Call the Midwife

Well-dressed mid-century midwives on bikes

Well-dressed mid-century midwives on bikes

Yeah. When I bike to work it’s just like this. See below for reality:

Modern midwife's bike commute comes complete with less fashion, and frozen water bottles.

Modern midwife’s bike commute comes complete with considerably less fashion and frozen water bottles.

In my week of funemployment, I ditched Gilmore Girls and, in a half-hearted attempt to “study”, began re-watching the delightful BBC drama, “Call the Midwife.” Undoubtedly, “Call the Midwife” has done more to raise the general public’s understanding of what midwifery is than most midwives could have ever dreamed. And they have gorgeous dutch-style bikes that they ride all over Poplar, the neighborhood of London in which they practice, which makes this bike-riding midwife insanely happy.

“Call the Midwife” is a series that follows four midwives living in a convent, Nonnatus House, in one of the poorest, working-class neighborhoods located by the  bustling docks of East London. The series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, and the order she trained with. Read the tear-inducing, adorable story of the nuns who worked with Jennifer Worth and now watch Call the Midwife every week here.

In the first episode we meet Jenny Lee, a brand new midwife who is sure in her passion, but shaky in her real-world experience. The show doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like abject poverty, infidelity, venereal disease, maternal and infant death, and domestic violence.

Watching Jenny explore her new world I am very much reminded of my own growing pains in learning how to connect with patients, deal with difficult situations, and face the profession head-on. At the end of the first episode, the narrator, Older Jenny, tells the audience, “Midwifery is the stuff of life,” and I found myself tearing up, with the deep understanding that there is something almost ephemeral about midwifery practice and bearing witness to the process of pregnancy, labor, birth, and watching families grow.

It’s definitely easy to romanticize midwifery practice as well, and while there is something amazing about being up at all hours of the day and night and being called away to help a little human into the world, bone-tired exhaustion, fear, and doubt of your own skill, much like the pains of labor, can be easily forgotten. This is a trap that I, and surely, every midwife, is glad that this show has not fallen into. While there is definitely a fair share of sweet, beautiful moments, we also follow the young midwives through their first years of practice and the emotional exhaustion that goes with beginning practice.

The four midwives of the first season, Jenny, young, sweet and naive, Cynthia, sure handed and insightful, Trixie, brash and confident on the outside but unsure at times, and Chummy, quick-witted, practical, and pure of heart, display the kind of friendship and camaraderie that only midwives can understand.  The relationships the midwives develop with each other is one of the greatest joys to watch, and makes me think of all the wonderful women I went to school with, learned with and from, and can call up and laugh about anything with.

I have actually done a pretty decent job of reviewing this past week and know that much more will come with getting right back into practice. In reviewing normal hallmarks of pregnancy as well as common problems, I feel a little trepidation, but I know the knowledge, and more importantly, the judgement and clinical critical thinking is still buried just under the surface.

Most of us in the midwifery community have gobbled up Call the Midwife mostly because it portrays our dear profession in a way that is true to its nature and shows all the beauty and pain that come with choosing this path. If you have yet to watch, the complete series can be found on Netflix.

P.S.: Who dares me to answer my pager calls with, “Nonnatus House, midwife speaking!”

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One Response to Call the Midwife

  1. Emily says:

    I am also a CNM transitioning from family planning/gyn to full scope and I am enjoying reading about your experiences here. I was also planning to re-watch some Call the Midwife as a refresher! Maybe we can compare notes sometime.

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