Tag Archives: maternity

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life at the Meadow Birth Centre Worcester Royal

The Tree of Life at the Meadow Birth Centre Worcester Royal

As I walk the dogs in Nunnery Wood, I can’t help but notice that I am now trudging through a mass of leaves on the ground; and looking up, through what a couple of months ago was verdant green tree canopy, I can see branches, and even the grey sky.

So you might be interested to know that there is a certain tree that is bucking the trend; and it is rooted in Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Week after week, even at this time of year, it grows leaves; all unique and super-special. It really is a tree of life.

Now if you wanted to find this tree you would have to come into the hospital, and head towards the Meadow Birth Centre. You won’t see any leaves on the ground but you will see a state of the art purpose built midwifery led unit that is like a 4 star hotel: soft lighting; huge birthing pools in the rooms for water births; and staff who are caring.

And at one end of the unit, painted on the wall is a huge white tree against. When I first saw it was just bare branches; white on a blue wall. But since the opening of the unit, leaves have been added. First one or two; then tens; now 100’s and more leaves every week. And each leaf has written upon it the name of the baby who was born in the Centre; name upon name.

And on days that I feel I have seen too much sadness and grief and pain; I head to the unit; say hello to the staff; and look at the tree.

This tree is literally life giving. And it gives me hope knowing that new lives are coming into the world in an atmosphere of love and care.

Not everyone has the privilege of seeing this tree; after all it’s not a visitor attraction! But the next time you look at the falling leaves and bare branches around you, then think of the Tree of Life, and treat yourself to a smile.

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

As the mother passed away with the baby in her arms she said: “O my love it’s misty.” And so they named her NIGELLA

Nigella: "Love in a mist"

Nigella: “Love in a mist”

India 1928. An English man, working for the British Government, and his wife in labour with thier first child. The child is born and mother suffers profuse bleeding. As she holds this little on in her arms, she smiles at her and as life ebbs away says her last words: “O my love it’s misty…” and with that she passes from this life. The baby, unaware of all this tragedy, is called NIGELLA – “Love in a Mist”.

This beautiful tale was told to me by Nigella’s daugther as Nigella herself slipped away from this world; and it moved me immensely. Here at the end of a life, was a story that brought things full circle. Endings and beginnings.

Thankfully we live in a country now where maternal mortality in childbirth is low. The statistics suggest that 8.2 maternal deaths occur per 100,000 live births in the UK (and of course this is 8.2 too many!

However, if you have the misfortune to be born in Sierra Leone the figure rockets to 1032.7 deaths per 100,000. This is shocking. This means that Sierra Leone is one of the worst places in the world to have a baby. And that women have a 1:8 chance of dying as a direct result of giving birth.

Now I have no idea how this relates to the statistics in the India of 1928; it is not really relevant, except to say that Nigella’s mother’s experience is more likely in some places than in others.

Thankfully, some people feel that they have a responsibility to share their knowledge and skills with those less fortunate to improve these statistics.

So in this post I want to pay tribute to a small group of midwives at the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch. They have, of their own volition and vision, and without the huge marketing and fundraising departments of the big charities, formed a Maternity Health Link with the Lumley Goverment Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. They raise money for this by fundraising in their spare time so that a small team can go to the country and share their skills. You can find out the effect of their efforts at


What strikes me as remarkable is that these midwives are making a difference. Off their own backs they raise their own money for the flights, and set off to help make the life of other women better. Amazing altruism.

We are so accustomed nowadays to the slick, global marketing of huge charities; and thank God for them. But this initiative warms my heart even more. Small, local groups of people deserve our support. And I am constantly amazed at what the staff at our hospitals do.

So I will pledge this today:
a) To donate some money to this cause (via the website) and support my colleagues in their initiative
b) To write to local and global businesses and organisations to seek finance
c) To publicise and promote this initiative amongst the staff of the Trust (and I know that Bev Edgar- Director of HT and Organisational Development- has taken this to her heart too)

I wonder if you can do anything? Our own home grown health-oriented intiative in our own Trust making a difference in the world. Inspiring or what?

One motherless Nigella, is one too many.

NEWS: Harriett Baldwin MP Visits WRH and Supports Chaplain’s Blog (Part 1)

Harriett Baldwin and David Southall crop (3)

Harriett Baldwin, Member of Parliament for West Worcestershire, kindly agreed to come to Worcestershire Royal Hospital on my invitation. She is a keen reader of the blog and a friend of the Acute Trust.

It was a delight to welcome Harriett and her assistant Edward, and in the company of Penny Venables (Chief Executive) she visited maternity where medical and midwifery staff showed her around, demonstrated their exceptional work, and explained the exciting plans for the future. Harriet took a deep interest in what she saw and was able to chat with some new Mum’s about their experience.

Thanks to all the Staff who gave thier time so wilingly, and especially to Harriet who had a day jam packed with meeting her constituents.

We are lucky to have friends like these and are grateful for their support.

Two Little Superstars- My guess is that the Weavers will remember your care forever


You may have seen the post the other day from Stef and Sean Weaver celebrating the care they had in the hospital. I pushed my luck and asked for photos and they sent these (thanks so much both of you). These beautiful babies were born in Worcester Royal and Stef and Sean could not say how pleased they were. Now no one cand doubt that Rabia Imtiaz always looks gorgeous (!) but these pictures are even better. So I post their comments again, this time with pics of the little ones, which makes it all worth while.

Dear Reverend Southall, I detail below comments I would be grateful if you would place on your blog.

Having recently given birth to twin daughters at WRH after a high risk pregnancy I want to highlight the excellent care and support that I have received from the Maternity Unit at WRH. During my pregnancy I used the services of all that the unit has to offer, triage, ante natal clinics, ante natal unit, delivery suite, neo natal unit, post natal unit and transitional care unit. I was under the watchful eye of Mrs Imtiaz and for those of you who know her she needs no introduction and for those of you who don’t it is suffice to say that she is a professional who is respected for her skills and expertise as an obstetrician by both staff and patients alike. I have never encountered such a large team that works so well and efficiently together and this includes housekeeping staff, administrators, midwifes, nursery nurses all the way up to senior level staff . My only regret is I cannot name them all! Despite being a team under immense pressure I felt that I was treated by all the staff with respect and when I needed it most to help me through a difficult time they went out of their way to support and care for me and my daughters nothing was ever too much trouble. For instance, my daughters were on the neo natal unit and I was on post natal often when I was visiting my daughters the ward would call to let me know lunch or supper was ready and this may seem insignificant to some but to me it meant that they always had my health and well being in mind. We are and will always be eternally indebted to the professionalism and skills of all the staff on the unit.

kindest regards Stef and Sean Weaver