Thursday, April 19, 2012
These days we often hear of career girls making their way in a man’s world — but what of the men doing ‘women’s work’?
Gary Slevin, 51, is a midwife from London. He has five children, aged 19 to 33, and has been married three times. He says:
Since I qualified, I’ve delivered more than 2,000 babies. Some women are very surprised when they’re told I’m going to be their midwife — but they get over it pretty quickly when they realise I’m there to help them.
I used to be the manger of a restaurant and pub, then, when I was 28, my wife and I split up and I took charge of our four children. The youngest was three and the oldest 11. I gave up work to bring them up.
When my youngest started school, I looked around for a job, and my sister — who was a nurse — said: ‘Why don’t you go into nursing?’
I thought: ‘Well, it’s quite apt because I’ve been doing all this caring at home.’ So I went to train at the Coventry and Warwickshire College of Nursing and Midwifery.
One of my early placements was with a community midwife, who could recall every single baby and woman she’d looked after. I thought that was amazing. It meant the service was personal — she was involved in their lives.
I wanted to be part of that, so soon after qualifying as a nurse I started my midwifery training at the Warwick Hospital in Leamington Spa. I qualified as a midwife when I was 36.
Some of the other midwives were very anti me at first. They said ‘We’ll have to chaperone him everywhere’ and ‘He can’t possibly know what it’s like to have a baby’.
I would reply: ‘Well, a lot of you haven’t got babies, so you don’t know that either. It’s not about having babies, it’s about having empathy.’
They would also say: ‘There’s no way women are going to let him look after them.’
I’d tell them: ‘Well, if a woman doesn’t want me to look after her, that’s absolutely fine. It’s her choice, and that’s not a problem because there will be plenty of women who do want me to look after them.’
Within three or four months, even the most resistant person was friendly and supportive. They could see I really cared for the patients.
I’ve worked in six or seven hospitals across the country, and am now at University College Hospital, London, where I’ve been for two years.