The birth of every child is momentous even if not all make the headlines

[box] Anne Tan reflects from the Labour Ward on the week of the Royal birth[/box]

Babies are born every day but it is not every day that a baby’s birth headlines the news. Perhaps this is because not every baby is born to the future king of a country. Last weekend Princess Charlotte of Cambridge’s arrival made news headlines across the world.

Having spent the last week on the labour ward of another London hospital I did not need the constant coverage of the royal birth to keep childbirth and babies at the forefront of my mind!

Princess Charlotte

Being part of healthcare and working in a hospital is a privilege because we are on the frontlines when people are going through significant moments in their life, good and bad. The labour ward, being a place where children are born, certainly qualifies as a place that people are experiencing life-changing moments constantly.

Bringing a child into the world is no easy feat. Women are in pain, they shout and scream, they tell you repeatedly that they ‘can’t do this anymore’. Experienced midwives would tell you that such language is a sign the baby is coming soon.

The husbands/partners/friends/parents that are with them often look on helplessly. No matter how much they love the mother of the child there is nothing they can do to share in the pain. They can brings cups of water and hold her hand, which she squeezes tightly as a contraction comes. They can cheer her on, telling her how ‘proud they are of her’ and how ‘well she is doing’. But that is all, only a mother alone understands the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth.


In spite of all the agony that she has experienced, the mother’s face turns from pain to joy the moment the baby is born. The previous suffering is forgotten in an instant. Suddenly the room, these lives, the world is not the same anymore.

Being on the ward taught me that childbirth is unpredictable. One can never know if the woman will progress quickly or slowly, if instruments will be needed to help the baby along or if an emergency caesarean section will be required in the end. Everyone in the room, parents and medical personnel, is at the mercy of the baby. Children teach you from the womb that they have a mind of their own and that sometimes the best thing to do is to relinquish control and to give in to the chaos.

A parent once said to me that pregnancy and childbirth are preludes to being a parent. It is moments of great joy alternating with moments of great pain, accepting that you are no longer in control, learning to put someone else’s welfare before your own.

baby crying

Despite the fact that being a parent is a daunting task everyday people are becoming parents for the first time, second time, third time…

Not every child is going to make the news at the time of their birth but some may during their life time. This thought is perhaps the most thrilling thing about being on the labour ward. You are there when new life enters the world and as you watch this new being take its first breath you wonder. You wonder if you are looking at the next great artist, composer or musician. You wonder if this is the next prime minister or the person who will come up with some game – changing technology.


And then you realise that even if they do not do anything that qualifies them to make a headline that they are somebody’s son or daughter, that they are potentially someone’s best friend or older sibling, that they could be someone’s first love, someone’s life long partner.

Every baby being born changes forever, not only the lives of their parents and family but the world. If only we would allow ourselves to never lose sight of the miracle of life.

before and after

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