Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: The Midwife

Summary: An unforgettable story of the joy of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the hope of one extraordinary woman At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London’s East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London—from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can’t speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city’s seedier side—illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother. -- Penguin

When I first heard about the book THE MIDWIFE:
A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth, I just knew I wanted to read it. I have always been fascinated by the role of midwives in our history, and I thought the idea of the author living in a convent would be interesting. too While I was thinking that I'd probably like this book, I can definitely say that THE MIDWIFE far exceeded my expectations!

This is a major aside, but it might help explain my interest in the profession of midwifery. I think women who choose midwives for their birthing option have amazing experiences. However, I have to admit that I didn't choose to go that route -- mainly because I am a major chicken and wanted an epidural. (In fact, when I was admitted to the hospital to deliver my first daughter and was asked about my pain plan, I told them DRUGS - early and often.) I find it very ironic that my daughter was actually delivered by a midwife because the doctor never made it to the delivery room in time! My husband and I agreed that the woman who delivered my daughter was a very supportive and inspirational person who made my delivery extra-special.

Since THE MIDWIFE is a memoir, I was expecting it to be all about the author Jennifer Worth. I figured that this book would include information about how the author became a midwife -- the reason behind her decision as well as lots of information on her training, etc. However, much to my surprise, this book wasn't really all about Ms. Worth. Rather, the "memoir" was filled with amazing stories about the mothers (and others) that she encountered during her years as a midwife. In addition, I was surprise by how readable this book was -- there were so many touching stories as well as humorous ones that existed within the pages of this book.

I just loved reading this book and learning about all of her patients' birthing stories. I definitely gained a huge respect for the value of a midwife in the lives of these people who lived in London's East End in the 1950s; however, what I also found was how brave and strong all of these women were who lived back then. Often times, these women were living in squalid and crowded conditions with lots (and lots) of children; and their husbands were little, if any, help. In addition, birth control wasn't really an option for most of these women. The way they balanced their lives and their families is absolutely amazing; and I found THE MIDWIFE to be a very uplifting story about the power of women!

In addition to enjoying the stories about Ms. Worth's patients, I also really liked the parts of the book that took place in the convent. Because the author had worked as a nurse in the rigid environment of a hospital, she definitely appreciated the loving and caring nature of the nuns. I have no doubt that these nuns were just wonderful women with all the good they did for the families in London's East End.
While I was touched by their actions, I also found myself laughing out load at the many hilarious stories about the women. I felt like these anecdotes about the women living in the convent were also very much a testament to the strength of women.

Another thing I really adored about this book was seeing how Ms. Worth grew not only as a midwife, but also as a person. I really liked her from the first pages of this book; however, my admiration for her just kept growing as I read this book. I truly believe that women that went into the midwife profession in the 1950s like Ms. Worth were a very special breed, but I loved how Ms. Worth matured through the years she lived in the convent. She began her story with a pretty apathetic view on religion; however, as she lived with these holy women and saw their faith, she began to think about her own beliefs. The book definitely doesn't hit you over the head with these messages (and maybe I was just looking for them), but I really appreciated how she ended this book.

Needless to say, I highly recommend THE MIDWIFE. I think anyone who is interested in midwifery or even medicine back in the 1950s would enjoy this book. In addition, I think women of all types will value the various stories about the amazing women she encountered.

Thanks to Caitlin from FSB Associates for sending me a copy of this book!


Amy said...

As you know, I loved this book, too! I highly recommend it for all of the wonderful stories.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Sounds like a book I would really enjoy! After two male Dr hospital births, I had a home birth with a mid wife for my third child and it was wonderful! It truly is an amazing experience. But I've told my daughters who are adults now that they should go to hospital and have lots of drugs LOL.

Yvette Kelly said...

I wanted to be a midwife from the time I was very young.For all my birthdays all I ever wanted were books on birthing.In fact my uncle then used one of my books(cows) for his studies when he became a vet.Unfortunately my family decided it wasn't good enough because my marks were too high and I should become something more important.Well I never became a midwife and I regret it still today.

Jennsbookshelf said...

I've heard wonderful things about this book. Thank you for the review. Adding it to my wish list!

Beth F said...

I have this on my wish list. One of these days I'll get to it. Thanks for the super review.

bermudaonion said...

I love memoirs, so I'm sure I'd love this book too. Jennifer Worth sounds like an amazing person. Great review.

Dar said...

I'm glad to see you liked this one Julie. I've got it on my shelf and hope to read it soon.

Karlie said...

If I wasn't an occupational therapist, I would have become a midwife. So this sounds like a book that I would love to read! Hint hint ;)