Anne Sharplin is one of my favourite humans on the planet. When we put Anne on the cover in winter 2016, the response was huge. We were bowled over by the wave of love for this woman who is responsible for attending the births of over 2,000 babies (I know!!). Every time I have met a midwife since interviewing Anne, they have all said the same thing. Working on call is hard. Anne has done it for 35 years, and 30 of those in Tauranga. We caught up with her a year after appearing on our cover. I’m hoping she’s had at least one night of unbroken sleep since then.
It’s been a year since you were on the cover, what’s happened since then?
That cover was such a great support for New Zealand midwives and a great honour for me. In fact, much has changed! I moved up to Piha on the west coast in March 2017. This was the place where, as a child, I learnt to love the sea and where my mother taught me how to navigate the waves, the strength of the surf, and how to stay safe in such a beautifully raw environment.
The move to Auckland was prompted by some important personal reasons. I had a knee injury in November last year and subsequent surgery in January. I had to evaluate my capacity to keep on working as an on-call midwife after 35 years. And I realised that I would struggle staying in Tauranga whilst not being available to attend the births of the women and whanau who have been birthing with me over the decades.
Another reason was the birth of my granddaughter Dahlia. She was born at home in West Auckland in late February, 2017. The first child for Chloe and my eldest son Joseph. I was so fortunate to be able to boil water to prepare the hot towels and fill the birthing pool. Chloe was so strong and when baby was born it was another moment of awe and wonder at the strength of women and the love of family.
So I made the call and made the move. I really miss my community and especially I miss my grandson Shore (my son, Adam’s boy). However, I am blessed with good fortunes and life is good. And my knee has recovered so I am enjoying the rugged walks around here.
Most people suggest never working with children or animals. What was the shoot like?
It was so much fun! Holding babies is one of my happy things to do. I was quite nervous about the shoot, so it helped me to relax. I do recall that no one apart from me knew how to use old fashioned nappies that day, and we didn’t have any safety pins either. So in my full hair and makeup, under the studio lights, I gave Haidee (Magnus’s mum) and Joanne (Theo’s mum) a quick lesson in nappy folding without pins. The two little baby boys were very good natured and patient. I do recall a warm wetness from one wee soul towards the end of the shoot!
Do you think anything has changed in midwifery over the last year?
There is a dire shortage of midwives. But the good news is that in May, the College of Midwives reached a landmark agreement with the Ministry of Health to ensure pay equity and to ensure sustainability of the midwifery system.
What are your plans for the future?
My short term plan is to have a rest from the demands of living a life on call 24/7. I still have a tendency to make a plan and then to make a contingency plan in case I get called out to a birth! I plan to spend good time with both of my grandchildren and with my extended family.
Longer term, I plan to present the data from my 35 years of midwifery. This data demonstrates that the midwifery and childbirth that I was taught and that I have practised for so long, remains tried and true.
I have so much gratitude for all those babies and their mothers and families who appeared in UNO. last year, and for the hundreds who didn’t get into the magazine but who are very much with me too.