BIRTH OF A NOTION
Sharing her birth date with Ricky Tomlinson and Victor Young, midwife Julia Allison talks to TV Times about how championing home births changed the lives of thousands
On September, 1939, three babies are born. One grows up in Liverpool, another in London and the third in Hastings. All lead lives that are extraordinary in their own way as they each face the ups and downs of life during post-war poverty to the boom years of the 1980s and beyond.
All three feature in the final edition of C4’s documentary series Born On The Same Day – Ricky Tomlinson, star of the Royle Family and Brookside, midwife Julia Allison and entrepreneur Victor Young.
TV Times caught up with Julia, 76, to discover how she overcame a troubled and rebellious start in life to eventually become the president of the Royal College of Midwives, the most senior midwife in Britain. ‘My father went to fight in World War Two before I was born and didn’t return until I was six,’ she explains. ‘I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me and we had a very difficult relationship.’
Julia worked as a civil servant and, by the time she was 20, had married a man called Barrie and was pregnant with their first child. ‘When Barrie asked for permission to marry me, Dad said, ‘You have my consent but not my approval!’ But it wasn’t because he disapproved of Barrie, it was me, he thought I was a flibbertigibbet – that was his term for it.’
Barrie and Julia, who have been married for 56 years, had two children together and Julia has her children to thank for finding her true calling. After having a terrible time giving birth to her first child in hospital, she vowed ‘Never again.’ Home was were Julia’s heart was for bringing new life into the world. ‘Having my son at home was tremendous,’ she explains. ‘I had such a different and wonderful experience. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a midwife.’ Julia still remembers the day she became a fully-fledged midwife. ‘Apart from my wedding day, the day I got a letter to tell me I had qualified was the happiest day of my life. Being a midwife was what I was meant to do.’ Julia’s work began in a deprived area of Nottingham, but the 1970s brought a change in policy, with women being encouraged to give birth in hospital. The Peel Report, by the Queen’s gynaecologist Sir John Peel, wanted all women to give birth in hospital, claiming home birth was no longer safe for mum or baby.
‘It infuriated me because I knew it wasn’t true. But to challenge the medical establishment I knew I needed more education, so I got a masters degree, which was probably the best thing I ever did.’ Julia went on to write Delivered at Home, which was published in 1995 and became instrumental in changing attitudes and government policy towards home birth. It is still used by midwives today all around the world. And what did her Dad make of his flibbertigibbet going on to such great thing? ‘My Dad died in 1999, but before then we finally got to know each other and spent hours together. I discovered he had a terribly sad life but he had a great perspective on everything and thought of himself as very lucky. I really loved him.’