Carrying Our Past Into the Future

Posted by Deborah McBain on March 30, 2020
Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in Season 9 Episode 1.
Cmid s9 ep1 deb blog thumbnail
Brenda and Trixie | Credit: BBC / Neal Street Productions
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.

The links between our past, present and future are inseparable. This season’s first episode of "Call the Midwife" was all about that. The narrator starts by asking the question, “Where do we begin? What starts the beginning of any adventure?” In truth we are always beginning. 

The narration later goes on, “ The past is never lost to us. We carry it with us, everywhere we go. It is in every cell of our body and in our soul.” This statement resonated with me as an apt description of how I feel about the midwifery career that is now three years behind me. My co-workers and the women I cared for in the past are still with me giving me strength, informing my responses to all that I experience in the present. They travel with me as I continue to shape my future. As we ride the wave of this current [COVID-19] pandemic, it is particularly important to remember the temporary nature of this moment in time. It will, soon enough, become our past. How we choose to respond to this present will shape our future.

I reflect on Fred Buckle’s scene as he contemplates his box of memorabilia with the photo of his lost wife and later in the episode, his addition of the news clipping of the abandoned baby he had rescued. “It is interesting what people chose to save," he comments. We save what we want to remember, what gives us joy, what gives us wisdom. I recently came across a large poster board that hung on a wall, in the clinic where I saw patients. On it is a collage of photos of babies and mothers. Some are of me holding a baby or standing next to a new mother with a baby. The board has been tucked away in my basement since it was removed from the clinic. My heart bounded with happiness and satisfaction when I pulled it from beneath the stairway.

Probably every midwife, actually every care provider has a collection of these photos. They were brought to me as gifts from patients. Perhaps they were mailed to me in "Thank You" cards or personally handed to me at a postpartum visit. I received them in Christmas cards, with boxes of candy and with bouquets of flowers. Each photo represented a bond during an important time in the giver's life. I saved them all and pasted them to a board. On busy clinic days, a glance at that board often provided the boost I needed to keep doing the hard but important work I did. Those past moments sustained me in the present and helped me make my way to my future.

Many of the babies in those photos are in their teens or 20s now, facing their own uncertain futures. I don’t remember many of the faces but I don’t want to forget the feelings the photos evoke. I will keep the photos. Removed from the board, they are now condensed into a memory photo box.

Finally the episode ends with the narrator saying, “ The gift is knowing the present will soon pass and the way we embrace it has the power to change everything.” I learned from my experiences as a midwife that this truth is universal. We cannot change past circumstances bringing us to this moment. I urge all to be mindful of how you embrace this present. It has more power to shape your future than you can imagine. But also be mindful that each moment brings another beginning, another new opportunity to start again to shape the future.

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About the Author

Deborah McBain is a former 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 and residents.