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Midwife's memorable millennium delivery

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2014
Midwives
Monica Tischler
LONG SERVING: Alison Lesniak, 88, left, and Dorothy Graham, 79, are two of Waitakere Hospital’s earliest midwives and now live in the same Te Atatu Peninsula retirement village.

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Bringing the first millennium baby into the world is among the highlights of Dorothy Graham's lengthy midwifery career.

The 79-year-old spent more than 20 years working on the wards of Waitakere Hospital's maternity department and lists the millenium birth of former Henderson resident Tuatahi Melsom as one of her most exciting deliveries.

"I was watching the clock as I was delivering him and as it approached midnight I said to the mother ‘at this contraction you can hold'.

"Then at a minute past 12 o'clock, I said, ‘OK now a big push,' and he came.

"You can't get much closer than that," Mrs Graham recalls.

"He was the first baby born in the whole world (in 2000) and Tuatahi means the first blessing," she says.

Alison Lesniak, 88, also served as a midwife at the hospital for 10 years and despite not working with Mrs Graham, the pair now reside together at Te Atatu Peninsula's Waimanu Bay Village.

"I loved looking after the babies and would pick them up at night and give them a cuddle if they were crying," Mrs Lesniak says.

Stories like Mrs Lesniak's and Mrs Graham's will feature in an exhibition to mark the maternity ward's 50th birthday today.

Mrs Graham helped established the Know Your Midwife (KYM) team - a group of independent midwives to enforce strong relationships with women and their babies.

She says the rise of the independent midwife in 1991 was an important milestone.

"Before, a midwife could only deliver a baby if the doctor was there."

Going from a time when fathers had to sign permission forms to be present at birth to having more than 20 friends and family attending is something the pair laugh about.

Despite delivering thousands of babies between them, both midwives feel blessed not to have experienced a mother or baby die.

"When things go wrong they go wrong quickly," Mrs Graham says.

"Alison and I were skilled and we knew things like the back of our hand."

The full responsibility of Mrs Graham's role didn't dawn on her until her retirement 11 years ago.

"When you're doing it you never think twice but once I had finished, I thought, ‘Gosh, that was a really responsible job'," she says.

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- Western Leader

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