Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.
The opening scene of Season 4 of Call the Midwife began with fast birth in the back seat of car. While I have yet to catch a baby in the back seat of car, the depiction of birth was pretty spot on; at times, it’s unpredictable, it can be messy, but above all, it’s pretty miraculous. As Jenny narrated, “Birth is the smallest of magnificent things, and the greatest of little ones.” Call the Midwife has become known for not only showing this thrilling side to birth, but also the darker, less glamorous moments of nursing and midwifery.
We were introduced to Collette, who is pregnant with her fourth baby, but tells us that she lost her first three babies after premature deliveries. Like many mothers who experience loss, she seems to think that maybe if she can do it differently this time, do everything “right”, maybe this baby will stay with her. Maybe this is the baby that will make it. Collette shares the teachings of Dr. Spock, and I think most of us are familiar with the “breast is best” philosophy, including the emotional benefits of breastfeeding like helping moms bond with their babies. At Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, where I work as a midwife, we are officially a “Baby-Friendly” facility. This means we have gone through special training as well as have policies and procedures in place to offer support for breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact whenever possible, and mothers and their babies rooming in together, not separated in a nursery. We also inform all mothers prenatally on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, and have to ensure they understand these breastfeeding benefits when they come into the hospital, no matter which way they plan to feed their babies.
Collette was right. Breastfeeding gives babies a healthier start, which is crucial in premature babies. As young Timothy Turner had read in the Lancet, a mother’s milk offers her baby antibodies to keep her baby healthier. Her milk is tailor-made for her baby. Breastfed babies have protection against illnesses and allergies, reduces the risk of SIDS, can protect children from becoming overweight or obese, and there is even a connection between breastfeeding and improving cognitive development. A mother who kisses and cuddles her baby actually ingests some of the bacteria or germs that are on the baby’s skin, and then her milk makes special antibodies to keep the baby from getting sick. Isn’t that amazing?
We waited on the edge of our seats as Collette gave birth, yet again, to a premature baby at just 33 weeks gestation. Hearing the baby give a lusty cry for the first time caused that familiar sigh of relief, one that all midwives have uttered at some point in their career. Collette then had a dedication to providing that “liquid gold” breast milk to her premature baby to help her have the best possible start at life. We saw new midwife Barbara rally and support Collette in her decision, and Barbara went out of her way both to help Collette express breast milk, then transport the milk to the hospital where the baby was staying. Support is so crucial to breastfeeding success! There are also wonderful, compassionate women like Shelagh helping women learn about safe bottle-feeding practices. Our job as midwives is not to judge, but to provide education, then support women in their choices. Call the Midwife has again managed to show that the essence of midwifery is has not changed, from the 1960s to the present.
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Andrea Altomaro (MS, RN, CNM) has been nurse-midwife for the past three years and is currently working for the Henry Ford Health System. Before becoming a midwife, she worked as a nurse in the emergency department and also in labor and delivery.
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