Too painful to stop - two midwives retire but can’t bear to leave

Published on: 12 Aug 2015

Midwives Mary Roper and Mary Budd outside Downend Clinic

MIDWIFERY was a very different affair when Mary Budd and Mary Roper first started looking after pregnant women and their babies.
Now - with a combined service of more than 60 years - the women have decided to retire and look back fondly on their working lives.
Mary Budd, 58, who lives in Mangotsfield, started her career as a nurse in 1975 and qualified as a midwife six years later.
She started off at Southmead Hospital and, for the last 18 years, has worked in the community, based at numerous clinics including Downend, Cadbury Heath and Kingswood.
“While I was doing my nurse training I did three months as an obstetric nurse and really enjoyed it so decided that was what I wanted to specialise in,” Mary said.
During her time as a community midwife, Mary has been involved with home visits, ante-natal and post-natal clinics and home births, averaging two each month.
“At home is where I think babies should be born as the baby is accepted into the family unit straight away,” Mary said.
“Experience wise, the home is the ultimate. Sometimes other children would watch their mum give birth, which was lovely.”
But it’s not all tears of joy.
“The worse part is being with women who have had complications and when mothers lose their babies. You have to be there to support them and that’s challenging. You’re bound to get emotionally involved.”
Mary, who is married to Simon and has three children, Helen, 30, Matthew, 29, and William, 23, said a perk of the job was keeping in touch with women she has helped through their pregnancies.
“It’s really nice bumping into women afterwards when they’re out with their babies. They always remember you and stop to say hello.”
Mary, who spends her spare time with her grandchildren as well as volunteering as a Guide leader for Christ Church Guides and a secretary at Emersons Green Baptist Church, officially retired this summer but found it so hard to leave she’s returned on a part-time cover basis.
She said: “It’s hard to give up completely because I’ve been doing a job I love doing - supporting women at the most vulnerable time of their lives.”
Mary Roper, 55, who lives in Hambrook, retired in June but is also back, covering the odd shift at Downend Clinic.
She started off as a general nurse in 1979 and qualified as a midwife in 1984. Her early career was spent as a community midwife in the east end of London but she returned  to Bristol in 1989.
Since then she has worked mostly in Downend but has honed her skills in other communities including Fishponds, Easton and Yate.
“It’s great being able to get to know the women and give them continuity of care. Delivering their babies and subsequent babies means you get to know them and their families.
“Downend was, and is, a lovely place to work with lovely colleagues and good support.”
Mary, who is married to Andrew and has four sons, Matthew, 24, Joshua, 22, Benjamin, 19, and Daniel, 11, said the face of midwifery has changed and not always for the better.
“There have been changes which mean it’s more difficult to deliver the women you know and there’s less continuity as things have changed and evolved over the years.”
Mary now works once or twice a week, an arrangement which suits her as it would have been too difficult to leave the profession entirely.
She said: “I love my job and I would have found it hard to stop suddenly and not do my job at all. This way I can ease my way out and it won’t be so painful.”

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