Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Midwife

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

Published: April 7th 2009 by Penguin Books
Number of pages: 352
ISBN: 0143116231 (ISBN13: 9780143116233)

Book 49 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 2 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

A midwife delivered my eldest when we were living in England 9 years ago. I was so young and clueless, I don't think I really fully appreciated the experience for what it was. A midwife not only takes care of all of the prenatal appointments, they also deliver the baby, and then visit your home for two weeks after delivery. My midwife was named Chandra and I have such fond memories of her. Just nine short months after delivering my first, I called her to tell her I was pregnant again. I'll never forget her response: "Well done Patricia!" like I had just won the lottery.

With all of my personal feelings wrapped into the institution of British midwifery, I was thrilled to get a review copy of this book. The Midwife is an eye-opening look at the life of a young midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. After her nursing training, Jennifer Worth decided to go an live in a convent where she could receive her midwifery certification by working with the nuns. Not only was Jennifer's time with the Sisters beneficial from her professional and intellectual standpoint, but she also gleaned a spiritual sense that she had previously doubted existed.

Jennifer shares a series of remarkable, uplifting, heartbreaking and interesting stories about her time in this poor area of London, struggling to rebuild after the close of World War II. Examples of her tales include rescuing a pregnant prostitute, delivering the very premature 25th child of a Spanish woman, and delivering babies who were obviously racially mixed when both husband and wife were white. Her social commentary of the time is also incredibly detailed, including living conditions, public policy, and the characteristics that made up the moral fiber of this unique community. Plus, the Cockney accent was just really fun to read!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend it for anyone interested in midwifery with all its gory details. I will say that some parts made me squirm, and I've had four children! Her investigation into prostitution was also hard for me to get through. But, I can't count the number of chapters I finished with tears in my eyes. This book is such a great testament to the resiliency of women, both the mothers and the midwives, and of course, the miracle of birth.

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bermudaonion said...

Everyone seems to be loving this book. Great review!

Teddyree said...

My copy of The Midwife just arrived from the UK Book Depository so I was so excited to read your positive review.
I was a nurse so I'm sure I'll enjoy the gory stuff LOL

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I really want to read this one! Terrific review. Thanks for the heads up about the gore!

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

This sounds like a great and moving book! I will definitely read it.

Anna said...

I hope to read this one at some point. It sounds very interesting.

Diary of an Eccentric

Corinne said...

I'm so glad you liked it!! Thanks for sharing that story about your own midwife :)