The world outside may be in turmoil, but in our maternity unit the arrival of every newborn baby brings joy, says Mercy Darko.
An amazing 1,470 babies were born at UCLH during the lockdown between March and May 2020. Among them was baby Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson, the son of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds. Here we speak to Mercy about what this time has been like.
Why I became a midwife...
I like caring for babies and children. I had eight brothers and a sister so I had lots of practice! I qualified as a midwife in Ghana and then joined UCLH about 18 years ago. It is something I always wanted to do.
My job involves...
Delivering babies is just part of a midwife’s job. I’ve delivered hundreds and hundreds over the years. It’s simply the best: challenging, rewarding, exciting. When I start each shift I can never be certain what lies ahead. As a midwife, I might be identifying a potential problem such as pre-eclampsia, monitoring a woman at any stage of her pregnancy or offering emotional support to someone who is worried.
In my role as a site manager...
I oversee the running of the ante- and postnatal wards, birth centre, labour ward, maternal and fetal assessment unit, maternal referral unit, antenatal clinic and sometimes the neonatal unit.
I try to make sure we have the right teams, the right skills and enough beds available every day. We have 78 beds and more than 40 midwives, maternity care assistants, nursery nurses and breast-feeding supporters on an average day shift.
The challenges of COVID-19...
Keeping everyone safe, patients and staff, is always a priority. Most pregnant women were understandably nervous about the virus and, at first, I felt scared too. There was a minority of women who tested positive and they were cared for by a midwife in full protective equipment in a separate room.
A ‘buddy’ colleague waits outside the room and responds to requests and messages sent via a walkie talkie to reduce the risk of transmission.
It’s so important to...
Build a rapport and reassure all new mothers – a gentle voice, a smile, holding their hand, even with gloves on, can help. We were determined that our masks and gowns wouldn’t form an emotional barrier.
Once their baby is born they are so happy. The worries ease off, at least for a while.
Would I do another job?
No. I believe caring for women is the most important work in the world right now, particularly during moments of profound transition and change. I want to empower women to make choices about their bodies that bring them health, confidence and strength.
These have been a difficult few months, but every baby born brings hope into the world.