A mum who had her first child as a teenager and who never forgot the care she was given has herself started as a midwife 23 years later.
Amazingly, Helen Davies works in the same hospital as the community midwife who was such an inspiration to her all those years ago.
Helen, who was 16 when she had son Declan in June 2000, has completed her three-year course at Swansea University and is one of 23 new starter midwives at neighbouring Singleton Hospital.
Former community midwife Carole Christie also works there, as interim manager of Ward 20, the postnatal ward.
But it is not the first time their paths have crossed. They were previously reunited at Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s Birth Centre three years ago, when Helen was on placement there as part of her training.
Helen, from Bridgend, said: “When I was 16, I got pregnant with my first child. Carole was my community midwife.
“She was very inspiring. I just remember the care that I received, being 16, with my first child, and quite overwhelmed. It’s a lot to take in.
“Carole was very nurturing and caring. I remember her sitting at home with me and just talking through things. And I decided then I wanted to be a midwife – but life went in a different direction.”
Helen had another two children. It was when her oldest turned 20 that she finally decided to follow her dream. And she is glad she did.
“What makes the work so enjoyable to me is the women and the difference you can make to them,” she said. “I still remember how it felt for me all those years ago.”
Newly qualified midwives like Helen start out at Band 5. They then spend up to two years on their preceptorship.
This is an all-Wales programme where they work with experienced midwives to develop their skills. Eventually they will be ready move up to Band 6 with additional responsibilities.
In the last few months, 21 newly recruited midwives, mostly Band 5s but with a few Band 6s from other health boards, have started at Singleton, with a further two due to join them this month.
In Swansea Bay, student midwives divide their week between the university and placements within the maternity service.
During her first year in 2020, Helen was given a position in Neath Port Talbot Birth Centre – where, it turned out, Carole was her new supervisor.
“I walked in and thought – how do I know her?” Helen recalled. “It had been 20 years but between us we clicked.
“Now we are both in Singleton. I don’t work in the same part of the hospital as Carole, but we often see each other.”
Carole left community midwifery in 2004, taking up a Band 7 post at Princess of Wales Hospital. She returned to her previous base at Neath Port Talbot Hospital at the beginning of 2018.
Carole also remembers the moment she and Helen were reunited, saying: “I didn’t recognise her at first. Then we started having a conversation and I remembered everything – even where Helen lived.”
Now the two are at the opposite ends of their careers, with Carole taking flexible retirement this month. But that is not the end of the story, as she will be returning to a Band 7 role next year.
“I will probably go back to the Birth Centre in Neath Port Talbot once that is up and running again,” she said. “I don’t want to give midwifery up yet – I’m not ready.”