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Ulaanbaatar - For as long as she can remember, Oyunchimeg has always wanted to be a health professional.  She had her sights set on becoming a midwife and working at the First Maternity Hospital, Ulaanbaatar’s premier maternity facility. “I studied midwifery for 4 years at the School of Nursing,” she shares, “After graduation I was sent to the Ulaanbaatar City Health department and I was one of only four of those selected to work at the First Maternity Hospital.”

Today, 36 years later, she is still there and continues to do what she loves. She shows visitors the log books into which she has faithfully recorded each and every birth she has assisted, complete with details of the mothers and the newborns. To date, there are amazing 17,100 babies that she has delivered into the world. To date, there are amazing 17,100 babies that she has delivered into the world. UNFPA Mongolia has been watching Oyunchimeg's impressive career since 2014 and has featured her in several publications.

What has kept her in this line of work for over three decades? “My profession is a very joyful one as it is about bringing happiness to families,” Oyunchimeg says, “Often, people greet me on the street and show me their child, saying, “This is the baby you delivered!”  It never fails to make me proud of what I do.”

She hopes to impart this sense of pride to young midwives, and to send this message to those who are considering a career in health services, encouraging them to take up midwifery. She fears that the profession has not been very attractive to young people of late. “It is hard work,” she admits, “And it entails a great deal of responsibility. After all, you are looking after 2 lives – the mother and the baby. “

She also feels that new graduates are discouraged by the lack of job opportunities in the capital city, and periods of unemployment may lead to a loss of skills.  On the other hand, if there are opportunities for midwives outside of Ulaanbaatar, young midwives posted in ‘soums’ (Mongolia’s district administrations) witness fewer births and thus don’t have enough opportunity to hone their skills. There also seems to be a general lack of appreciation for the importance of the profession.

UNFPA Mongolia is currently working with the government to help upgrade the job definition of midwives, to make sure that this and practice of the profession is up to international standards. This is essential not only in raising the quality of midwifery in the country but also to empower midwives to become primary health care providers in communities and also to attract a new generation of midwives who might follow in Oyunchimeg’s footsteps.

“I’m nearing retirement,” she says, “But then I don’t think I will stop soon. I’m very proud to have been the ‘umbilical mother’ of so many children, and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.”  Showing no signs of slowing down, Oyunchimeg continues to seek improvement in her profession. She attends as many training opportunities as possible, including an extensive month-long practical skills course that took her to France in 2014. “I am grateful to have had the chance to learn so much and to have worked with so many bright people,” she says.

When asked what advice she can give to younger midwives in Mongolia, Oyunchimeg simply says, “Work from your heart. Approach each and every expectant mother with empathy and look after the newborn like you would your own. That’s what it takes.”