Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Strange Delivery

My mother on my wedding day . . .age 53 . . .the age I will be in October

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!


Kate said...

What a beautiful lady and such a lovely smile... you are so right to be proud of her and disappointed that her achievements cannot still be seen hanging in the new hospital.

Human beings can be so uncaring sometimes.

I would probably hang the plaque somewhere else... somewhere apt of course....

laughingwolf said...

mixed emotions on this, baino, but good that you will do a followup :)

Melissa said...

What a beautiful post, Baino -- and the work your mom did was such a priceless gift to so many ... though the plaque will come down (when it should very rightly be hanging in the new hospital!) there is a little plaque hanging in the hearts and minds of all the mums and babies whom she nursed, delivered and coached. Lots of love to you!

hokgardner said...

You should definitely write her story. It sounds like it would be a wonderful one.

Candie Bracci said...

She was an amazing woman and deserve it big times.What a touching post Baino.I think this is one of the most important and beautiful job of all.Love to you Baino.I think your mother would be proud.

Brian Miller said...

a stirring post to one who meant so much to the people around her...otherwise they never would have put the plaque up...her statue is erected and written upon their hearts and yours. moms are special.

hope you have a great day!

look forward to her story...

Roy said...

Hmmm... It's too bad they couldn't take the plaque with them to the new hospital. Unfortunately, that's modern life these days - the past is past, and we have no use for it now.

Heh, heh! I'm starting to sound like an old curmudgeon: "Young people have no respect any more!" I'll look forward to your article on your mother.

Mrsupole said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom. And I am with you about that they should have found a spot for her at the new hospital, because I am sure that there are many kids who are still alive because of your Mom. It is all about politics and who you know. But maybe if you all started a petition to have her put in the new hospital, than maybe it could happen. Or if you write a letter to the new board and tell them her story, than they will put it up. I do not understand why a story with the plaque could not be put up some where. Hospitals are so boring as it is and to have interesting things to read while waiting is nice. You must be so proud of your mom.

God bless.

mari said...

Sww. She looks so beautiful. Her job must have been really interesting. Everytime i see a documentary of birth i can't help but cry (note: It's because I'm emotional so they are positive tears). Did you say yor mom was killed? Did i just miss an English idiom or do you mean like.. killed killed? (Not trying to be pushy. You don't have to reply!)

Anonymous said...

Baino, very moving story and I know you'll write that tale in full, someday. And yes, it would have been a joy to see that plaque on a new building. But she really doesn't need all that, does she? Her memory lives on in those who knew her, yes? HUGS to you!

And yes, I caught the thing about the pink elephants-LOL! Tho' there's a bit more info than I expected. Same thing happened to my sis...

Poetikat said...

What an amazing mother you had, Baino! You definitely must write her story. I'm sorry about the plaque. Would you put it in your garden, perhaps, since your mom cultivated a generation of children?


nick said...

Well, I guess a plaque doesn't do justice to her amazing skill and dedication anyway. That wonderful account you've given tells us so much more than any plaque could. And hopefully other midwives who worked with her were inspired by her example to have equally high standards.

Susan at Stony River said...

That will be the BEST memorial ever, when you write her story. I'm amazed that she had a whole ward named after her---how many of us will have that happen? She must have been truly amazing, and I'm glad the plaque at least returns to you if it couldn't go to the new hospital. Most of us never get such a thing at all.

Yes, write write write!

Grannymar said...

Please do! The introduction was wonderful. I see a great likeness to you in that photo.

i beati said...

The good they do lives on- i believe some mum tells some kid etc..

Handsome woman-

Because of the economy more and more women are delivering via midwife

told not qualified enough today hard to take

Megan said...

I wonder if, once the new hospital is opened, you could talk to an administrator there and request that it be put up? Even just in a display of some kind, showing the history, etc.?

I bet you could convince 'em.

Baino said...

I'm sure we'll think of something although the thought of calling one of the rooms in my house the Pam Dunn Ward is a bit weird.

Ye Wuffa, made me rather sad to think they wouldn't take it to the new hospital.

That's true Mel. I don't need a plaque to remind me of her at all.

I'll have a go one of these days Heather for sure.

She was immensely proud of us all Candie. And sorely missed. We were blessed with pretty wonderful parents.

Brian there are few around these days who remember her. There were a couple of oldies there 2 years ago when I had my op. Of course they were very young when my mother worked there!

Roy I guess at some stage it was inevitable. We'd forgotten about it for a long time but then it's a tribute to her, not us.

Mrs Supole, I don't see why they can't retain it somewhere at the old hospital. It's not being rebuilt, just remodelled. I'm not sure I care enough about the plaque to lobby to retain it. Sort of denies the very gesture of hanging it there in the first place.

Mari she was killed in a car accident under rather unusual and unfortunate circumstances but that's a whole other story. I'm not quite ready to tell it yet but I will.

Indeed Subby, there's rarely a night goes by that I don't 'see' her crossing my kitchen window and popping in for a cuppa after her evening shift.

Kat that might be an idea. The thing is, she wasn't 'amazing' at all, just very dedicated. There are many more like her . . just that her life was cut short. She was however very much appreciated. We have three rose plants in the garden that the nurses at the time gave us after she died They thrive in our garden.

I think they were Nick. She was a great example of what can be achieved at any age frankly.

Actually Susan it's pure accident. My sister has a friend working at the hospital who alerted her to the fact that it was being remodelled. Goodness knows what would have happened to it otherwise.

You do GM? She had green eyes though. I'm a brown eyed girl. I guess I look more like her as I age but I'm really more like my Dad.

iBeati, she worked in a hospital but rarely do doctors arrive in time to deliver babies and definitely have nothing to do with their post natal care . . .She was an enormous help to me and my sister in law when we had ours, before, during and after!

Apologies for the comment moderation folks but I've been beseiged with spam so it will have to stay for a little while.

Cheers :)

Gledwood said...

Good on your Mum for turning down promotion.
I looked into nursing when I was at school, and found the promotion to office=type work a total anathema to a vocation like that ...

Gledwood said...

ps I'm now hamsterless. Spherical is dead!!!!

Darlene said...

By telling her story you have found a beautiful way to honor your mother. She was a very lovely woman and was obviously a very caring one.

I would ask the hospital to find a place to install the plaque. It belongs there for all to see.

Anonymous said...

I think this is very sad. She is an unsung hero- she deserves to have her plaque given a new place.

I also hope you write her story, as you write so sensitively. I am guessing her story is not without incident. I was a midwife too- I've done those night shifts- I know what she will have been through- the scary moments, the tragic moments, the joyful moments. What an inspiration, that she followed her heart's desire to study later in life to follow her dream.

steph said...

Wow! Baino

Your Mum not only had film star looks, she sounds as if she had a wonderful personality too.

Maybe there are plans afoot to name the new labour/children's ward (in the new hospital) after your Mum and erect a new sign in keeping with other ward names? I would enquire.

Big Warm Hugs!

Mim said...

lovely post and a wonderful picture of your mum. She looks about to say something important.
I agree that you should ask them to keep the plaque at the hospital, but you should also write her story yourself. If not for publication, at least for your children and children's children.

(? desexed?)

Kath Lockett said...

What a woman! It's sad about the plaque but I reckon she'd be the sort to say, "Oh stick it over the horse's stables or use it as a coaster"

....and yes, we want to know more about her.

OMFG - you mentioned your 'desexing' at the hospital, and my word verification is MENSED!

Ronda Laveen said...

This is such a wonderful tribute to your mother. I don't think it is weird to hang it on a wall in one of your houses. You are all still wards of Pam Dunn after all.

otin said...

If I died today, I would be remembered by a few family members, a few friends, and some new blog friends. Maybe it is not how many people remember you, but who remembers you that is important! To my mother, I am far more important than Sir Isaac Newton! (Did that make any sense?)

Baino said...

Gleds so sorry about little spherical. Get some newbies soon and they'll make your heart ping

Darlene I think if we have to 'ask' it sort of becomes our gesture and not theirs. We'll keep it safe.

One of many I feel Cinnamon. I admire nurses a lot. It's a vocation with shitty hours and crappy pay but they still do it because they care.
You deserve a plaque of your own! You all do.

She took an awful photo Steph. (My darling daughter said that I look much younger than she did at my age) hehe!

Mim I think she's gritting her teeth. It was a wedding photo and she was not happy with her Mother of the Bride hairdo or dress!
I had a hysterectomy in November 2007!

Funny thing that word veri! Sorry I had to put it in but I'm being spammed fiercley by a Japanese pornographer!

Haha . . indeed we are wards. . . Orphaned ones these days!

Otin I know exactly what you mean. We just have to keep her memory alive in our children.

Tom said...

My dad always turned down promotions too...would rather spend time with the no sweet cars or lake cottages for us...oh well, so much the better. Write that story for sure!

Kate Hanley said...

What a lovely story. My mother went back to school when I was in middle school, and I remember the list of chores delivered over the phone every afternoon. These women are truly inspirational.

e said...

Your mother sounds like a woman I would like to know, as are you. She is very beautiful. Perhaps you'll tell us more about her and what you and sister decide to do with the plaque.

Megan said...

You do look younger.

kj said...

hells honey, you've made me cry.

i want to give you advice but there is too much love and emotion to mar it with advice. your mother is beautiful.

Bimbimbie said...

Tsup*!* Lovely tribute to a special mum. I'm glad the plaque is being handed over to her family and not just thrown into the demo truck. Perhaps you could put it up in your family room then you could all deliver a toast to her each time her family gathers*!*

Did you get spammed by disa too - I've done the same as you.

laughingwolf said...

forgot: your ma and mine had the same color hair!

Sara said...

First, I think that what you wrote will stand very well as a word plaque for your mom.

That's the beauty of blogs. Think of how many people have read, and will read, this story of your mom. These words you've written can live forever...well at least as we still have Internet:~)

Kris said...

I was doing a survey the other day and was asked what my most admired profession was, and without a moment's thought I said "Midwifery".

I'm all about the midwives, and am glad that there are moves afoot to give them greater standing amongst the health professions.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Will you post a photograph of the plaque?

Ces said...

Oh Oh! How did I miss this? Your mother, a truly magnificent woman. Yes, they don't name wards for just anybody. Such a shame they could not transfer it to the new building as a memorial. They did that to several of our plaques when we erected a new building. A wall was reserved for some plaques for wrads that no longer exist and someone thought they had to redecorate so now they are gone.

What a beautiful woman your mother is and you look just like her!

jay said...

Ah, that's such a lovely story, Baino! My own Mum was a nurse, and also went back to work in her early forties, after we kids were old enough to cope. Her second career was on a radiotherapy unit - she became a specialist cancer nurse, and like your own Mum, she stayed right there on the wards, because she just loved hands-on nursing so much.

She didn't get a plaque, but she is now 89 years old and her old colleagues do still remember her. She was invited to a party earlier this year for some of her old colleagues, held at the hospital, and she went along in her wheelchair and had a great time.

True, not many people actually working now remember her, but those who worked with her at the time still do, and I bet that would be the case also for your own Mum, if she had lived.

More to the point, perhaps, many of her own patients still remember her with great affection. And both your Mum and mine would say that they were 'only doing their job'.

I think I'd frame the plaque and hang it! Be proud!

lettuce said...

she looks lovely and sounds wonderful. My mum went back to school too, when we were kids - and was SUCH a loved infant and nursery school teacher.

maybe the plaque could go on a park bench or something? I've always thought thats a nice way/place to be remembered