An American construction foreman based in Ireland has beaten the recession – by qualifying as the country’s first male midwife under a new undergraduate programme.
Dan Oakes moved to Dundalk from San Francisco, California, at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom nine years ago.
But he lost his job as a construction site foreman when the Irish building trade collapsed in the wake of the world wide recession.
Now he is set to graduate this week as the country’s first male midwife under a new state programme at the Dundalk Institute of Technology.
He’s already delivered 49 babies during his hospital placement from the honours degree course in midwifery at the Institute.
And it’s all thanks to his wife Heather as he says midwifery became a ‘labor of love’ for the 32-year-old American while caring for his wife Heather during the births of their three sons. Oakes has told the Irish edition of the Sunday Times that he plans to specialise in assisting home births once he has enough experience.
He said: “I got into midwifery because of the powerful impact home birth had on me.
“I was in the inflatable birthing pool in the kitchen with my wife when our first fella was born, and it was just magical.
“The midwife was a force of nature and knew exactly what to say and do. I’ve read that men experience an immense burst of hormones when witnessing the birth of their children, and it lasts for years.
“I know now that it was oxytocin, the love hormone.”
Oakes first thought of switching careers when he lost his job in 2008 as project manager at Smarthomes, a home technology company set up by former presidential candidate Seán Gallagher.
Originally from Alaska, he was foreman at a 30-storey skyscraper in San Francisco before moving to Dundalk.
He also told the Sunday Times that he was relieved to leave the construction industry in 2008 even though his wife was pregnant with their second child at the time.
Oakes added: “When the property bubble burst, it was great in a way as it got me to explore the change inside me after the birth of my first child.
“My wife suggested studying midwifery because I’d been so affected by our son’s birth.”
The Irish system previously forced midwives to train as nurses before studying for a postgraduate degree in midwifery.
Faced with a shortage of staff, the government speeded up training by allowing colleges to create undergraduate programmes specialising in midwifery.
The Sunday Times says that while most of Ireland’s gynaecologists and obstetricians are men, midwifery is almost exclusively female.
The Rotunda in Dublin — the first maternity hospital in the British Isles — was set up by a male midwife in 1745.
Oakes has admitted to previous concerns about how expectant mothers would react to a male midwife but has experienced no issues on that front.
He added: “All the families I cared for overwhelmingly accepted me as midwife, and I felt the men were a bit relieved to see a male.
“Some patients were a bit bemused by it, and would ask, ‘What do we call you, the midman?’
“I would say men in general view birth and pregnancy as primarily something for women, but there are a lot of empathetic men who would make great midwives.”
Oakes must gain three years’ experience before being allowed to deliver babies at home.
He is currently recruiting self-employed community midwives for a start-up business, Neighbourhood Midwives.
Only 18 independent midwives offer assistance in home deliveries in Ireland. Two more offer antenatal and postnatal care.
He said: “I’m creating my own job because there’s a moratorium at the moment on hiring midwives for the HSE (health authority).
“There are many unemployed midwives leaving the country for work because there are not enough jobs to go around.
“I’ll be taking on as many midwives as I can to provide private care to women before and after births.”