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Midwife in Stratford, Ont., retires after attending more than 1,500 births

If you were delivered by midwife in Stratford, Ont. in the last twenty years, chances are Beth Lynes was there. The pioneering midwife is retiring after attending more than 1500 deliveries.

"It's never routine, watching that miracle happen" says midwifery pioneer after twenty years.

Beth Lynes retired after worked 20 years as a midwife in Stratford, Ont. (Submitted by Beth Lynes)

If you were delivered by midwife in Stratford, Ont.. in the last twenty years, chances are Beth Lynes was there. The pioneering midwife is retiring after attending more than 1,500 deliveries.

"It's never routine, watching that miracle happen," said Lynes, who entered the field in 1999.

It was five years after midwifery became part of Ontario's health care system.  She advocated for that change, as a member of a task force pushing for accessible, government-funded midwifery. 

Beth Lynes delivered five of the six children in the van Breda family. They live in Exeter, Ont. (Submitted by Beth Lynes)

"There's nothing to compare to the joy that every baby brings in the world with them," said Lynes, who became interested in the field after having her own children.

She became a champion for women's maternal health while continuing to work in mental health. Lynes then enrolled in a program that was brand new at the time: Bachelor of Health Sciences in Midwifery from Ryerson University, Laurentian University or McMaster University. 

By age 40, Lynes was a Registered Midwife. She founded her independent practice, "Stratford Midwives," in 2000.  

Normalized maternal care

Nearly twenty years later, midwifery is "no longer thought to be a radical, outside option,"she said, looking back on a time she was just one of two midwives in Stratford. 

"Nobody thinks it's strange to have a midwife now, and nobody has to justify their choices." 

"I think that makes a huge difference," she said.  

"Now we have 25-year-olds that were born by midwives. People are growing up with that being the norm."

Beth Lynes with Reid McMillan at her retirement party. She delivered him 10 years ago at Stratford General Hospital. (Submitted by Beth Lynes)

She encounters them all the time. Lynes is frequently stopped by mothers who "drag over" their teenagers to meet the woman who delivered them, she said, laughing.

"Everything comes back and we have such a wonderful connection," said Lynes.

Now she'll spend her retirement caring for hospice patients as a volunteer with Stratford Perth Rotary Hospice. 

"They're really sacred passages," Lynes says of birth and death. She'll draw on her decades spent assisting families in their most intimate moments, in childbirth. 

Despite her decades of advocacy and expertise, the midwife said she simply sees herself as "accompaniment."

"It's just bearing witness to their journey," she said. 

About the Author

Allison Devereaux is radio producer and host in Ontario. She's been with CBC News for a decade, reporting on arctic oil and gas for CBC North and guest hosting radio shows for CBC Nova Scotia. She can be reached on Twitter @allisondev.

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