural as possible.
The only time she couldn't do her job was when my sister-in-law and I had our babies (five between us). She couldn't be in labour ward watching her own deliver! Probably just as well! Sadly, she wasn't around for the delivery of her two youngest grandchildren, my sister had her babies after my mother died. Such a shame because she was an enormous help to us young mums when we needed it most.
Most of our young life, she was a stay-at-home mum but at 46, she decided that she wanted a career. We were old enough to cope and much to my darling but rather old-fashioned father's objections (it was a slight on his ability to be a breadwinner but really a need for her to do something other than participate in total domesticity), she went back to nursing school.
We didn't suffer. We had a roster of jobs, even the youngest taking out the milk bottles and me making dinner and cleaning. The boys washed up and laid the table, put the garbage out and she was able to pursue her passion. It was a little tricky during her nigh shift blocks but we got through it and barely any of us remember much more than her taping her lectures and playing them back whilst preparing meals happily in the kitchen. All of us know far more about post partum haemorrhages than we should! We were asked to 'quizz' her on all sorts of anomalies before each exam.
Already a Registered Nurse and having transferred her credentials to the Australian system, she studied midwifery before going back to work at 46 years of age and passed with flying colours. Top in NSW in fact. Not bad for a 'mature aged' student, who hadn't seen a hospital since her mid-20's.
She had her first job at a brand new private hospital in the Hills. So much was she appreciated, that after she was killed in 1992, the staff there erected a plaque and named one of their maternity wards, the Pam Dunn ward. We were very proud that she had been recognised in such a way and the plaque was still there a couple of years ago when I was desexed, I ended up in 'her' ward, now redecorated as the children's ward. (Obs and Gyny was full so I was nursed by kiddy nurses and had pink elephants on the curtains!)
This hospital is now being re-assigned as a Rehabilitation Centre and an enormous, brighter private hospital is being built not far away. So the Pam Dunn Ward is no more and the plaque is being removed.
A quick email from Babysis tonight announced that the plaque would be delivered to us as a parting gesture sometime this week. I wonder why they can't transport it to the new hospital? I would have liked to have seen it stand when my own daughter has her baby. I suppose there are precious few of her old colleagues to remember her. She would be 79 this year.
So tomorrow, not a baby but a plaque will be delivered. . .and for the life of me, I don't know what to do with it. I guess my sister will keep it for posterity, she's sentimental like that.
It's incredibly sad really. At least Kings and Queens, poets, philosophers, villains and famous philanthropists have their statues, libraries, galleries, portraits and commemorative icons for future generations to remember. A good woman, an amazing mother, a playful Nana and a loving wife and a woman who delivered probably hundreds of babies in her 20 odd year career, will only be remembered by her family and those women whom she helped deliver over two decades ago.
One day, I'll write her story . . soon, because she deserves it!