Bringing babies into the world with joy and kindness is the life’s work of MAMA director Jan Ireland. She recently won an achievement award in the Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards.
Thousands of young Melburnians are walking and crawling around this city thanks in part to Jan Ireland and the midwives at MAMA in Kensington.
It’s been 12 years since Jan set up Victoria’s first private midwifery clinic right here in the City of Melbourne, but her vision to reduce birth trauma can be traced back to the 1970s.
“I was a happy hippy, one of the original flower children, 25 years old and travelling around Europe in a Kombi when I fell pregnant for the first time.”
Jan and her partner sold the Kombi and came home to Australia to raise a family, but the birth of her first daughter was a “shocking, negative experience”.
Jan was deeply shaken by her experience in the hospital system, and the trauma reverberated for many years. Her marriage collapsed as she endured undiagnosed post-natal depression.
Recovering from birth trauma and taking action
After finally seeking treatment, Jan resolved to act so that other women and birthing people had a more positive experiences of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.
Already working as a theatre nurse, Jan retrained in midwifery.
“My wish is that every single person who’s pregnant has someone who cares about them. I can tell you that doesn’t always happen.”
“I’ve never stopped fighting for women’s reproductive choices,” Jan said.
Victoria’s first private midwifery clinic
Early-career midwife Kelly Langford was working on the labour ward in a public hospital when she met Jan in 2010.
Kelly was looking for a mentor as she searched for a more holistic way to support pregnant people.
Together, they hatched a plan to open a private midwifery business, MAMA Services in a building in Kensington, close to major public hospitals.
Medicare had just added midwives to its list of allied health professionals who could offer a rebate to clients. Kelly and Jan were the first two Victorian midwives registered.
MAMA became the first holistic midwifery centre in Victoria to provide affordable private pregnancy care, education and support for Melbourne’s women, pregnant, birthing and post-natal people and their families.
“We’ve never looked back.”
Jan recently received an achievement award in the Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards 2023 for 10+ years of service to the community through MAMA.
A source of strength and support for pregnant people
MAMA’s passionate team of practitioners gets to know each pregnant person and their family personally over the course of the pregnancy and early weeks of parenthood.
There are now 12 midwives in the collective, working alongside allied health professionals who are all focused on pregnancy, birth and postnatal care.
“MAMA midwives are very special. You’re caring about the woman – making a care plan for that woman and her family that reflects her wishes.”
The service also runs evidence-based childbirth education classes aimed at empowering birthing people and their families with the information they need, to have the labour and birth that they want.
And if things don’t go according to plan during pregnancy and labour, MAMA midwives are there to offer support and independent advice if needed.
“It’s very common for people who are having their second baby to come to us. Maybe they’ve got post-traumatic stress from the birth of their first baby and they’re looking for a more joyful, positive experience. It’s so common.”
A sweet succession plan
After welcoming more than 5000 babies into the world across her career – and at all hours of the day and night, Jan is now 75 and reflecting on her contribution as she looks to retirement.
“I’ve attended some extremely special births. My own grandchildren. The children of my beautiful midwife colleague Kelly. Famous people and refugees alike. It’s a very pure thing.”
Jan’s vocation is also being handed down the family line: two of her three daughters have followed in their mother’s footsteps.
“I’m very proud to say that two of my daughters are magnificent midwives.”
The incoming directors at MAMA will continue her work. They are deeply committed to empowering women and birthing people, reducing birth trauma and post-natal depression.
Find MAMA Services at 38 Gatehouse Drive, Kensington. And read more about the Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards.