The significant role of the midwife over the last 100 years was celebrated at a Council reception in Enniskillen’s Townhall on Tuesday this week.
Marking 100 years since midwifery was legally recognised in Ireland, the event, attended by midwives past, present and future, and hosted by Council chairman, Stephen McCann, included memorabilia and photographs all telling the journey of the career of the midwife from 1918 to 2018.
With events organised throughout this year to celebrate the centenary of the Midwives (Ireland) Act being passed, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is calling on midwives and mothers to come forward and tell their birth stories for a book which will be published later this year.
With that in mind, the event on Tuesday heard two moving stories: one read on behalf of a mother who lost her baby at one-month-old, and another from a student nurse, who has been inspired to become a midwife as a result of the exceptional care she had received during her first pregnancy.
The mother of 10, now aged 89, who suffers from dementia, recalls very lucidly the birth of her son, Bernard.
Throughout her pregnancy she knew “something was wrong”, and when he she gave birth at 39 weeks gestation, she was heartbroken to learn that her son had been born with an “abnormality incompatible with life”.
She recalled being taken to a side ward, unable to see or hold her son.
Reflecting now, many years since the death of her baby boy, the mother says: “I am happy, because I will get to see him soon and hold him for the first time -- 50 years is a long time to wait.”
Student midwife, Pauline Brogan from Donagh, recalled falling pregnant with her first child.
“I had always aspired to become a midwife, before I even knew that was what it was called,” she said.
“I watched the work of the midwives, wishing and hoping some day it would be me.”
Paying tribute to her own community midwife, Ethna McBrien, Pauline says, with Ethna’s gentle reassurance, she felt empowered and confident she would be a great mother to her baby.
“Her passion for her work shone through,” said Pauline, “And her words of reassurance meant a great deal to me and still resonate with me to this day.
“She always knew exactly what to say and her caring nature made what could easily have been a daunting experience in fact feel like a cosy chat with an old friend.”
Over a decade on, and with two more children at home, Pauline is hoping to graduate as a midwife later this year.
“This career is everything I hoped it would be and more,” she said, paying tribute to the “truly amazing and inspirational” women whom she has met along the way.
Now retired, Ethna says she too, was inspired to become a nurse as a child while watching her district nurse at work in her home.
“The district nurse would give me empty boxes from bandages and I would pretend that I was her,” she recalls, “I have never wanted to be anything else in life other than a nurse.
“I have such lovely memories and I made great friends for life. I took over the midwifery from that district nurse who used to come to our house all those years ago. 
“Midwifery has changed so much over the years -- for the better in many ways, thankfully.”
Local RCM Western Trust Steward and midwife at the South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen, Brenda McCabe, said the event was an opportunity to “celebrate this incredible milestone in the history of maternity care provided across the Western Trust area”.  
“I would like to pay tribute to former and current staff for their compassion and dedication in providing excellent maternity care not only during the birth of a child but throughout the woman’s pregnancy and antenatal care. We look forward to continuing to contribute to their legacy in providing first class maternity services for the next generation.”