April 2, 2013

Call the Midwife

I loved watching this BBC program and so decided to pick up the book.

What a great storyteller Jennifer Worth is. Having watched the show and been introduced to many of the characters in her life, the book came alive for me.

The stories are both heart-warming and heart-breaking. I also loved Jennifer's honesty about herself and how she grew as a person through her experiences as a midwife in the East End of London.

I found the love and care for each baby born, a beautiful thing to read.

One story in particular was of a premature baby, who Jennifer thinks is dead on delivery, thus placing him into a kidney dish and leaving him on the dresser. A short time later someone notices he's moving! The love and care taken to assure this baby's survival is extraordinary. Jennifer worries she may have drown the baby and feels, in her words,

"I felt desperately guilty. The cord should have been clamped five minutes earlier. If he dies now, it will be all my fault, I thought. I had discarded this tiny living soul to drown in a dish of blood and water. I should have looked more closely. I should have thought.

But wallowing in self-reproach gets us nowhere..."

She continues by clamping and cutting the cord, and wrapping him in a cloth. So small, like a doll. His head the size of a ping pong ball, yet everything was in place, his tiny hands and feet, tiny ears and eyes and nose.  This little boy was the 25th child (yes you read that right!) for his mother and father and they treated him as if he was their first. I just keep thinking as I read this story...God makes beautiful things.

Jennifer as a young midwife
Jennifer also shares stories of others at the convent where the midwives lived. Nuns, fellow midwives, the handyman, the cook and so on. One midwife is my favorite, her name was Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne, but she insisted everyone just call her Chummy. Jennifer describes her on first meeting her:

"I thought it was a bloke in drag. Six foot two inches tall, with shoulders like a front-row forward and size eleven feet, her parents had spent a fortune trying to make her more feminine, but to no effect."

Chummy turned out to be the sweetest, most kind girl and everyone who knew her, loved her.

Bike riding was essential for a midwife, as this was the way they got around to their patients.Chummy didn't know how to ride a bike, so they had to teach her.

Because of her size many of the children in the streets would laugh, taunt and make fun of her. On the outside Chummy was brave and kind, but on the inside it hurt her.

One boy, about 13 years old, who was known as one who was "accustomed to fighting for his rights" took a liking to Chummy and her kind and sweet ways. He forever stood up for her and often "dispersed the little kids; a few blows, a few kicks, and they were gone." He would say to her, "you gets any more trouble from that lot, Miss, jes' call me. Jack. I'll take care of 'em."

Jack helped teach Chummy to ride. Often... "out early and late, running, pushing, helping her in every way." Jack often ran along Chummy on her outings as she rode her bike to her patients, a sort of bodyguard if you will.

Chummy was so moved by him she asked her father if he would purchase a bike for him and he did.

This new bike... "meant a new life for Jack. Very few boys had such a possession in those days. For him, it meant more than status. It meant freedom. He was an adventurous boy, and went miles beyond the East End on his bike. He joined the Dagenham Cycling Club and competed in time trails and road races. He went camping alone in the Essex countryside. He went as far as the coast, and saw the sea for the first time."

And this is my favorite part of this story:

"Twenty-five years later, a shy young girl called Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to marry Prince Charles, heir to the throne. I saw several film clips of her arriving at various engagements. Each time when the car stopped, the front nearside door would open, and her bodyguard would step out and open the rear door for Lady Diana. Then he would stand, jaw thrust forward, legs slightly apart, and look coolly around him at the crowds, a mature Jack, still practicing the skills he had acquired in childhood, looking after his lady."

I must warn you of a few chapters. In these chapters Jennifer meets up with a young girl, about 14, who has been prostituting herself and finds herself pregnant. In these chapters the young girl, Mary, shares her heart-breaking story in detail. A story of a young girl who desperately wanted to be loved. Her story is quite explicit and enters you into the world of prostitution. I don't recommend these chapters to those under the age of 18, especially one passage in particular which I wish I hadn't read myself.

It is so sad, the way some men prey on young girls, promising them love they have no intentions of giving, and sadder still that this goes on everyday, even today.

Jennifer Worth passed away in 2011 at the age of 75

As I said before, I loved reading about Jennifer's journey. She came into the convent, as a midwife who was agnostic, but through her experiences she came to believe in God. I loved the last chapter of this book. Sitting with the old senile nun, Sister Monica Joan, who she grew to love, she is given some wise advice.

After Jennifer has been asking many questions about her faith, Sister Monica Joan answers with this:

"Questions, questions - you wear me out with your questions, child. Find out for yourself - we all have to in the end. No one can give you faith. It is a gift from God alone. Seek and ye shall find. Read the Gospels. There is no other way. Do not pester me with everlasting questions. Go with God, child; just go with God."

This reminded me so much of my experience as a child asking my dad a hundred questions about God! He would get tired and say basically the same thing, 'you need to search for yourself, seek God on your own.'

Like Sister Monica Joan said..."Go with God."

Other than the one passage I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend this book. The heart-warming stories are beautifully written and I enjoyed learning quite a bit about midwifery and the East End life of the1950's.

Buy it HERE on Amazon


  1. Oh, heart-warming and heart-breaking stories, the ones that combine the two, are the best ever. So much skill to combine those two! Moving this one up on my to-read list -- glad you liked it. I've seen the TV show and thought I really need to watch it someday. I have such a long to-see list...but my to-read list is hundreds (literally) longer. :) Glad you reviewed this! :)

    1. I loved the realism in this book and the show. The midwives are taught to not judge, but have grace in every situation...such a great lesson.

      I know what you mean about your to-read list! Soon as I think I'm getting somewhere, I find more books I want to add! :)

  2. I really need to read these books! I just adore the show...I thought the season two premiere on Sunday was fabulous!

    1. I thought the premiere was great too! I'm looking forward to next weeks episode!

  3. Thank You! I added it to my list. :-)

  4. Really liked the show but haven't read the book. I am glad that you recommend the books so glowingly, Cathy. :)

  5. Cathy, I love your perspective on this. Bless you, friend!

  6. Carla, Rissi and Ashley - thanks for stopping by!

  7. Stopping by from Cozy Book Hop--I had seen this book in passing at the bookstore and heard snippets from folks about the TV show, but this review makes me really interested in actually checking it out for the first time.

    1. It's such a great show. Thanks for stopping by Alyssa. :)

  8. Love the show excited to read the books.


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )

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