Are you a fan of the PBS show Call the Midwife?
Every new episode calls for an occasion at my house. My daughters and I must all be available to watch it together, meaning sometimes we’ve had to wait a few days from airing to view it. Usually we enjoy British food; scones, shortbread or Digestive Biscuits, and a cup of tea with milk and sugar must be enjoyed!
Most episodes bring a few tears of joy, lots of awwws and sometimes a bit of sorrow. After each episode ends we have wonderful discussions about life, womanhood, and sometimes topics that can be difficult to discuss with teen daughters, such as birth control, rape, teen mothers, birth defects and abuse. It has been a catalyst for many good talks with my girls.
But I have an extra special reason to enjoy the program.
I was that baby born at home, in the 1960’s, in Great Britain, with a national health midwife and doctor present. Not in the east end of London like the television show, but with enough similarities to help me to imagine what life was like for my Mom at the time of my birth. There was never any question that I’d be born at home, only women with complications or lots of money gave birth in hospital.
My Mom had the dreaded enema, took sips of “gas” to help her with the pain and had a nurse arrive in the dashing uniform of the day.
As I watch the Nonnatus House midwives deliver babies and care for young mothers I can imagine my Mom as the young mother, lovingly attended. In the ensuing decades since my birth we have gained much in knowledge and technology regarding birth, and made wonderful, lifesaving medical advancements.
But we’ve also lost some things too; like the idea that a healthy pregnant woman can gave birth at home or with few interventions. The pre-sonogram midwives represented in the program had the skills to deliver surprise breech births or twins, skills that have not been learned by many young modern practitioners. And who would consider a cup of tea, a biscuit and encouraging words adequate to calm a mom in early labor rather than an epidural or narcotics?
By in large we’ve forgotten the long standing, centuries old, tradition of women being supported at birth by Grannies, Aunties and sisters. By working as a doula I, and many other women, are trying to help revive the belief that birth is normal and natural and that women benefit greatly from the support of another women for support during this life changing event.
Thankfully I don’t have to ride my bicycle to help at a birth and enemas have long been packed away as standard birth care, but the principles of having a circle of women to support you as you birth is near and dear to my heart. And I’d love to make you cup of tea, whisper encouragement and stay by your side when you are in labor!