Hatched, and matched, under the watchful eye of nurse Sylvia

·4 min read
Submitted by Janice Rowe
Submitted by Janice Rowe

A midwife might be lucky enough to have a baby she delivered grow up to become famous, but Sylvia Patey would tell you that sometimes the not-so-famous ones stand out just as much.

Patey, formerly of England but now living in Newfoundland, had her slight brush with fame in 1991 when she delivered Louis Tomlinson, a member of the boy band One Direction. He was the last baby she delivered in England before she moved to St. Anthony in 1994 to work with Grenfell Regional Health Services.

But she is perhaps equally proud of another milestone baby — the first one she delivered in Newfoundland — whose wedding she recently attended.

Allan Rowe and Katelyn Blackwood were married Oct. 24 at the Salvation Army St. John's Citadel, while Patey watched the nuptials over Zoom.

"I remember thinking how proud his mother must be, and I thought, 'How proud I am.' This was the baby that was the fruits of his mother's labour, literally," said Patey.

"But he was the fruits of my labour, professionally. And that was very special to see him grown and married."

White Willow Photography
White Willow Photography

Helped birth a boy for the band

Patey has lost count of how many babies she has delivered throughout her midwifery career, but she estimates them to be in the hundreds. Patey, 74, retired from a 50-year nursing career in 2015.

"Every delivery I've ever attended, I absorb myself into that moment, into that very special, very intimate moment in that family's experience," said Patey. "And I take it as a privilege to be able to bring a baby safely into the world and hand it into the arms of its mother."

While they all may be special to Patey, she obviously delights in having delivered a famous performer, although she didn't know at the time when One Direction started making music that she'd had a hand in bringing one of the group members into the world. A phone call from her daughter in England surprised her with that news.

"When he became famous, I didn't realize at first that this was one of my babies," said Patey, of Tomlinson.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Chance meeting

It also took some time for Patey to connect the dots with the family of her first Newfoundland baby.

More than twenty years passed before Patey met up with Allan Rowe's mother, a Salvation Army minister, Major Janice Rowe, at a church camp in central Newfoundland.

The meeting happened almost by accident, as Patey was asked to sing a solo and Janice Rowe was asked to accompany her on piano.

It was Rowe who put it all together that the British woman named Sylvia for whom she would be playing was the same Sylvia who was a midwife at the hospital in St. Anthony in 1994.

"She instantly recognized me," said Patey. "I didn't recognize Janice because women look so different when they're in labour."

"Sure enough, this was Janice Rowe, mother of the first baby [I delivered] in Newfoundland."

Through the blur of labour and delivery, Janice Rowe said she remembers only a few key things, including the fact that baby Allan represented a first for the midwife who'd helped her through the birth of her first child.

"When she held him in her arms, I remember her telling us that it was her first Canadian baby," recalled Janice Rowe.

"And so we took a picture of her and included it in his baby book. We thought that was pretty special."

Submitted by Sylvia Patey
Submitted by Sylvia Patey

On the beat, not making beats

For his part, 26-year-old Allan Rowe might marvel at all the fuss about his birth, especially when compared with his U.K. counterpart who's known worldwide.

But he's respectful of the shared bond between his mother and the midwife who delivered him.

"It's quite the incredible story," said Allan Rowe. "I feel I play a bit of a small role in it. I think I'm just the by-product of it all."

Other than on the day of Allan Rowe's birth, he and Patey met only once, briefly, a few years ago.

Allan Rowe said he finds it remarkable that being his parents' first child and Sylvia's first Canadian baby has connected the two women to such an extent.

"Obviously, that's a shared experience of firsts together."

Rowe said his chosen career as a member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary also helps him to understand the connections people can make through the course of their work.

"I can kind of relate to Sylvia when she says how much of yourself you invest in people's lives in one particular moment in time," said Allan Rowe.

"I feel I do a bit of that in my own job and so, yes, 26 years later, and you're able to have another moment with the same people, it's pretty incredible."

If Rowe and his new wife do have children at some point, Sylvia Patey said she knows she won't be able to play a part, since she's retired and no longer licensed to practice midwifery. However, she hopes that they do have the advantage of having a midwife with them.

"I certainly would be very excited for them," said Patey.

Submitted by Sylvia Patey
Submitted by Sylvia Patey