My shift in the birthing ward began with a request to look after a woman, May (not her real name), who had planned a homebirth, but whose baby had died at thirty weeks’ gestation. I was one of the most senior midwives on the shift so I volunteered to look after May and her partner during the labour.
As soon as I walked into the room, fully covered in PPE, I felt the love the little one had from her parents. May was grief stricken beyond words and she was full of so many questions, which I answered to the best of my ability.
To give some background… It was 2020 and my mother had passed away from cancer a couple of months earlier in Ireland where I’m from. Because of the COVID restrictions, I couldn’t go home for her funeral.
Being present with someone experiencing raw grief when I was just beginning to process my own was challenging. Nevertheless, I got to know May and her partner really well as her labour progressed, and she birthed her baby girl before my shift ended.
It was one of the most emotional births I have ever attended. May and her partner wanted to spend all the time they could holding their baby, which they did. I quietly supported them and helped with their memory box. When it came time to say goodbye as my shift ended, May’s partner said to me, ‘If you ever see us out there, please say hello.’
He went on to say that, although I had shared such an important moment in their life, they didn’t know what I looked like because of the PPE. I promised that I would say hello because I would never forget them, their baby and the birth.
Fast forward a year… I had just finished having lunch with my friend at the café at the hospital. I was about to get up when a gentleman tentatively approached me. He said, ‘I know this is very random, but I think you were our midwife.’ It hit me who he was and I burst into tears. I was so confused. He told me he’d heard my voice while he was ordering lunch and followed it around the restaurant until he found me. I could not believe that after all this time he remembered my voice—one of my few identifying features when wearing PPE.
He told me that he and May were at the hospital for a hearing screening for their third-born daughter who was now two weeks old. I was overcome with happiness as he led me outside the hospital to where May was waiting with their baby in a pram. As I was walking down the steps, she recognised me and held her arms out for a hug, saying my name. I was speechless with so many emotions, mainly joy. They explained they’d conceived not long after the birth of their baby girl who had been born sleeping. This little girl had been born at home and she was healthy.
As a midwife, I cannot describe the joy I felt for that family and also for myself, being able to have a glimpse into this new chapter in their life. It is so rare to have this type of interaction and I am so grateful for it. I needed it just as much as they did. I will never forget that wonderful family.