A grandmother who has delivered babies for generations of Melton families over more than 30 years is retiring as a midwife at the end of this month.
Joyce Salkeld (59) started out working in the maternity ward at St Mary’s Hospital in the mid-1980s when the job was very different to what it is today.
She had no mobile phone back then and could only be contacted by her bleeper and then a telephone box, if there was one nearby.
Methods of giving birth have changed over the years, she says, with mums preferring to kneel, squat or use a birthing pool, as well as laying on a bed.
But the pleasure of delivering a baby and sharing the joy of the many parents she has helped has remained a constant.
“I have enjoyed working with women to help and encourage them to plan, prepare and achieve a safe birth for their baby whether that is at home, in the birth centre or in hospital,” said Joyce.
“I have been involved with thousands of families over the years and have many happy memories of sharing with families the birth of their children whether that was in a horse box in a field or in a castle.”
Joyce began training as a nurse in Doncaster in 1978 and worked in the accident and emergency department before moving to the Leicester General to become a midwife.
After more than two years training, she was offered a community midwife post at Melton and because she had been based there as a student she didn’t need to have an interview.
Recalling her first day in the job, she said: “I arrived in my blue, crimplene dress with a round felt hat.
“I remember being told off for asking the mothers to call me Joyce.
“I was to be addressed as ‘Sister Salkeld’ and they were ‘patients’ not ‘mothers’.
“I very quickly settled and was soon off on my own doing home births and all aspects of antenatal and postnatal work.”
The role was more challening for Joyce in those days, particularly when she travelled out to the villages across the borough.
“In 1986 it was a very different place,” she recalled.
“I had no mobile phone, I had a bleep.
“If I was needed for anything I was bleeped and I then had to find a phone.
“It was good if I was in someone’s house but I was often between villages so had to decide whether to go on or turn back to find the nearest phone.
“My Gladstone nursing bag always had 10p in it for the phone.”
In 1997, the maternity unit changed its name to St Mary’s Birth Centre and the focus was then on helping with normal births with any complications resulting in a woman being seen by obstetricians in one of the hospitals in Leicester or Nottingham.
Joyce, who has been married to David for 36 years, said: “Women then became the centre of care, giving birth the same way women always have but with good, evidence-based information to help choose and plan for birth.
“We have come a long way from pinards stethoscopes to electronic equipment to assess baby’s wellbeing, from pen and paper to laptops and smart cards, but I believe the women are getting the best deal.”
Joyce is looking forward to spending more time in her retirement years with her children - Christopher (29) and Philip (27), who were both born at St Mary’s - and her two beloved grand-daughters.
She also plans to enjoy walks, cycling, gardening, crocheting and taking part in church activities.
Andrea Dziemianko, midwife and team leader at St Mary’s Birth Centre, said: “Joyce is highly popular amongst the mums, she is hardworking and retiring at the top of her career.
“The St Mary’s team are sorry that she is leaving and will miss her.”