When I was a midwife working on the Delivery Suite, I had to work some night shifts to ensure that the ward was covered for twenty four hours. This is usual for all nurses and midwives.
We also had to work Christmas and New Year and we usually tried to be fair to each other to ensure that we all had some of the holiday off with our own family and friends.
I have to say that sometimes, as well as being excruciatingly busy, there was always a lovely festive atmosphere in the unit and we would all bring in non- alcoholic drinks and nibbles to snack on. This was of course in between births, completing paper work and clearing up.
Babies born on Christmas Day were given a small, wrapped present and babies born on Christmas Eve were given a stocking to leave at the end of the cot which was filled by whoever was on the night shift.
All Christmas Day babies and babies born on New Year’s Eve, were, with their parents’ permission, photographed and published in the local newspapers. This seemed to add to the festive atmosphere and feeling of excitement and joy.
One New Year’s Eve, not long after I had qualified as a midwife, I volunteered to work the night shift on New Year’s Eve. I was not really looking forward to this. Night shifts were always difficult.
We are not meant to be awake at three in the morning making decisions about people’s lives, communicating and just generally functioning as you would in the day.
However, I must admit I was excited about the prospect of maybe delivering the first baby of the new year and seeing the baby and mother in the newspaper.
Delivery suite was eerily quiet when I arrived on the shift but there was just one woman in labour who had had a baby previously, so there would be a good chance that she would have her baby before I went off shift at eight in the morning. Women who have had a baby before tend to have quicker labours and births the second time around so I was pretty sure that this would be the case with this woman.
Of course, there is always exception to the rule and this doesn’t always happen. Mercifully, this did happen in this case and the woman went on to give birth to her baby at two minutes past midnight, which was definitely the first baby of the new- year.
I was so excited and in my naivety and enthusiasm completely forgot about the woman being physically and emotionally drained after the birth and as soon as the placenta had been delivered my first response was:
“Congratulations. Would you like your photograph taken for the papers”?
I can’t write what she told me to do but it wasn’t,
“Oh yes I’d really like that – thanks”.
I felt rather deflated after that response and that was lesson learnt.
Not everyone wants to be in the paper especially the next day after giving birth.