Back to My Story

What you didn't know about midwives

By Fiona McArthur 2 min read
Monday, August 26, 2019

They probably played a crucial role in the birth of your child, but there's one group of midwives who do more than deliver babies.

I guess if you’ve read any of my books you would know how much I admire the network of medical professionals who cover the vast areas of Australia’s outback. This admiration flourished when I was collating the true stories in my non-fiction book Aussie Midwives from further exposure to these amazing women, so it’s not surprising that contact grew into another novel.

When you put that admiration with the beauty and mysticism and sheer grandeur of Uluru and central Australia, we have a magnificent setting for the heroic characters.

I want to paint a picture: The desert midwife jumps into her dusty car on a Monday from Alice and comes home on a Friday from Katherine. Two girls' names but as destinations, she's travelling a thousand-kilometre stretch so she can touch base and offer medical services for Indigenous women in remote and isolated Australia.

Like Ava in my latest book, The Desert Midwife, the midwife I'm thinking of works tirelessly for maternity services for Indigenous women and pathways for Indigenous midwives and to me, she is heroic. Just like Ava.

The midwife’s job is to visit and establish a rapport with pregnant women on station clinics and in different Indigenous communities hundreds of kilometres apart, flag any medical issues in these women’s pregnancies and refer on, and hopefully if the stars align, reconnect again with those clinic women when they come in to birth in Alice Springs.

The reality for a young, frightened pregnant woman leaving home, travelling many hours away from family on a bus by herself to birth in a place that is strange to her, is why midwives are so passionate about supporting these incredible young women. As well as the important part travelling midwives play in creating an emotionally and physically secure place to birth for women, midwives are also the communication portal outback women can connect with in a safe and private way for all things women’s health.

While Ava’s story in The Desert Midwife is fiction, her experiences are based on some of the job descriptions of the desert midwives around Uluru and in Central Australia. This vast ancient region of Australia draws and fascinates me as does the work these amazing midwives commit to as well as the almost invincible women who birth in the arid centre of Australia.

Ava’s work with the Indigenous community is also a reflection of researching and speaking to the community centre for the writing of this book.

Ava also has a deep connection to the desert and Uluru and that shines through into the story. Ava is single and a dedicated nurse and midwife in her mid-twenties. Ava has a wealth of empathy and awareness of the dangers of being far from medical help when things go wrong and wants all the women in her care to be safe, happy and back in their own family and community as soon as possible.

You can see why I had to write her story, set in the ancient world of Uluru— a place of strong women, sometimes silent men and most of all, the support from family when times are tough.

Drawing from her life as a rural midwife, Fiona McArthur shares her love of working with women, families and health professionals in her books. Her most recent book is called "The Desert Midwife".