The midwives in “Call the Midwife” say ”the mothers are the brave ones” and “they are why we are here,” which is the essence of the midwife philosophy. They are phrases my partners and I utter every day as we help care for women. The word midwife actually translates to mean with woman.
As I watched and enjoyed “Call the Midwife,” I was struck by how much about being a midwife is still the same as portrayed in the series. The joy and pain of pregnancy and childbirth is a universal experience that cuts across all demographics. The characters in the show are trained first as nurses then as midwives; the same as nurse-midwives here at Henry Ford. We still battle some of the same problems as the characters in the show face – prematurity, disparities in care based on income and race, even tobacco use. We still worry about the risks to the mother and baby with toxemia or pre-eclampsia. We still put women on their side or hands and knees to facilitate a delivery.
Some things have thankfully changed. No one delivers babies without gloves. We have electronic devices called Doppler’s to listen to a baby’s heartbeat which are very simple and accurate compared to the pinnard (the wooden device the midwife puts up against the mother’s tummy to hear the heart beat amplified, as shown in the episode). Although, I do have a pinnard because it’s so cool that it actually works.
Advances in technology have helped improve outcomes for mothers and babies. Still it is the individual woman that must go through labor with me assisting and guiding her. I’ll admit, I’m hooked on “Call the Midwife” and cannot wait for the second installment.
Elizabeth (Tish) Roeske , CNM
Staff Certified Nurse Midwife, Henry Ford Health System
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