Midwifing the Midwife

Posted by Andrea Altomaro on
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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.


The mystery of Nurse Crane’s stolen hubcaps leads Sergeant Noakes to a Gypsy camp near Poplar. Sgt. Noakes notifies the nurses of Nonnatus house that there is a new baby at the camp with a young mother, and Sister Mary Cynthia makes a trip out to check on the new little one. Although the Gypsy people are not accustomed to accepting help from outsiders, Sister Mary Cynthia is welcomed after showing her calm and kind demeanor. Sister Mary Cynthia is not only able to give a new young mother reassurance that her baby is doing well, but she finds that Attracta, the Gypsy midwife, is also expecting a baby.

Attracta doesn’t seem so sure about needing help from Sister Mary Cynthia. Since she is the usual caretaker in her community, it seems almost difficult to accept any help, and she makes it very clear that she doesn’t want any handouts. However, an important element of giving birth is feeling supported. I can understand where Attracta is coming from; as a midwife who just recently had a baby, I didn’t realize even until the day I was in labor how much I would appreciate the support of my birth team. My nurses and midwives were so wonderful, and they truly helped me get through labor and have a great experience, even if it wasn’t exactly how I was expecting it to be.

Every so often, we meet a mother who may find it difficult to trust medical professionals. Because one of the aspects of the midwifery model of care is forming a relationship with our clients, sometimes a midwife is a great fit for these women. I have even seen women who might be considered “high risk” have a midwife involved in their care in a supportive role, so while they are managed by the high risk doctor, the midwife is available for the “relationship” aspect of care.

We saw another example of this supportive midwifery care with Nurse Crane and Paulette Roland. While pregnancy with insulin-dependent diabetes was an extremely high risk situation in the 1960s, Nurse Crane remained involved in Paulette’s care, even though Dr. Turner and the other physicians were managing her medical care. This is not to say that doctors don’t form relationships with their patients as well; there are many physicians who have longstanding relationships with many patients. However, the word midwife means “with women,” and we do pride ourselves in taking time to form a bond with women and their families. Feeling comfortable with your provider and forming a trusting therapeutic relationship are important, especially surrounding pregnancy and birth. The women of Nonnatus house are a stunning example of midwifery care at its finest.


Altomaro_Andrea_posts.jpg 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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PBS and Detroit Public Television have partnered with experienced midwives to discuss their role in modern obstetrics and how things have changed in relation to Call the Midwife, which takes place in the 1950s and 1960s. Learn More