Master midwife Joan Bowen-Ottey recalls 1,000 deliveries

July 16, 2019
Welcome to Cold Spring.
Welcome to Cold Spring.

Retired midwife Joan Bowen-Ottey is the mother of famed Olympian Merlene Joyce Ottey, but to people of Cold Spring and other communities in Hanover, she's known for delivering more than 1,000 babies.

Among the children, Bowen-Ottey single-handedly delivered 12 pairs of twins during her time working in the parish with the Ministry of Health for more than 30 years.

Midwives are often the ones on the frontline, administering the delivery of medical care to expectant mothers.

The noble profession has been around for centuries, and Bowen-Ottey worked to promote contraceptive services and perform basic cancer screenings, such as Pap smears and breast examinations.

She gave birth to seven children of her own and recalls that she would have delivered more than 1,000 babies up to 1994, when she retired from the government service as a registered midwife, after she was enlisted in 1963.

Bowen-Ottey said she knows personally all the people in Cold Spring who are under 25, simple because they are among those safely delivered by her gifted hands.

She told the WESTERN STAR that in the past, she would get to the homes of the expectant mothers by foot, because motor vehicles were not as frequent then.

"I walk from here to Cascade, but I operated from the Great Valley Health Centre - nearly every clinic in Hanover I have worked there - and even after working at the clinic all day, if somebody comes for me about an expectant mother in these parts, I was always ready to move," she said. "I walked from here to Forrest, Axe and Adze, Success, right down to the corner of Gurney's Mount. I walked with my kit on my side doing home deliveries."

Bowen-Ottey said that she doesn't see any home deliveries happening now.

"Maybe it's because there are no midwives in the community. I use to conduct clinics every week on a Wednesday," she said, noting that she covered all aspects of care, including child health and family planning.

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