Nunavik maternity centre welcomes big little milestone: 3,000 babies

On Aug. 19, the Puvirnituq Maternity Centre in Nunavik delivered its 3,000th baby: Tom Colin Josie Unaluk. The centre, which also turns 30 this year, trains local women to become midwives, including several Inuit.

Puvirnituq Maternity Centre also celebrating 30 years in service

Conlucy Maqtairaaluk and Leah Unaluk welcome their son Tom, along with their midwife, Mary Ittukallak. (submitted by Arian Navickas)

"3,000 BABIES!!!"

The banner, printed out on blue paper and posted outside of the Puvirnituq Maternity Centre, proudly proclaims its latest milestone, which came in the form of a seven pound, one ounce baby boy on Aug. 19.

Tom Colin Josie Unaluk is the 3,000th baby to be delivered at the centre in Nunavik.

This celebration has been a long time coming. And it's not the only milestone the centre is marking this year — it also turns 30.

The Puvirnituq Maternity Centre put up this sign to mark the momentous occasion. (submitted by Arian Navickas)

"We have 30 years of statistics to prove that women can birth in remote communities," says registered midwife Arian Navickas.

The midwives serve women living along the Hudson Coast, from Kuujjuarapik to Salluit, Nunavik. About 120 women come through the clinic in Puvirnituq every year.

While it can be challenging to be so far from medical services in the South, Navickas says about 85 per cent of their clients stay at home to give birth.

"They're really isolated when they're away from their families, and that creates a lot of stress."

​Navickas says the benefits of staying home to give birth are many, including better care and more safety and stability for families.

"They're also able to get more culturally competent care versus sending women down to the south," she says.

Local knowledge, local care

The clinic also trains local women to become midwives. Currently, there are five Inuit midwives and two student midwives on staff.

Mary Ittukallak began working at the centre in 2005, and was the midwife to Tom's parents, Leah Unaluk and Conlucy Maqtairaaluk.

The staff held a small party for Tom and his family. Unsure of when the 3,000th baby might arrive, they kept the cake in the freezer just in case. (submitted by Arian Navickas)

She says he and the family are in great shape.

"Both parents were very happy and baby was very active right after birth. They both were doing good, very good."

The staff held a small party for Tom and his family, with cake and gifts. Unsure of when the 3000th baby might arrive, they kept the cake in the freezer just in case.

"It was very exciting," Ittukallak says. "We were all celebrating."

This is Unaluk's fifth baby delivered at Puvirnituq Maternity.

"They are supportive, encouraging," she says. "I'm happy I had a son, the 3,000th birth... and they were there. They are the best team."

And she says so far, Tom has been pretty easy going.

"Only one push and I delivered!" laughs Unaluk. "He's very calm, he only cries when he's hungry."