Resilience, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is “the ability to recover or adjust to misfortune or change.”
Jenny Lee and the Roberts family prove in Episode 4 of Call the Midwife how resilient the human spirit can be. As a nurse midwife, you never forget the babies you deliver with birth defects. The show accurately portrays how the relief felt at being done with labor is quickly overwhelmed by sadness when the parents realize something is wrong with their baby. Now with ultrasound, we are rarely surprised, unlike the midwives of east London in 1958. But even when you know the baby is going to have a birth defect, there is a moment where your heart catches in your throat and you ache for the family. Parents are no less loving because of their grief for loss of a perfect baby. I think that it’s not so much that parents want perfection, but rather we don’t want our children to feel pain or face difficulties. We want joy and easier times for our children. Advanced surgical techniques and medications make miracles happen every day in 2013.
I know of a true story about a couple in 1954 who rejoiced when the delivery time came for their first born. There was a weak cry in the delivery room and then the nuns at the hospital whisked the baby away without showing him to the mother. The father was in the waiting at the time, not even able to console his wife. The baby boy died later that day without the mother ever getting to hold him. The birth defects were deemed too traumatic for the new mother see her son. My mom still speaks with sadness and longing in her voice for that first baby she never got to meet. The rest of us, all six, always knew there had been a baby Richard who was in heaven. I never understood that grief until I was a midwife and had helped women who delivered babies with birth defects.
The ultrasound I had with my first baby was fine. My mom later told me she was anxious — not for herself, but because she did not know what had happened to her first born. Could it be something that would repeat itself in families? My mom knew about grief and loss, yet she was resilient and went on to raise six children. I know those were different times back then, but the nuns should have known that my mom was resilient and strong. They should have let her say hello and goodbye to her baby. Anyone who has helped women through any labor and delivery can see the strength and resilience of women.
(Elizabeth) Tish Roeske (CNM, MS, BSN, RN) is a nurse-midwife and has been practicing in Metro Detroit as a certified nurse-midwife for 20 years. Roeske graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Science and from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a Master’s Degree in Science for Nurse-Midwife.
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