What Time Cannot Erase

Posted by Deborah McBain on
Sister Monica Joan in a scene from Episode 1.
Neil Street Productions

Deborah McBain reflects on more than 20 years of Midwifery, and the struggles of giving up the role of health care provider to become the care receiver.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.

Season 6 begins with the narrator saying, ” It is not time itself that we notice passing but the things it erases and claims for eternity… moments all washed away.” This will be my third season as contributor to this blog and the first as a retired midwife.  With more time behind me than ahead of me, I believe I can say with some authority that time erases nothing.  All those childhoods, special moments or pain become part of us. They are absorbed into our hearts forever. They may sustain or scar us but all the time building us into the people we are today. Whether a battered wife, a traumatized nun or a wizened midwife; our perceptions and decisions are informed and influenced by all those moments that came before. The clutter of photos, mementos and souvenirs in my closets, basement and attic is further testament of what time does not erase.

My retirement last June got off to a rocky start with the discovery of a brain tumor in September, which had apparently been causing silent partial seizures. Then I broke my right wrist in November while chasing a birdseed-stealing squirrel. However, the brain tumor was completely removed by skillful neurosurgeons with no complication or apparent sequela.  The seizures are now controlled for the requisite 6 months allowing me to drive again with sweet independence! My bone is now healed and right hand functional. I have never been so happy and grateful in my life. 

During my recovery I was showered with love and prayers from family, friends and colleagues and was reminded day after day how rich my life is. Like the African mission hospital physician in Call The Midwife’s Christmas Special, like Sister Mary Cynthia in this episode and like many health care providers it was not always easy for me to give up the role of provider to become the care receiver. I found that my own experience as a provider of care informed me of the importance of that care and was able to receive the care with gratitude. My gratitude, resilience and strength have been cultivated by my experiences as nurse and midwife. Years of watching the strength of women labor through the physical challenges to give birth demonstrated to me the rewards and growth that come to all who persist. Time gives us birth and healing.

My nurse and midwife colleagues have become some of my best friends. We are bonded by the intense moments we have shared in caring for others and each other as the inevitable illnesses, loses and challenges of life ensued.  Moments not erased but transformed into love and respect. As Call The Midwife fans we have seen this love and respect also develop among the characters over each season. Remember how Nurse Crane bristled at her introduction into the series in season 4? Now she has developed into a respected and valued member of Nonnatus House.

As this season 6 unfolds, I hope to highlight one of my “modern day” midwife colleagues in each of my future blog posts.  I want to introduce you to some the midwives I know who have been at the forefront of the silent revolution in American birth culture over the last several decades. I think you will find that they are every bit as amazing, complex and interesting as the women in Nonnatus House. I am excited to be able to share the bonds, challenges and experiences across the diverse spectrum of modern day midwifery.

One of my retirement goals is to get rid of the clutter of things and collect moments with family and friends. I am hoping that less stuff will result in more time to create these moments. As the narrator declares at the end of this episode, “ In every wave of change is a new beginning.”  New beginnings, new opportunities and new insight; this is what time gives us and I am grateful for the time I have been given.

Deborah McBainDeborah McBain (CNM, MS, BSN, RN) is a retired certified nurse-midwife and practiced full-scope midwifery in Metro Detroit for 20 years. For 23 years before her midwifery career she practiced as an RN in medical/surgical, obstetrical and neonatology units. During her career, in addition to her midwifery practice, she taught childbirth education, led menopause support groups and mentored nursing, midwifery and medical students as well as physician residents.
Read More About Deborah |  Read All Posts by Deborah

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About the Modern Day Midwives

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