By Bethany Domzal Sanders
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
I thought I had cried all my tears after last week’s episode of Call the Midwife, but the Season 7 finale left me clenching a box of tissues. What really struck and stayed with me after the closing credits, were the words of Sister Monica Joan (portrayed by Judy Parfitt) and Nurse Phyllis Crane (Linda Bassett). Sister Monica Joan frequently imparts words of wisdom, but her assertion this week that “We are not what has been taken from us” was particularly meaningful. I thought about this statement in light of the recent tragedy here in our own community. Events like this shake us to our core and challenge our sense of security. We are also afforded a chance, though, to respond to our hurting community with great love, something that can never be taken away from us.
As Phyllis sat straight-backed on her bed and said in her unflappable, no-nonsense way, “We have work to do,” I thought about how absolutely right she is. For pregnant women all over the world, the old adage “the show must go on” holds true in many ways. I thought about the midwife delivering twins in the back of an ambulance during Hurricane Katrina. I thought about women in Siberian work camps during World War II assisting each other in birth. I thought about laboring women walking through rubble-strewn streets in Haiti after the devastating earthquake to reach the hospital. I thought about the baby born in the Waffle House parking lot a couple of weeks ago while crime scene tape was still hanging.
Pregnancy is a temporary condition, and babies will be born without regard to weather, sociopolitical upheaval, or geography. Pregnant women, new mothers, and infants are the most vulnerable people in times of turmoil, yet they frequently receive no special attention or care.
As this season of Call the Midwife winds down, I like to think of the loss of Nurse Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie) as a challenge of sorts, a call to action to look for opportunities around the world and in our own community to respond to the needs of vulnerable pregnant women. It is fitting that this episode aired on the first day of Maternal Health Awareness Week, a time dedicated to advocating for better resources for pregnant and postpartum women in order to decrease the rising maternal mortality rate. We can take the love that cannot be extinguished within us and channel that energy into our continuing work. After all, that is what Barbara would want her fellow midwives to do.
Bethany Domzal Sanders, MSN, CNM, is a member of the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives, the clinical practice of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing located at West End Women’s Health Center.