‘I have left main courses on restaurant tables in order to go and deliver a baby’
A week in my. . . community midwife role
Community midwife, Mary Cronin, with her children Matthew and Annie in Kinsale, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
My job is to attend mothers who choose to have their babies at home. This involves antenatal care, attendance at the birth and postnatal care for up to two weeks after the birth. I work very closely with their own GPs and the maternity hospital in Cork. I also deliver babies in the hospital if the mother is transferred for hospital care when it is no longer safe to be labouring at home.
I get up every day at 7am and the first thing I do is get Matthew up for school. He watches a cartoon while I make a pot of porridge. Annie usually arrives downstairs soon after Matthew and they will have breakfast together; he is seven and she is three. While they are doing this, I prepare their lunches and get them ready for school. Matthew gets the bus outside the door at 8.25am sharp and I take Annie to playschool at 9am. While all this is going on, I might have some text messages or phone calls from existing clients or maybe a new client will contact me wondering how to organise a home birth.
Some days I might have someone who is just starting labour; other times I will get a call about something that is worrying one of my mothers. I let all of my clients know that I am at the end of the phone and they can contact me at any time. So while I go through messages and calls, I am usually having my own breakfast on the move.
I walk for 20 minutes before work and try to get another two 20-minute walks in during the day.
Given the nature of my job, every day is different. This week I am visiting two clients at home who gave birth in the past two weeks, so as soon as my kids have gone to school I go and visit them. This involves monitoring both the mother and the new baby. Most mothers just need reassurance that all is normal. So I monitor feeding, measure the baby’s weight, progress and routine, take a newborn blood test and much more besides.
My antenatal clinic is in my house, so clients usually come to me for their antenatal care. I have a clinic at least two mornings a week and I sometimes have afternoon sessions if it suits the client better.
I visit all mothers at home when they reach 37 weeks in their pregnancy to prepare her and her partner for the birth and also to note where she lives and how long it takes me to get there.
I also do a booking clinic at Cork University Maternity Hospital once a month with my colleagues. This is where the women will have their scans and see our consultant, Prof Louise Kenny.
On a normal work day, I will collect Annie from school at 1pm. Then she has lunch and goes for a nap.
Matthew gets the bus home from school to the door. I am usually home when he arrives and he loves that. I have an au pair who helps with the homework and once that is going on, I usually go to work again.
Friday is homemade pizza day at home, so I get up a little earlier and make pizza dough and scones. I also pick Matthew up from school on Fridays as he has swimming lessons. My husband, Brendan, usually takes a half day and meets us half way to Cork so he can take Matthew for the lesson.
Brendan and I go out every Friday from 5pm to 8pm. We have been doing this for a few years and it is really important that that we get to spend quality time together at least once a week. Of course it helps that we have live-in babysitting with the au pair.
I usually work from Monday to Friday doing all the routine stuff, but if babies decide to arrive, then of course I will make visits at the weekend.
We aim to have two midwives at every birth and I am also available to be the second midwife for other colleagues. Right now I am waiting for two women to start labour; they are both a little bit overdue.
My working week is fairly routine but if I am called to a birth, all other work is cancelled. Brendan is a civil servant and leaves the house at 7.10am, so if I’m at a birth, the au pair has to get up at 7am. I have two wonderful au pairs who help me with everything in the house and know exactly what to do when I’m not there. One does mornings and the other afternoons.
Brendan is home from work most days at about 5pm. He is a wonderful support to me and I couldn’t do my job without that. He is brilliant with the kids and does most of the cooking, so being away from home is never a problem.
The best part of my job is the privilege of delivering babies and sharing in these precious moments as it is a very special time in peoples’ lives. I also feel very blessed that I can be very available to my own children in the middle of the working day. I also love visiting the new mothers and their babies in the first few days after the birth.
The most difficult part is being called out between 2am and 5am, but even then, it’s just the act of getting out of bed that’s hard; as soon as I’m in the car, I’m fine.
Waiting for someone to give birth can be tricky as sometimes I can’t leave Cork because a woman is due and this can be restricting, as can the interruption of my social life if I am called to a birth. I have run out of restaurants on many occasions when the main course has just arrived. It is a wonderful job and I feel very honoured to be doing it.
Out of hours
I get up at about 8am at weekends as my children are still small. In order to wind down after the week, I go for a walk and on Sunday afternoons I take the kids swimming. I also play football with Matthew and he usually comes for a short walk with me; we call it “special time”. I like baking and cooking and, if I get a chance at the weekend, I do both. I do some grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday and usually I take Annie with me as she loves shopping. Later on, I will take her for a walk in the buggy as she still naps every afternoon.
Home births in Ireland
The HSE advises that home births can be a safe option for low-risk healthy women. Research has shown that a planned home birth is an acceptable and safe alternative to a planned hospital birth for some pregnant women.
Women may wish to have a home birth because they want to feel more in control; feel safer at home; want to avoid intervention; dislike being in hospital or don’t want to be separated from older children.
According to the Homebirth Association of Ireland, only a small number of women in Ireland have their babies at home. Figures available from the ESRI for 2005 show a homebirth rate of just under 1 per cent of all births. In 2011, there were 168 planned home births attended by a midwife.
The Homebirth Association of Ireland has 22 self-employed community midwives who are registered with the HSE and will assist home births; see homebirth.ie to find one in your locality.
The HSE also has a list of midwives who are available for home births; see hse.ie.