By Megan O’Connor, Student Midwife
One of the first tasks put to most midwifery students is to
define the term “midwife.” My
classmates and I considered the word both as a noun and as a verb. This led to other explorations of
midwifery as a philosophy, as a discipline, and as a practice. Most of us found that the answers were
more complex than anticipated.
Sometimes we got a little lost in what felt like a morass of subtle
distinctions and semantics. We
found some clarity in the truism that the root meaning of the word is “with
woman.” Few would contest
the idea that presence is at the core what it means to midwife.
The most recent episode of Call The Midwife reminded me of
all this. Jenny Lee obviously
serves as midwife to Julia Masterson.
But just as Julia is giving birth, we also see Sister Julienne
“midwifing” Mr. Masterson into grandfatherhood and through death. Sister Bernadette does a neat bit of
midwifery when she gentles a young girl out of her fear of the X-ray machine by
promising to accompany her all the way through. For me, the most touching example of midwifery in this
episode was the kind care given by Fred to Sister Monica Joan. He was respectful and willing to do
whatever it took to make her feel safe – even if it meant climbing through a
second floor window – with seemingly effortless patience. He simply met her where she was,
literally and figuratively.
Perhaps this episode has captured the reason why midwifery
feels so universal. It's because
in our best moments, we are midwives in spirit, no matter what our employment.
By Nancy Kraus, LM
The themes this week were facing our fears and unrequited
love; poor Sister Bernadette had to deal with both of these issues
simultaneously in this episode.
We’ve watched the chemistry between Sister Bernadette and
the doctor develop over the season and seen her struggle with this attraction
to a man which is forbidden as a religious member of a convent. I keep rooting
for her to abandon her vocation, leave the convent, and marry the poor widowed
doctor. But we see her resolve to overcome her worldly affection and remain a
nun. At the same time, she faces the unexpected diagnosis of tuberculosis which
in the crowded slums of the East End of London in the early 20th century had
often been a death sentence. Sister Bernadette at least can benefit from modern
medicine and rest in a sanitarium. Her lungs may heal, but can that respite
heal her breaking heart?
Frank faces his fear of heights, and with Frank’s help,
Sister Monica Jane faces her fear of gamma radiation.
This episode also deals with the topic of unwed motherhood,
a social stigma at the time, and again with the loss caused by the scourge of
tuberculosis. Only one daughter in a family of six children survives the
disease along with her father; their inability to express their emotions to
each other after they lose their loved ones leads to estrangement as adults. On
his deathbed, her shameful pregnancy and his congestive heart failure force
them to acknowledge their love for each other, and they reconcile. Midwife and
nurse Jennie is a catalyst in their healing.
Fear and love, universal human emotions.
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