Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik August 26, 2016 - 11:45 am

Nunavik midwives deliver centre’s 3,000th baby

“They do an amazing job"

SARAH ROGERS
 Proud parents Conlucy Niqtairaaluk and mom Leah Unaluk hold newborn Tom Aug. 19 at the maternity centre in Puvirnituq, where he was delivered by midwife Mary Ittukallak, at far right. (PHOTO COURTESY OF A. NAVICKAS)
Proud parents Conlucy Niqtairaaluk and mom Leah Unaluk hold newborn Tom Aug. 19 at the maternity centre in Puvirnituq, where he was delivered by midwife Mary Ittukallak, at far right. (PHOTO COURTESY OF A. NAVICKAS)
The maternity centre celebrates its 3,000th birth, a huge milestone for the birthplace of Nunavik’s modern midwifery movement. (PHOTO COURTESY OF A. NAVICKAS)
The maternity centre celebrates its 3,000th birth, a huge milestone for the birthplace of Nunavik’s modern midwifery movement. (PHOTO COURTESY OF A. NAVICKAS)
Baby Tom Colin Josie Unaluk pictured Aug. 23 at four days old. (PHOTO COURTESY OF C. NIQTAIRAALUK)
Baby Tom Colin Josie Unaluk pictured Aug. 23 at four days old. (PHOTO COURTESY OF C. NIQTAIRAALUK)

Leah Unaluk feels lucky that she could deliver all five of her children so close to home — at the maternity centre in her hometown of Puvirnituq, along Nunavik’s Hudson coast.

But baby number five, born after a quick, two-hour labour in the early hours of Aug. 19, brought an extra reason to celebrate.

Baby Tom Colin Josie Unaluk is the 3,000th baby delivered by midwives at Puvirnituq’s maternity centre, the first in the region to bring modern midwifery home to Nunavik in the mid-1980s.

“He’s very calm,” said Unaluk of her newborn son, who was born weighing in at seven pounds, one ounce. “He cries only when he’s hungry.”

Wee Tom was delivered by local midwife Mary Ittukallak, one of five Inuit midwives who currently work out of the centre.

After Tom’s birth, the midwives brought in a cake with icing spelling out “Welcome baby 3,000,” to share with Unaluk’s other children and relatives who’d dropped in to see the newborn.

Unaluk and proud father Conlucy Niqtairaaluk said their son’s birth went smoothly and brought more excitement than usual.

“I’m happy they decided to have midwives here in our community,” said Unaluk, who works as a pharmacist’s assistant at Inuulitsivik health centre, which houses the maternity unit.

“They do an amazing job. They are so encouraging and supportive,” she said. “Being so close to home is comfortable for us a family — I don’t have to leave my other kids.”

In contrast, Unaluk’s own mother had to travel hundreds of kilometres south by plane to Moose Factory, Ont. to deliver her.

Today, anywhere between 85 and 90 per cent of all babies born along Nunavik’s Hudson coast are delivered in Puvirnituq or birthing centres in Inukjuak and Salluit.

Many of the Inuit midwives at those centres started out doing post-natal work and then began training to become fully registered.

The birthing centre at Kuujjuaq’s Tulattavik health centre opened in 2009, and midwives there deliver a growing number of local and Ungava coast babies.

The milestone of 3,000 births in Puvirnituq is significant as it represents about a quarter of Nunavik’s current population.

Midwives in Puvirnituq delivered their first baby in 1986. The centre, currently staffed by five Inuit midwives and two local students, is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary this fall.

Puvirnituq’s midwives include Akinisie Qumaluk, Leah Qinuajuak, Annie Tukalak, Mary Ittukallak and Nellie Iqiquq, who are training two local students: Elisapi Tukalak and Lizzie Qumaluk.

One of their colleagues, Arian Navickas, who has worked as a midwife in Puvirnituq for the last year-and-a-half, said the group noticed earlier this month that the centre had tracked 2,997 births so far, and were approaching a new milestone.

“This is really the first place in Canada that brought midwifery back to the community,” she said. “So it’s really nice to be able to welcome this baby in a special way.”

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share

 THIS WEEK’S ADS

 ADVERTISING