IT’S a rare trip to the local shopping centre when Maryann Scales is not approached by an appreciative mother.
“Sometimes when I go shopping locally I can’t get it done because women are coming up to me saying ‘you delivered my baby’,” says Maryann, laughing.
With more than three decades’ experience as a midwife, Maryann has long lost count of how many babies she has delivered. Remembering the names and faces of the newborns’ parents is simply impossible. But what is never lost, says the Associate Midwife Unit Manager at Sunshine Hospital, is the joy – and sometimes grief – that comes from working in one of Victoria’s busiest birthing unit.
“I really love midwifery,” Maryann says.
“Generally speaking the women are healthy and childbirth is a positive experience.
“But I have also seen a lot of major, critical incidents and sadness”.
At the extreme end is the death of a baby or mother. “That’s very emotional,” says Maryann, who has also worked in maternity wards in England and India. “It’s always hard, however many times you’ve seen it”.
Personal experience partly informs how Maryann works with grieving loved ones.
The now mother and grandmother lost her big brother at the age of 16, to the hands of a drunk driver in Goa, India.
Maryann and her brother, two of five children born to Indian parents in Kuwait, had been sent to India as teenagers to live with their grandmother and complete their education.
The devastating loss helped frame not only Maryann’s guiding motto – “enjoy life to the fullest and have no regrets” – but also her approach to her lifelong profession.
Maryann was recently honored at Western Health’s 2017 Service Awards, joining a small and exclusive club of staff to have notched up 35 years within the organisation.
Maryann has a simple explanation for her extraordinary tenure, which includes 27 years at Sunshine Hospital: “I love the people I work with. They have become my extended family.”
Maryann’s time at Sunshine Hospital, and eight years at Footscray Hospital, followed stints at the Royal Children’s, Royal Women’s, Melbourne and Alfred hospitals in Melbourne, as well as hospitals in London and Bangalore. While the vast majority of Maryann’s expansive career has been spent in midwifery, she also has experience in areas as broad as neurosurgery, Orthopedics and coronary care.
“I have worked in a lot of areas and have had a lot of experiences,” Maryann says.
“This diversity of experience has taught me that you need to make the most of life because one minute everything can be fine, and the next something unexpected can happen.”
Maryann says the roles of midwives have changed significantly over her career.
While “straightforward” birthing was once the majority, women with a variety of complications are now increasingly common.
“In spite all the daily challenges, I really love my job as a midwife at Sunshine Hospital.”