While thumbing through books trying to decide which one to buy, Jennifer Worth’s Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times had me wondering what it would be like to deliver babies in post WWII London, among the slums and bomb craters. As I opened the book and read the first sentence, I knew I was hooked. What I didn’t know is how encouraged I would be after reading it, and that it would bring me some much needed inspiration.
Chapter 1; pg 9
“ Why did I ever start this? I must have been mad! There were dozens of other things I could have been a model, airhostess, or a ship’s stewardess. The ideas run through my head, all glamorous, highly paid jobs. Only an idiot would choose to be a nurse. And now a midwife…” – Jennifer Worth
I love the honesty in this opening sentence and throughout the entire book. I think it is safe to say that I, and most nurses, would be lying if they claimed to have never experienced these same thoughts. However, as you read the stories in this memoir, you understand that while nursing is very hard, it is so rewarding and it is also important to our communities and women in general.
This book is unfortunately a reminder of some of the struggles women have endured for decades. Worth works with prostitutes and teens, women who are forced to give their babies for adoption and live in secret, and women who are in abusive relationships. These midwives deliver babies in some of the worst conditions imaginable, and they do so with the utmost respect for their patients. As you read these stories, you go on a journey with Worth. You begin to understand that some of her most difficult nursing experiences become some of the most rewarding times in her life. She touches many lives that if not for her and the other midwives, would have certainly been forgotten.
While reading this memoir we are also learning about Jennifer Worth’s life and motivation. At first glance some people (even women) might see nursing as a career that has kept women in a place of servitude. I think it is important to realize, and you can see it in this memoir, that nursing has enabled women for many years to have a career of their own and a means to support themselves, and it continues to do so. Nursing has also aided greatly in the advancement of women’s health. While I think we are still behind, if it wasn’t for these midwives and leaders in the nursing profession, many medical advancements would not have been possible. Even at that time, in the early 1950’s, male doctors (sadly) considered women’s health to be a waste of time and money.
I truly enjoyed this memoir and would recommend it to anyone, especially those working in health care. Know that it is gritty, raw, and at times might be a little too grotesque for the laymen, but as a nurse I truly appreciated her candor. If you choose to read this memoir you will learn a lot about the strength of women and if you look close enough you might even notice a familiar phrase, “Hello Luvvy.”