Midwife farewells 40 years of little miracles

FOR exactly 40 years midwife Dianne Lyon has watched women wail while their partners wait awkwardly by. 

Next week will mark the end of four decades of delivering newborns — three of them on the maternity ward at Warrnambool Base Hospital. 

By her own rough estimate “hundreds and hundreds” of babies have passed through her hands during her long career, which started in 1973 when she was just 17. 

Since then much of what happens in the delivery room has changed — most of it for the better. 

“When I was at the women’s (Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne) they used to give heroin to the first-time mums as a pain relief.  It helped get through labour,” Ms Lyon said. 

That lasted about a year before being scrapped, but many other changes took longer. 

Among them was the way society dealt with stillborn deaths, which were often ignored and little thought given to the mother’s grief and trauma. 

“They just expected people to get on with their lives like it didn’t happen,” she said. 

“There’s a lot more sensitivity about someone losing a baby and giving them time to grieve.” 

For decades, too, midwives were kept at arm’s length from the job, working as nurses alongside doctors handling the deliveries. 

That changed over time, with doctors only called in for tricky births. 

Some things, like the awkward, helpless position of husbands and partners, remains unchanged. 

“We’ve had a few faint,” Ms Lyon said. 

“It’s hard for the partner because they feel helpless. It can be just as distressing for them.

“Some partners are better than others. Most are supportive but they need guidance.” 

Champagne still finds its way into the ward and many husbands still return the following day, weary from a night of celebrating and needing a bed themselves. 

With just a week before her final shift, Ms Lyon describes life on the ward as “miraculous”.

Even after the 57-year-old leaves the hospital, chances are she will still be stopped on the street by a parent eager to update her about their child. 

“It’s a feel-good job,” she said. 

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