Doctor's gift shared with many
DURING a career in obstetrics spanning three decades in Coffs Harbour, Dr Stephen May has delivered the city its greatest gift - its children.
Dr May has overseen the care of some 6000 mothers - before, during and after giving birth - in the past 32 years, but now says he may have delivered his last baby into the world as he winds back his duties in the medical field.
Stepping down from obstetrics, Dr May will continue as a general practitioner while offering antenatal support from the Coffs Medical Centre in Gordon St.
"It has been a huge privilege to have looked after so many mums here in Coffs Harbour and people say you will know when it is time to step down, and I really feel it's my time,” Dr May said.
"This work is extremely satisfying.
"It is an incredible privilege to be involved in the beginnings of a family, because pregnancy and delivery are such special times.
"I just hope I have helped the mothers in the transition to family life.
"It is a very humbling experience and a great honour to be present at the delivery of somebody else's baby, and I have been truly grateful for all the support from those mums over the years.”
Dr May, a father of five, said the greatest satisfaction in his professional life had been working alongside so many well-qualified medical professionals and colleagues, including his wife Mary, a trained midwife.
"Working with Mary has been the highlight of my career and there have been many times where we were able to look after the mums together through a team approach, and that has been a very special thing,” Dr May said.
With the joys of childbirth, however, have also come the tough realities of obstetrics in supporting mothers through miscarriages, stillbirths, congenital abnormalities and postnatal depression.
Dr May said Mary had been his greatest source of strength.
"It is with great thanks to Mary with all her support that has allowed me to continue this work,” Dr May said.
"One of the most satisfying things was also working with a wonderful group of midwives and I am very grateful for all the help they have given me and all the support.
"I am also very grateful for the support of my colleagues here, my specialist colleagues, and I have really had the opportunity to work and learn from some highly skilled and educated obstetricians with the support of the hospital.”
Dr May said there was a moment when he realised in one day the "cradle to the grave” healthcare of a country GP.
He was visiting his oldest patient, a 105-year-old in a nursing home, only to be called into the labour ward to deliver a baby.
"You know medicine never entered my mind when I went to university to hopefully major in research in mathematics and it's a long story as to how I ended up here, but I believe this is my true vocation ... and I wouldn't change a thing.”
A father of five boys, two of whom he delivered himself, Dr May said he looked forward to spending much more time with his wife Mary and the grandchildren.
This week he was congratulated by some of the many mothers whose children he delivered.
Renae Swarbrick's two children Isla, 4, and Oliver, 2, were welcomed into the world by Dr May.
"I found both Dr May and Mary incredibly supportive the whole way. They have always been so approachable, caring and loving,” Renae said.
"Dr May is such a family man himself, so you feel so comfortable as an expectant mother. What a wonderful doctor he has been. It is such a shame he is retiring, but he has definitely left his imprint on the Coast.”
Dr May also delivered Meegan Bruggemann's two children Eadie, 12 weeks old, and Charlotte, 21 months old.
"He has been really wonderful. He is the ultimate professional - he knows his business, he knows everything he needs to know to care for mothers,” Meegan said.
"As a doctor he is very thorough in what he does and he has a wonderful manner and really puts you at ease and takes away the fear of the unknown when it is your first-time bub especially.”