While many of us are winding down over the festive holidays, there is still much important work to be done. We meet the people who help to deliver at Christmastime.
Welcoming a new life into the world is a wonderful time, and midwives like Lucy McIndoe give up Christmas Day with their families in order to deliver babies with extra-special birthdays.
Lucy, 30, has been a midwife for nine years, she lives in Broughty Ferry and works in the Dundee Midwifery Unit at Ninewells Hospital. For Lucy, the shifts can be a mix of the everyday with a sprinkling of festive fun.
“As far as the work involved, it’s not any different,” she explains, “but I think there is an extra bit of camaraderie between staff and the families. We understand the women would rather be at home with their loved ones so we try to make the day a bit special to make up for this.”
For many mothers – especially those who have older children – Christmas Day babies can result in a mad dash to hospital: “I do recall women on previous Christmases who have remained at home in labour until they have finished their Christmas dinner, or they have waited until after Santa had been to see their other children opening their presents and then arrive at hospital with not much time to spare!”
Lucy and her colleagues know that being in hospital on December 25 wouldn’t be the way most people would choose to celebrate Christmas.
“We try to make things as festive as possible,” she says. “We decorate the unit and have the Christmas tunes on. Last year the inpatient ward gave families the opportunity to write a wish and put it on the tree.”
At the end of her shift, it will be time for Lucy to head home to spend some time with her own family: “When I finish in the evening, I’m planning to have some drinks and food with my husband, and then visit my parents on Boxing Day for a proper celebration.
“On the last Christmas dayshift I worked, when I went home my husband proposed to me – so he is going to have to work hard to top that!” she laughs.
One woman who received the support of the team of midwives at Ninewells this time last year was Gemma Day from Dundee. Gemma, 27, her partner Chris Paton and Chris’s daughter Millie Tonner, received the ultimate Christmas gift when baby Rex was born just a few minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve.
With a due date of Christmas Day, Gemma had been expecting a long wait for her first baby to arrive. “We made no plans for Christmas day or dinner because we just didn’t know what it would hold for us last year,” she says.
In fact, Gemma went into labour on December 22 but it was to be a protracted affair. She recalls: “Eventually I was taken in to the Dundee Midwifery Unit in the early hours of Christmas Eve. What a long day! I lost all concept of time, all I knew was that it was painful and my dream labour team (my mum and Chris) were all that kept me going. Janet, my midwife was also unbelievable.”
She was determined that her son would be born on December 24: “I thought having a birthday then would be marginally better than having one on Christmas Day. Rex was born at 23.53, with just seven minutes to spare.”
Gemma and Rex were the only patients at the DMU on Christmas Day and despite a steady stream of visitors, including Rex’s big sister, grandparents and aunties, Gemma was delighted to be discharged that evening: “We got home around 7pm, ordered a Chinese takeaway and all went swiftly to bed!”
For Gemma, being in the midwifery unit at Christmastime really did feel special: “All the staff and midwives were fantastic and in great spirits. Santa even came to visit Rex minutes after he was born.”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so goes the song, and for postal workers like Paula McLaren, it’s the busiest too.
Mother to two girls aged 8 and 16, Paula, 37, has been a postwoman in Kirriemuir since Christmas 2014, starting in mid-December.
“I was thrown into it,” she says, “but that’s possibly a good thing because if you can handle it at that time of year then you can handle it anytime! It’s not for everyone, but I love it.”
Something else she loves is Christmas: “It’s my favourite time of year. I love the build-up: my tree has been up since November and we do elf on the shelf at home – I get more excited than my wee one.”
Paula delivers to the same houses five days a week, covering parts of Kirriemuir town as well as rural areas. Her shift runs from 8.48am to 2.30pm which helps her to juggle childcare.
Well kitted out in her cosy high-visibility gear, Paula is ready to deliver in all weathers: “I’ve never worked for a company that gives you so much uniform. They make sure we are prepared.”
Although the work is steady throughout the year – largely aided by online shopping and regular sales – Christmas takes things to another level: “Christmas cards are also still a big thing. People send them in big volumes and when I used to empty the post boxes I often did it three or four times throughout the day.”
Paula feels a sense of pride – and pressure – in uniting people with their post: “Leading up to Christmas, we go out of our way to make sure parcels are delivered because we know people are waiting on them. There’s always a good atmosphere in the office and everybody mucks in.”
Because Christmas Eve is a Sunday, Paula will be off, but the delivery office will still be open for people to collect any parcels they have missed.
She also gets a buzz out of delivering letters from Santa – a free annual service offered by Royal Mail: “It’s a fab thing for the kids and it’s great when they see it land on their door mat and it has their name on it.
“I tell my youngest that I work for Santa; I’m like one of his elves. The posties are the feet on the ground because he’s got so much to do.”
Just like her job, Paula has a busy Christmas Day planned, rising early to open presents with the kids followed by a big family meal.
On Boxing Day morning Steven Huggins from Dundee will be one of hundreds of newspaper delivery boys and girls waking bright and early to ensure the news never stops. Steven, 16, who is in S5 at Grove Academy in Broughty Ferry, has been delivering Couriers for more than three years.
He admits: “It can be difficult getting up early but it’s a job and you have to do it. I actually think it’s quite fun doing my rounds in the dark during the winter.”
Since gaining his moped licence in March, Steven buzzes round Broughty Ferry – weather permitting, of course. He does two rounds which means delivering 38 papers a day.
Being up with the lark, Steven doesn’t always see many faces on his rounds: “Some people I deliver to stand looking out of the window waiting for me to drop off their paper.
“Many give me Christmas cards and say thank you for my work throughout the year. I got a card last year thanking me for delivering no matter the weather!
“I have got a great work ethic and I’m quite occupied with school, too. I just see Christmas as another day. It makes you feel good you are making people’s lives easier – it’s quite rewarding.”