Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hey Ho, Like a Rolling Stone, it’s Back to Work I Go!

Like all good things my brief sojourn in Kippford eventually came to an end and it was back to downtown Bolton, and a house completely re-wired, but with every surface covered in what appears to be self replacing dust, a leaking roof, no central heating, and during what was the coldest spell of the year. It was so cold in the house that the first night seriously contemplated sleeping in front of the lounge fire. I can remember when my children were young, living in a house without central heating, where if it was freezing outside, the (single glazed) windows would freeze on the inside. It was a case of putting another blanket on the children’s beds, but there was never a queue for the bathroom in the morning!

Children and families were the focus on my partial return to work on Thursday. Although not back until the Friday, I popped in to open our Midwifery Conference, which took as its theme, ‘Supporting Mothers, Supporting Families’. It was interesting to reflect for a moment on how things were changing in parts of the UK. For example, I knew that the UK birth rate has continued to rise year on year, but I didn’t know that 25% of births in 2011 were to women who were originally born overseas but had moved to the UK. Poland remains the most common country of birth for immigration mothers but China is now also in the top 10 are Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Somalia, Germany, South Africa, and Lithuania.

So while the number of births in 2011 rose to 723,913 the number of babies born to British women fell  the increase in births resulted solely from a rise in births to non-UK born mothers. Foreign-born females now account for 19% of the population of women of child-bearing age in Britain and according to the Office for National Statistics; they tend to have higher fertility. Having said that its strange then that the Total Fertility Rate for immigrant mothers (the average number of children a group of women is likely to have over their lifetime) dropped slightly to 2.29 while that of British women rose to 1.90.

This not so for all British women though. Britain’s biggest family, the Radford’s, got a little larger 6 weeks ago when baby number 16 was born! Mum Sue, (aged 37) gave birth to baby Caspar in just 16 minutes, bringing her total number of children to an impressive 16. This self sufficient family (they don’t live on benefits) live up the road from me in Morecambe in a 9 bedroom home.

They spend £250 each week on food, consuming 3 loaves of bread, 2 boxes of cereal and 18 pints of milk per day. This already large family has also been joined by their first grandchild after Sophie (the eldest child) gave birth to baby Daisy. Mind you The Radford’s are nothing compared to the Chana family from Baktwang, India, where father Ziona Chana has 94 children by  different 39 wives. Mr Chana, says he is a ‘lucky man’ lives in a 100-room, 4 story home with another 14 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren.

Sadly, the Chana family children are unlikely to be around as long as the Radfords children. 33% of babies born in 2012 in the UK are expected to live to 100, according to a new report also published by the Office for National Statistics. They suggest that more than 95,000 of those who turn 65 this year can expect to celebrate their 100th birthday in 2047. Indeed, the number of centenarians has steadily increased - from 600 in 1961 to nearly 14,500 by the end of this year. And more of these will be women than men. In 2012 there are 826,000 babies aged less than one year. Although more are boys - 423,000 compared to 403,000 girls - the survival odds are greater for females. Women have higher life expectancies than men at every age.

And as for me, well I am the eldest of 7 children. And I have 5 children of my own (3 girls, 2 boys) and 6 grandchildren (4 boys and 2 girls) all of whom I love to bits! And as Sir Michael Phillip Jagger, might say,  Monday will soon be here, and goodness it’s great to be alive!