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Lay minister assists at hotel birth of Afghan refugee’s baby

07 January 2022


Salma with her father, Salahuddin, and Katharine Crowsley

Salma with her father, Salahuddin, and Katharine Crowsley

FORTUNATELY, there was room at the inn when an Afghan refugee gave birth unexpectedly in her hotel room in Buckinghamshire.

Katharine Crowsley, a volunteer worker at the hotel in Milton Keynes, found herself acting as a midwife as her baby, Salma, made her sudden arrival into the world.

“I thought, ‘She’s probably got a while to go.’ I’d just call the ambulance and she’d soon be whisked off to hospital — but it ended up being a lot more. When we got to her room, she was obviously in a much later stage of labour,” Ms Crowsley, a lay pioneer minister in Oxford diocese, said. She acts as a co-ordinator for the charity Welcome MK at the hotel which accommodates people who fled the Taliban takeover of Kabul earlier this year.

There was a delay in connecting with the ambulance service, and, at the moment the operator answered, the baby arrived. “They were asking me how frequently the contractions were coming, and I said ‘No, the baby has been born.’ So they then started going through the checklist to make sure mother and baby were OK.”

The mother, Sana, and another Afghan woman who had come to help, did not speak English. The father, Salahuddin, acted as interpreter, but Afghan tradition meant that he could not be present at the birth; so Ms Crowsley found herself in a chain, passing help and instructions in and out of the room.

“There was that amusing moment when someone delivers that great line from every film involving a birth: demanding lots of hot water and towels. Of course, the hotel had plenty of both. The baby was obviously healthy,” Ms Crowsley, who has three adult daughters of her own, said. “We wrapped her up and made sure they were both warm and comfortable. I expected the ambulance to turn up at any moment, but it was 40 minutes before it arrived. I wasn’t panicked; you just have to keep calm and get on with it.

“She’s a beautiful baby, and, of course, she is British, as she was born here. She has a bright future ahead of her; the opportunities here for her are very positive.

“Another baby is due in the next few weeks, but I do hope that one is born in a hospital.”

Welcome MK is affiliated to Afghan Welcome, a coalition of charities and civil society groups assisting refugees transition to a new life in Britain. It has recently launched an appeal for clothing at here, for children who arrived here with only the clothes on their backs or some hand luggage, and are to experience their first British winter.

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