This is the fifth in a series of guest blog posts by the faculty of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing about the previous night’s episode of Call the Midwife airing on Sundays on NPT and PBS Stations natiowide at 7:00 p.m. Central, September 30-November 4. Check in here every Monday morning for the next six weeks for historical and contemporary context on the show, and some fun discussion. SPOILER ALERT: Some may can contain spoilers, so please be aware of that. THIS ONE DOES.
By Margaret Buxton MSN CNM
Loss comes to Nonnatus House in the story of Peggy (Elizabeth Rider) and Frank (Sean Baker), a brother and sister under the stress of a dark chapter of England’s history. In the “workhouses” where the poor and abandoned were forced to toil, Frank and Peggy survive by the sheer bond of family. Finally making an escape, they build their life together. Jenny (Jessica Raine) is witness to this bond, and although the closeness is called in to question, is still in awe of the magnitude of Peggy and Franks devotion to one and other. Imagine then her horror at the diagnosis of Frank’s cancer and how this affected her friend Peggy. Jenny begins to “midwife” them both to the end of their lives.
This narrative is not new to midwives. We work and train and practice our skills to be a part of the miracle of life, but the reality is that what we learn and began to intrinsically know is that death is a part of our midwifery journey as well. Babies sometimes die, and unfortunately mothers do too. This was not part of Frank and Peggy’s story, but it is a part of the narrative of a midwife’s story. It’s no wonder that Jenny found herself able to stay and be present for the passing of Frank. As midwives, we learn to hold sacred moments in our hands. We know when to speak, when to be silent, when to reach out our hands, and when to lift up our prayers. We see both parts of this journey, being born and passing away to death, as worthy of respect and expert care. As I sat and watched the story unfold, I found my 7-year-old daughter quietly weeping next to me. It was with a heavy but still joyful heart that I explained the meaning of the word midwife, “with woman” – and that the work of the midwife was just as important at birth as it is at death.
Margaret Buxton, MSN CNM, is a Certified Nurse-Midwife, Instructor of Nursing, Vanderbilt School of Nursing and Clinical Practice Director, West End Women’s Health Center.