Mama Joyce delivers - Community midwife helps in delivery of more than 300 babies
She was merely a baby herself when she first helped with the birth of a child, but Cynthia Bryan-Francis' delivery of more than 300 babies without any formal training in midwifery has earned her the moniker “Saviour” and the respect of people from all walks of life.
The devoted Seventh-day Adventist delivered her first baby at just 10-years-old after witnessing her grandmother perform a number of these proceedings.
Bryan-Francis recalls how her grandmother would have her sit on the bed and watch her when she made house calls. Then one day, she turned to her and told her she wanted her to start doing the deliveries instead of just being a spectator.
“She said to me ‘Joyce, you are going to do the delivery today, I am only going to come and examine’,” recounted the 76-year- old Majestic Garden resident who goes by the name Mama Joyce.
Bryan-Francis’s first patient was a “big woman” who eventually delivered a boy with the guidance of her pubescent hands.
“I just go to the house and they put on the warm water and I get the Castor oil and the scissors, the binding wire to tie the baby’s navel string, the mother’s underwear and her private clothes and I get my soap and my bath and my Dettol and all those things,” said Bryan-Francis.
Getting the baby’s shoulder out was a bit challenging, and so too was delivering the placenta. But after crossing these two hurdles, Bryan-Francis was able to get her first patient cleaned up and dressed, to the satisfaction of her grandmother who commended her when she eventually came in to do her examinations of the mother and baby.
Since that time, Bryan-Francis has helped to deliver numerous babies, including the last of her 15 children.
“I go to Mall Road in the height of war to deliver baby. I deliver baby at Newlands. I deliver baby off Spanish Town Road. I even go into Jubilee to deliver too,” she said.
The midwife had to eventually deliver her last child herself, when she was unable to get someone to attend to her when she was ready to give birth at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston.
“I go to Jubilee to have my last son, because they say when you reach certain age, you mustn’t stay at home and you must attend the doctor,” she explained.
“When I go there, my baby is coming and the lady beside me baby is coming and when pain take me, I gripped the bed and when I see her baby coming, I say, ‘come little closer’ and I catch her ‘nightie’ tail back and front and I said, ‘hear what you do, take time and make the baby come down in the nightie’,” she said.
“That time, pain a grip me too you know, but I said, God is good,” said Bryan-Francis as she added that she did a ‘tie off’ after that 15th child.
“I don’t believe in abortion and this birth control thing. You know in the old time days, we didn’t believe in those things,” she said in explaining the reason for having so many children.
Bryan-Francis also had to deliver the baby for one of her daughters at Victoria Jubilee Hospital when she visited her and realised she was having difficulty giving birth.
“Before I step out there, I born four babies,” said the mother who explained that a few of the pregnant women kept on asking her to help them give birth, when the officials were not there.
She said that although what she did might be considered unethical, she was driven by her need to help safeguard the lives of these mothers and their babies when they were unable to get anyone to attend to them.
It was this same sense of duty that motivated her to deliver the baby of a mentally ill woman in her community last November even though she tries not to do too many deliveries these days given her advanced years.
Instead, the senior citizen, who was also a higgler for most of her life, spends her time raising poultry and adopting to her life as a newlywed.
“The children that I helped to deliver them ever a look for me. Some of them gone to foreign and some of them turn doctor and nurse over there,” said Bryan-Francis.
Several of those who still live in Jamaica visit or call her from time to time.
This includes one prominent member of the Jamaica Defence Force who told The Sunday Gleaner that he was very grateful for the contribution the senior citizen made to his life.
The soldier, who did not wish to be named because he had no clearance to speak to the media, said that Mama Joyce is well respected because of the contribution she has made.
“I am an old man now, I am a big man and she delivered me,” said the man who is now in his 50s.
Several of the residents of Majesty Gardens also had high praises for Bryan-Francis who they said helped them navigate one of the most important periods of their lives.
“She is good. If they call her and she cannot manage, she tell them to go to Jubilee,” said 76-year-old Vera Miller whose breached baby Bryan-Francis helped to deliver.