I loved “Downton Abbey” so I tuned in last night for the series premier of “Call the Midwife” on PBS. The new British series takes a look at midwives (some nuns, some just nurses) in the 1950s in East End, London.
The nurse/nuns work in a poor area where working-class/poor women are just having baby after baby.
While heading out on a call in a poor neighborhood, the nun tells the nurse there are between 80 to 100 babies born each month in Poplar alone and as soon as one baby leaves the pram another is ready to take his place.
Throughout the show, you just see babies all over the place: Babies in prams on the street next the house or on prams in the hallway; Toddlers peeing on floors; Big brothers and sisters caring for the little ones.
At one point the dad asked for the nurse to give him the afterbirth so he could get more food on the dole for the family.
One mother in the series had 24 kids and is pregnant again. They think the baby is stillborn but turns out to be alive and just pre-mature, The mother goes into shock and starts to bleed out. She doesn’t want to part with the preemie to let the baby go to the hospital. They end up leaving the preemie with the mother and come every day to check on him. The mother is using capillary action in a glass straw to feed the preemie drops of breast milk and is kangarooing the baby in her nightshirt to keep him warm with her body – two techniques practiced now for preemies.
The blonde nurse (I don’t know her name yet) says, “The mothers are the brave ones. Baby after baby in abominable conditions. “
As a mother I think we can relate and also not relate to this show. We’ve all been through childbirth and know how it feels to worry about a safe delivery and the baby being healthy. But at least mothers today know they have modern medicine to help them and the baby if something goes wrong. I delivered twice with midwives, and I think they do a wonderful job. However, my midwives had a lot more to help them just in case than these ladies do on the show.
My other main thought on the show is I am so glad women know more about their bodies and how they get pregnant. Women can and many, if not most in the U.S., do control when they are getting pregnant. (In one scene the nurse asks when the mother’s last period was and the dad says she hasn’t had one in years going from pregnancy to nursing to pregnancy.) I am glad women can be in charge of when to bring life into the world and not just every time they have sex end up pregnant. (I am waiting for conflict on the show of the nurses who are not nuns telling the patients about birth control.)
I am afraid we are going to see a lot of heartache on the show — stillborns, miscarriages, overworked, trapped mothers and dead mothers — but it does make me grateful to be a mom today and not then.
So did you watch the show? What did you think? What were your big take-aways from the show? Will you watch the show in the future?