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Nearly forty years of delivering care to mums and babies

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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MIDWIFE Michele Walker has helped to deliver hundreds if not thousands of babies in Stafford - including one in a petrol station.

She is so well known in Penkridge where she has lived for the last  23 years, that she can barely go anywhere without being recognised, and hubbie Chris has become known as "the midwife's husband".

Just last week she was stopped at the supermarket by one of her "mums" and once while walking along the canal her husband spotted a woman on one of the boats staring at her. It later turned out Michele had helped bring her child into the world.

"It is amazing really," says Michele, who just last week retired from her job at Stafford Hospital. "I see parents whose children are now grown men and I delivered them.

"Every delivery is special. I've been emotional about every birth. When I'm supporting women in labour I always think about how I would like to be treated.

"Some have been especially traumatic. I have had to do a number of still births, which are difficult, but it is knowing how to support people. You are going through it with them, together.

"I remember once getting a call to a woman who had been stuck in traffic on the M6 and couldn't make it to hospital. She was in labour at the Texaco garage so I dashed up with my bag. But you don't really need a lot, the mother does the hard work. She gave birth right there in the garage."

Michele must have plenty of stories to tell from her 40-year career. However, she admits midwifery was something she did just to get some extra qualifications. She never imagined for a minute she would spend the next four decades delivering babies. In fact deciding to get into nursing at all was something of a turn around following her admission that she was less than academic at school.

Michele was born in Yorkshire, the oldest of five children. Her father was a builder and her mum had been hoping to become a nurse herself, having started her training but giving it up when she had children.

The family moved around a lot, depending on where their father's job took them.

Michele recalls living in Wales, Taunton and Swindon among others. They returned to Yorkshire when their grandfather died suddenly and her mother wanted to be near her family.

Michele left school with just one qualification in domestic science.

"It's mainly because I wasted my time," she sighs. "I discovered boys and going out with my friends."

She got a job in insurance but hated every minute of it.

It was in 1971 that she spotted an advert for people to train as nurses. It was a new type of training scheme where people could learn on the job rather than traditional route of college or university first.

Michele applied, passed the entrance exam and promptly began training for the next three years as a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary.

The first lesson, however, was not quite what she would have expected.

"We learned how to make beds properly," she recalls. "We were in a pretend hospital for the first few months and we made beds, learned to do bed baths and I remember practicing injections on an orange. Generally we just learned on the job.

"Nursing was very different then. We had matrons who would check the beds and inspect the wards. You would never wear a cardigan or jewellery and your nails were kept short."

There were 100 would-be nurses who began the training and only 30 were actually taken on at the end. Michele qualified with endeavour in 1974, which she was thrilled about.

She worked in the renal unit at Leeds, then moved to Lancashire in 1975, by which time she had married husband Chris, who she met through a nurse friend.

Michele decided she should get some more qualifications and so did midwifery.

She began as a community midwife and as she didn't drive, she spent much of her time walking or jumping on and off buses visiting new and expectant mums.

She had her own child James in 1978 and so began working nights in the maternity unit. Second son Richard arrived in 1980 and it was while at home with her son that she realised she missed her job.

Her own midwife suggested she apply to be on a bank of midwives, who were on call for various hospitals. That later prompted her to apply for a permanent job in Preston, before becoming a community midwife, which she loved.

"I loved the work," she says. "We did parent craft classes and visited mums every day after the birth for 10 days."

The family moved to Penkridge in 1989 because of Chris' job and Michele got a job at Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital.

"While there I had the opportunity to go to Japan to an international conference on midwifery. There were 6,000 midwives there. It was wonderful.

"I learned a lot about water births and aquanatal classes so when I came back I trained to do both water births and teach aqunatal."

It's no surprise, then that she ended up as the leader for water births at Stafford Hospital, where she moved to in 1992.

She says: "Giving birth in water takes away a lot of the pain. People are also often more calm. The baby comes out relaxed and it is amazing to watch."

For many years she was a community midwife and in the meantime achieved her diploma in midwifery, which meant going to university.

She even inspired another of her "mums" to train.

"She ended up as my student midwife," laughs Michele.

Michele stopped her community work after being ill and went back to work within Stafford Hospital doing the water births and training others on them.

The hospital may have had bad publicity in recent years but Michele says there is much good work being done there, particularly in the maternity unit.

"I have worked in plenty of places but Stafford has such good quality staff and high standards. I think a lot of people look for the bad rather than the good."

Now she has retired Michele plans to simply "chill out". She has some plans to possibly work with her son Richard's business, which provides sports coaching and healthy schemes in schools, but for now she wants to enjoy her time and start a new chapter of her life.

But no doubt she will continue to be recognised in Penkridge.

She adds: "I was at an event the other week and a woman came up to me and said  I had looked after her when she had her daughter, who was now 14. It really touches me."

Name: Michele Walker

Age: 59

Occupation: Retired midwife

Car: BMW

Hobbies: Cooking, pilates and theatre

Music: Opera, classical, R&B, pop

Holiday destination: Florida

Food & drink: Steak and Gin and Bitter Lemon

Paper: The Daily Mail

Book: Any. I read everything

Pin-up: George Clooney

Love/hate: My family/Insincerity and rudeness

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