Call the Midwife

Call The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard TimesCall The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Call the Midwife” was a fast read for me! I borrowed this in e-reader format from our local library and finished it after just a couple of days.

A very realistic portrayal of what childbirth entailed in the 1950’s in the East End of London. Parts of it are shocking and it’s hard to believe that conditions like these, even as recent as the 50’s, existed…. but post-war London had not yet recovered from years of bombings and poverty.

I loved Conchita and her husband! what a great story. There are several heartbreaking stories with circumstances that would be handled differently today, but in the 1950’s there was little recourse for much choice. There is a story of a premature delivery during the dreaded London fog when the ambulance had to be called:

“…a policeman had to cycle in front of the ambulance to guide it – hence the delay of nearly three hours. However, a registrar, a houseman, and a nurse from the obstetrics department had been sent by the hospital.

Everything happens at once, so they say, and within minutes a GP (general practioner) also arrived on foot. God bless him, I thought. He looked exhausted. He had been working all day and all night, and very likely most of the night before, yet he had the professionalism and the courtesy to apologise for being late.”

(Warning: there is chapter that is not very tasteful as it graphically describes the life of a prostitute. In my estimation the scene described would be better left with far less detail!)

This is *not* a light, happy-go-lucky “beach” read, as many of the stories are realistically portrayed and there are several sad situations. But it does hold your interest and I found the author’s portrayal of the nuns who trained and worked with her to be sympathetic, amusing, and respectful of their chosen profession and hard work. Attitudes toward midwifery over the years had slowly changed…

“In the 1860’s the Council of Obstetrics estimated that, out of around 1,250,000 births annually in Britain, about 10 percent were attended by a doctor. Some researchers put the figure as low as 3 per cent. Therefore, all the rest – well over one million women annually – were attended by women with no training, or by no one at all, other than a friend or relative….

…the courageous, hard-working, dedicated women eventually won. In 1902 the Midwives Act was passed, and in 1903 the Central Midwives Board issued their first certificate to a trained midwife. Fifty years later I was proud to be a successor of these wonderful women, and to be able to offer my trained skills to the long-suffering, cheerful, resilient women of the London Docklands.”


About Theresa

I live in an old farmhouse in upstate New York (no, *not* the big city!) in the country with my family, two dogs, two calves, and two horses. I love to cross stitch, quilt, read, and look at needlework blogs :) and I love coffee *and* tea!
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4 Responses to Call the Midwife

  1. CGrace says:

    I loved, loved, loved this book. I read it earlier this summer and enjoyed it so much. I think it’s always fun when there’s another blogger that enjoyed the same book I did! 🙂

  2. Oh, did you review it? Would love to read what you thought of it. So glad you enjoyed this one too! it was so interesting to me!

  3. hopeinbrazil says:

    I got this when it was free for Kindle, but haven’t read it yet. When everyone was raving about the BBC series I watched the first episode. It was very realistic and gritty. Too much for my tastes. Thanks for the review of the book so I know what to expect.

    • I actually didn’t know it was a BBC series until after I read the book. The scene I referenced is skippable (i.e. you have plenty of warning for what’s ahead!) The harsh conditions though, even for those recent times, were pretty eye opening. When you read about the women that were merely trying to keep their children out of the workhouses, you get a better understanding of the terrible choices they had to make.

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