Calling the Midwife

January 5, 2016

Written by Katie Temes ‘17
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For many of us, winter break means catching up on sleep, catching up with family, and catching up with our favorite television series.

Confession: last year, after miraculously surviving the first semester of nursing school, I spent the first two days of my break in sweatpants, on my parents’ couch. Such decompression is absolutely necessary. During finals week, YSN students push off sleep and self-care, only to reach the holidays looking forward to the single most relevant gift: pajamas (which you should expect us to wear for up to a week).

At the very least, there are some pertinent television series for us nursing students to watch, so we may appease our over-achieving, self-conscious minds. A favorite of mine, which premiered as a Christmas special this year, is Call the Midwife, a series about a 1920s British convent in which the nuns serve as local midwives to London’s poorest immigrants.

The show tells the stories of a brave group of midwives, who ride their bikes to women’s homes and do all they can to provide a safe and clean environment for childbirth. These midwives are heroes – and their trials and tribulations remind us how recently it was that a normal birth could so quickly become dangerous. Especially in a time and place that lacked the technology we have today and our increased access to hospitals.

But what is also wonderful about this show is that it reminds me that all over the world, women still struggle to find safe and accessible places to birth their babies. The midwives demonstrate a spirit of perseverance and a kind of bravery that I strive to live up to when I am a midwife. They are intuitively aware of the social factors that affect a family’s health – discrimination, socioeconomic status, isolation from one’s extended family and care network. The midwives intervene – they make several visits to a woman’s home prior to her labor, where they assess the cleanliness of her home, the food available in her panty, and the relationship she has with her husband.

In the high-tech setting in which we are trained today, providers may forget the importance of assessing these factors. We rely on interventions that address emergent problems, rather than the tools of perception, observation, and an instinct that something in the family is just not right.

So, this break, I may be vegg-ing, but with a little inspiration courtesy of the midwives of London’s east-end, I’ll also be thinking about what we can learn for today’s women.