Midwife Christine Rayner retires after 40 years at Hawkesbury hospital

THERE are likely thousands of people around the Hawkesbury who were delivered by, or had their babies delivered by, Christine Rayner.

The 69-year-old midwife retired this month from 40 years working at Hawkesbury District Health Service's (HDHS) Hawkesbury hospital.

Retiring: Midwife Christine Rayner, known to her colleagues as 'Chris', in the maternity ward at Hawkesbury hospital. Picture: Anna MacDonald

Retiring: Midwife Christine Rayner, known to her colleagues as 'Chris', in the maternity ward at Hawkesbury hospital. Picture: Anna MacDonald

Having made the tough decision to leave, Christine is now moving to Victoria to spend her twilight years with her own babies - and their babies, her grandchildren.

Was it difficult saying goodbye to her job as a midwife after all this time, we asked Christine?

"Very difficult," she said. "[But I'm looking forward to] being with my family and my grandchildren now."

Career rewards

Christine said the biggest challenge that came with being a midwife was "being aware of every new mum's individual needs".

She said while most of us are aware of the stereotypical birthing requirements, "there's not just one thing" that suits everyone.

"A lot of new parents have different needs and it's about trying to tailor your care and be open - but still staying within the safe limits and the safe care practices of being a midwife," she said.

For Christine, the rewards the job reaped over the past 40 years were "great".

"It's always great to see the smiles on the parents' faces as they hold their babies for the first time," she said.

"Every birth is a miracle - I've always believed that. There's no birth that I've participated in that I can say 'that's just like the last one'.

"Every one is special and every one is a miracle."

The midwife wife

Christine lived in Hobartville, Richmond, North Richmond and East Kurrajong during her years working for Hawkesbury District Health Service (HDHS).

Walking down Hawkesbury's streets, she would often say 'hello' to people she had come across at work.

"When my kids were in high school, they said 'I'm not walking down the street with you Mum because every second person smiles at you and stops you!'" Christine laughed.

"But that was a really nice thing about [my job]. If I didn't know their names I'd always recognise their faces.

"Towards the end, I had one experience when I was assisting in the antenatal clinic and a mother was with her daughter who was pregnant and she said, 'Oh, you're still here - you were here when I had my three children'. Comments like that were very special."

But there were difficult days, too. "It's a very taxing job," said Christine.

"It can be very emotionally draining for the midwife. You've got to have dedication to be a midwife, so in that way it's a profession, not just a job.

"It's a skill you learn over time. You can learn facts and figures from textbooks, but it's the skills you pick up and learn from senior and more experienced midwives, and the mums and dads themselves that makes your practice what it is."

But there were no days more difficult than losing a baby; days Christine described as "very, very, very hard".

"That's when having great colleagues comes into it. You can debrief together, cry together - and we do cry together, and we laugh at the good times," she said.

"When the going gets tough, we very much fall in line with one another and provide that support.

"I can't put it into words, what it's like when you lose a baby. Thank god in my time I never lost a mother. But we have lost babies and they have been born too early and that's hard. And yes, I have cried with the parents. It's just extremely hard. You never forget them in your heart - you just remember them all."

Saying goodbye

For Christine, saying goodbye to the community was the hardest thing about leaving.

"I'm going to miss my colleagues. Hawkesbury hospital is a very special place to work, and the Hawkesbury is a very special place to work in. Leaving the Hawkesbury was not an easy decision, because it's a very unique place to live and work and bring up children," she said.

How many babies does she think she delivered over the past 40 years?

"I've got no idea!" she laughed. "I counted them during my first year working at Craignish [Private Hospital] on Ross Street, then I lost count!"