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Miracle worker retires

Marilyn Slark checks on the progress of baby Frankie Mae Barry, born on December 6 at Buderim Private Hospital to first-time parents Liam and Aynslee Barry. image: Warren Lynam

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Miracle worker retires

A Sunshine Coast midwife is retiring from the maternity ward after almost 50 years of nursing.

From unexpectedly delivering twins to finding a baby’s heartbeat before the advancement of technology, and being on duty the night her grandson was born, a Sunshine Coast midwife has seen more little miracles enter the world than she can number.

Marilyn Slark has helped mothers deliver their babies since 1979 and has enjoyed every “privileged” moment as she witnesses a baby take its first breath.

The Eudlo woman has spent the past 13 years working at Buderim Private Hospital and perhaps one of her fondest moments was being in charge the night her grandson was born.

“I have three grandsons, and I did have one born at Buderim five years ago,” Mrs Slark says. “That was lovely to be around with my daughter giving birth – that was extremely special.”

But now after 48 years of nursing, Mrs Slark is hanging up her scrubs to retire.

Mrs Slark started her training as a nurse in 1973 at The Prince Henry and Prince of Wales hospitals in Sydney. Graduating in 1976, she nursed in hospitals in Gosford and Coonabarabran before moving to the United Kingdom. It was there she decided to pursue midwifery in 1978, becoming qualified in 1979.

She says no two days in the maternity ward is ever the same. “You can’t go in anticipating it will be a cruisy day, but I don’t think you’d come across anyone as
a midwife who wasn’t enjoying their job.

“I have truly loved the role of supporting a mother and their family during and after the birth and consider it an absolute pleasure and privilege to focus on them and their needs. It’s a very humbling experience to be there during a very special and private time in their life.”

The biggest baby she recalls delivering was five kilograms, or a whopping 11 pounds in the Imperial system, and she has seen some tiny babies, particularly those born before full term. She remembers a time in the UK in the ’70s when a mother unexpectedly gave birth to twins.

“I was her third shift that night and I felt her tummy and I thought she felt bigger than the 36 weeks that she was. She was going into labour and she ended up having twins. I went back and checked to see if she had an early scan, back in those days not everybody got scanned, but her scan didn’t show two babies.

“That wouldn’t happen today with all the scans and all the technology.”

Mrs Slark has seen many changes over the decades, particularly in technology. She remembers holding a funnel to a mother’s belly to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.

“The machinery was just starting to come through,” she says.

“Technology is fantastic for the mother during the antenatal journey, but it does make for a very busy delivery room with so many machines.”

The next chapter for Mrs Slark will involve travel, enjoying time with family and friends, gardening, cooking and sewing.

“[But] I will definitely miss working with a lovely group of midwives and being part of a team environment, and of course all the mums and babies,” she says.

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