5 days in the life of Ruba Letchumanan

Births don't stop for the holidays, nor does the work of a London midwife
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Monday: I've worked at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington since 1985, and it's 26 years since I first trained as a nurse. I'm now a senior sister/midwife, and have been here longer than most of my colleagues. It's not a question of other midwives looking up to me - I like to think we all look up to each other. Normally by this stage in a career, people have gone more into the management side. I've chosen to remain on the clinical side because the job is much more hands-on. This is why I went into midwifery, and I've never wanted to do anything else.

Experience counts for a lot. I couldn't count how many births I've been involved in, but the one thing I do know is that every one is different because every woman is different, and every pregnancy is unique. They each bring with them their own history.

Women are much more knowledgeable than they used to be about pregnancy and the birth process. That's very helpful to a midwife. They can pass on what they are experiencing much better. I see women at all stages of pregnancy, from when they first come to register at the hospital right through to the birth. It's an endlessly rewarding job. Of course there are sadder times when women suffer miscarriages. Having done it a long time you see the heartache as well as the joy. You have that switch of emotions. But the feeling of being part of something very special is always there.

Today was my sixth successive day on duty. It was a much busier Christmas than usual. We average about 10 births in each 24-hour period. On Christmas Day we had 14. Even though people don't really want to be in hospital at such a time - neither patients nor staff - we do try to make it different. A couple of the midwives were in fancy dress. There were presents from the League of Friends. The hospital choir sang carols. Christmas dinner was served, though I was too busy to eat it. Everyone mucks in. The consultant on call didn't just wait at home for his bleep. He came in, which was nice. So did the midwifery head. I had to work from 1.30 to 9.30, so I had my Christmas dinner at home on Christmas Eve, cooked by my partner. There was no transport on Christmas Day, of course, but I got lifts to and from work from colleagues. I live a couple of miles from St Mary's, in Maida Vale.

TUESDAY: My last day before having a couple of days off. Yesterday I'd spent doing my clinic, which means seeing women at earlier stages of their pregnancy. The day for this is usually Thursday, but last Thursday was Christmas Day and this Thursday is going to be New Year's Day, so along with two other midwives I had many more women to see than usual - 35 altogether. I was beginning to feel tired by last night. I've asked one of my sisters to do some of my Christmas shopping for me! It's not too late - the family isn't meeting up till tomorrow. Today I was back on the labour ward - very busy again. By the time I'd finished tonight I didn't want to do anything.

NEW YEAR'S EVE: I got together with three of my sisters and our partners in Ealing and saw the New Year in. If you work Christmas you get New Year off. It's not that I prefer it that way but I know Christmas is when people are really needed.

NEW YEAR'S DAY: Woke up at my sister's and stayed on until the afternoon. I thought about what 1998 might bring. I have to finish my dissertation for my midwifery degree. I've done a midwifery diploma and got qualifications in counselling. It's not that I actually need the degree, or even want to work as a counsellor. But they're things which I've done to enhance my role as a midwife.

FRIDAY: Back to work at 1.30. Very busy again. I suppose by now I should be thinking of doing something else. But this is what I enjoy most.

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