Endings and Beginnings

Posted by Deborah McBain on May 19, 2014

Jenny Lee ends her career as a midwife. Chummy’s Mater, Lady Brown finds herself at the end of her life. The Turners successfully end their search for a baby. So Season 3 ends. Jeez. Sigh. Hiccup. Excuse me. Harrumph. Cough. Endings. Can. Be. Sad.

How do I explain that Jenny Lee’s transition of interest from birth to death seems so natural to me? Hospice care stems from the same philosophy in which midwives approach pregnancy and birth. Both birth and death are natural processes. By normalizing , eliminating unnecessary interventions, the transitions of birth and death become more personal, less mysterious, less scary and smoother. Hospice care brings the process home, offers choices, involves the family. Sound familiar? All the skills a midwife develops to assist a woman through childbirth easily applies to all sorts of human transitions including birth, first day of school, adolescence, marriage, pregnancy, birth, menopause, death. Really. Think about it. It’s true. Being a midwife is like attending the school of life day in and day out. You can’t help but pick up a plenty of tricks about getting through it. Jenny is not the last midwife to use her skills at the other end of the cycle of life. There is a whole Death Midwife movement today. Goggle it if you’re interested.

Which brings me back to Chummy. Tentatively at first but with incredible grace, Chummy transformed into what she needed to be for her dying mother. I argue that this also is a midwife’s skill. She became the daughter her mother needed even though her mother was never the mother that Chummy needed. “The mother-daughter bond is a precious thing”, Sister Evangelina declares at the beginning of the episode and that bond shattered through the years of estrangement and hurt between Chummy and her Mater.

Modern Day Midwives- Endings and Beginnings

As Chummy gave her dying mother a manicure, I thought of my own Mother. She had a close call a couple of years ago but thankfully is still very much alive and well today. My mother happens to be very different from Lady Brown. From the day my mother birthed me on her very own birthday we have had mutual admiration for each other. We took great comfort in our precious bond as each of my four younger brothers arrived in our home to join my father in front of the TV to watch football, eat ravenously and rough house incessantly. She took being a mother very seriously and showed me every day how important mothering is. She continues to be an inspiration to me and tells me often how proud she is of me. Below is a photo of my mother, age 86 after I took her for her very first manicure before my daughter’s wedding last year. But I digress.

Time to begin again. Jenny Lee will be beginning a new career, albeit off camera. Shelagh will begin her journey as a mother and Chummy begins a new life as the daughter loved and loving, leaving behind the tumultuous relationship with her mother. But we still have to wait until Christmas time for another Call the Midwife episode and another year until Season 4 begins. What to do? Well, I’m not just a fan, I’m also a midwife, right? Drama happens all the time in the life of a midwife. I certainly don’t need a TV show for stories. I have so enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you this season. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Please check back here from time to time through this summer, fall and winter. I would love to introduce you to my midwife partners, share our adventures and continue to compare Call the Midwife with modern-day midwives. I don’t want to wait until Christmas or next year. I am beginning to like being a writer. I welcome your comments and feedback.

Deborah McBain (CNM, MS, BSN, RN) Deborah McBain (CNM, MS, BSN, RN) is a nurse-midwife who has practiced in Metro Detroit for nearly 20 years. McBain received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Science from Wayne State University-Detroit, Master’s Degree from the Case Western University-Cleveland and midwifery education through Frontier Nursing Service.
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