Tomorrow is our monthly book club meeting, and I just realized I had not written a post on last month’s book, Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. It’s not a book I would have thought of reading otherwise (mostly as I hadn’t heard of it before), but it was an enjoyable and fascinating read.
It is a view not only into the world of midwifery, but also into the lives of people living in postwar London Docklands. Worth recounts the stories of a wide variety of people, both the nuns (she lives and works at the convent of St. Raymund Nonnatus) and the women they serve and their families. There are a number of memorable characters, especially Conchita Warren and her very large family.
It is also a view into a historical era that exists now only in books and in memories. The slums have since been torn down and families moved elsewhere, ending a way of life that was very hard but that had its positive aspects also. The practice of medicine has changed a great deal since then also, so some of the practices of the midwives in the book seem strange to us in the 21st century. (I had never heard of boiling urine before, to test for pre-eclampsia.)
But it is the human aspects, not the medical aspects, that really make the book. And human nature does not change, so there are still husbands and wives with all sorts of good and bad relationships (not to mention extramarital relationships, though these no longer cause the kind of scandal they did then), and their children bring out sometimes the best in them, and sometimes far from the best.
One of the women in our book club wished she had been allowed to have a midwife deliver her child. (In the state where she lived, it was not legal, at least not at that time.) Others of us were very glad to have given birth in a well-equipped hospital. I am also glad, though, that these days women (in our society, anyway) are given choices about where and how to give birth.
The idea of giving birth at home does not appeal to me the way it does to some women. But I must say, the midwives in this book all sound like wonderful women whom I would have appreciated for their compassion and good humor as well as their professional knowledge and abilities.