The Rookie Midwife
The premiere of Call the Midwife was everything I hoped it would be. Being a new midwife myself, I can easily relate to Jenny. I remember the feelings of excitement and adrenaline when catching my first baby; although thankfully, there was no faulty fireplace to cover us in soot at my first birth experience!
I can also understand the feelings that Jenny must have had when heading to her first birth alone; knowing the baby was premature and worrying about the outcome. I remember the feeling of apprehension the first time I was catching a baby without one of my trusted preceptors present. What I can’t imagine is how it must feel to head to a birth where you know the baby does not have a good chance of survival.
Some of the criticism I’ve heard about the first episode revolves around Jenny not responding to emergencies in the same ways that most midwives would. Jenny was prepared for Conchita (the mother she was attending) to have a stillborn baby. When the baby was born and seemed lifeless, Jenny simply placed the baby aside. She did not assess the baby or try to help him breathe. When Conchita was having too much bleeding after the baby was born, she called for help, but she did not do any of the steps that I know I learned during my nurse-midwifery education to try and stop a postpartum hemorrhage.
Now, my family and friends will tell you that watching a medical show with me can be extremely annoying, as I love to point out things that would never happen in a real hospital, during a real emergency, or in this case, during a real birth. However, I chose to take Jenny’s situation and think about how I would feel in that moment. She was probably sad, scared and a little panicked. Let me tell you, feeling panicked does not allow you to think clearly in an emergency (I’m remembering my first experience in a code when I was an ER nurse … Thank you to my calm and prepared co-workers at the time)!
I think midwives can look back on the first episode of Call the Midwife and take it as a lesson: no matter what you are expecting to happen at a birth, be prepared for everything. If you are expecting a stillborn baby, be prepared for a full-scale resuscitation. If you are expecting a woman to birth a healthy, full-term baby without problems, be prepared for a full-scale resuscitation. Honestly, you never know how things may turn out! Take a deep breath, calm yourself down, and tackle each obstacle as it arises to the best of your abilities. Personally, I’m going to take a moment to thank my midwifery instructors for drilling me (over and over!) with all those steps for emergency preparedness. And of course, I’m going to tune in next week. I’m looking forward to seeing Jenny grow and learn as a new midwife!
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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