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Sep. 7, 2023
Akinisie Qumaluk loves her small and skilful hands.
Over her long career as an Inuk midwife in the North, they were the tools she needed to help babies find their way into the world.
“We always make sure that the baby’s head is down,” said Qumaluk.
“But if the baby’s head is up … I was taught to turn babies … gently, gently guiding that head down, down to where it is supposed to be.”
The 65-year-old has delivered hundreds of babies over her 36-year career as a midwife in Puvirnituq, a small Inuit village of 2,100 people in the northern Quebec region of Nunavik.
In 1986, the community opened the first midwifery clinic in the North at the Inuulitsivik Health Centre, offering women the chance to give birth locally instead of flying south to bigger hospitals. Research shows the clinic has been a success, but the model has not been widely replicated and many pregnant women across the North must still make long journeys, often alone.