A frightened young woman, feeling very much alone without family, is driven from prison to a hospital where she will give birth.
It is 1991 and sitting beside the incarcerated young mother-to-be is social worker, Janice Rowe (pictured) – only a young woman herself at the time, who is about to witness her first delivery.
“She didn’t have anyone to support her,” Janice recalls, “so she asked me to stay.”
“I saw what a privilege it was to be there for the woman. She had a midwife and I saw how amazing the midwives were.
“That planted the seed in my mind about how important midwifery is.”
Janice kept in touch with the young mum, at a community halfway house, and learned how important ongoing support is for mother and baby.
That experience prompted her move into Child Protection. Several years later, the desire to pursue midwifery took hold again.
“I realised I wanted to work with the women before their babies were born, to give them really good midwifery care which can help a woman, and her partner, transition into being parents,” Janice said.
“The transition into parenthood is so important. Women and dads are amazing, but I feel that linking them with the right resources, at the right time, makes such a difference.”
Janice would go on to work as a Community Midwife in Coomera, Southport and at Gold Coast University Hospital before the launch of Your Midwives Varsity in 2019 – a shared-care model, where she continues to lead a team of five midwives caring for around 40 women a month.
Under the shared-care model, a primary midwife works hand in hand with a GP, creating a seamless care experience for new moms. This ensures they build a strong bond with their midwife, resulting in improved outcomes and higher rates of breastfeeding continuation.
Janice finds this model of care greatly improves the partnership and collaboration with GPs.
“GPs know who the woman’s midwife is and can contact them if they have any concerns," she said.
“When we discharge, the mothers continue to see their GP, so it’s important for our mums to have that supportive relationship already established within the community."
Your Midwives Varsity also shares space with Child Health, providing another seamless care experience.
“If we identify, for example, that a woman is emotionally vulnerable, we can do those referrals and the Child Health Nurse can become involved before the baby is born. The woman has already started building a relationship with the Child Health Nurse, who can then visit her in her home," Janice said.
The service offers small, interactive classes to prepare for birth, as well as newborn care classes.
“The class group members become very supportive of each other,” Janice said.
“I strongly believe that if you feel like you belong somewhere, that makes such a difference to your life. Being part of a community model like this makes women feel like they belong and that really improves maternal satisfaction.
“It makes my day when mums and dads drop in, months later, to say hello and tell me their baby has put on another kilogram.
“At Gold Coast Health, one of our values is Community First and I really feel that our service supports that.”
Evidence of the difference this service is making came in the form of a sweet card, delivered recently by a proud eight-year-old big brother, who’d been taught by Janice to swaddle a baby and change a nappy, using a doll.
‘Thank you for looking after my Mum, and my baby sister,’ it read.
“We’d been able to help an entire family,” Janice said. “Even today, I still feel that it is such a privilege for families to let us in so that we can share those special moments.”
Your Midwives is located at Varsity Lakes Day Hospital, as well as Brygon Creek at Upper Coomera, and Coomera Springs. A new service is planned for Tugun Satellite Hospital in 2024.
Women are encouraged to talk to their GP about a referral to Your Midwives.