Seeing Stars

Posted by Deborah McBain on April 27, 2020
Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in Season 9 Episode 5.
Ctm s9 05 007 - deb blog
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.

When I watch each new Call the Midwife episode, I sit alone with a pen and notebook. As I watch the drama unfold, I write down arising themes, moving moments and inspiring dialog. My hope is that these notes will inspire a blog entry that will expand the positive messages and provide readers with insight. I find that the act of writing often ends up therapeutic and insightful for me. As I get further into my retirement, away from the practice of midwifery, I am no longer a midwife who writes. I am a writer who was once a midwife. My past midwifery experience now informs my writing as writing had once informed my midwifery. Below are my “notes” and insights from Call the Midwife, Season 9, episode 5.

Narrator: “There are moments where the world seems to pause…” When attending a birth, time did seem to stand still as I deeply focused on the emerging head and first breath of a new human being. At that moment, there is no before or after. There is only now. The wonder and sacredness of that moment never left me.

Narrator: “ They were guardians of the threshold…” Having guarded the threshold of birth as a midwife, I imagined doing the same for my parents as they approached the threshold of death. I imagined that same pause in the world. When my father passed out of this world last week, I could not be with him as I had hoped. No one outside of the long-term care facility has been allowed in for nearly 6 weeks. Another nurse guardian had left her home, went to work and donned PPE to stand guard over my father, assuring him a peaceful transition. As Sister Monica Joan advised Sister Frances, “ Sometimes you have to share the burden”. Unknown to me before, this nurse is now my sister.

Rather than stop, my world rushed ahead once I received news of my father’s death. Phone calls were made to my siblings. Then I drove directly to my mother and, as gently as I could, informed her that her husband of 71 years had died. At that moment the world did, indeed, pause. I midwifed my own mother through that moment when her world shifted. My status as her caregiver allowed me the privilege of being physically present despite the COVID-19 precautions being taken in her senior living community. Caring for her through our grief is a gift for both of us.

Miss Higgins in observing Grace Culthorpe’s circumstances said; “What a struggle some people’s lives are.” This applies to all of us in varying degrees during this current moment in history. I think you know what I mean. Getting groceries is a struggle, let alone trying to make plans to honor and mourn a loved one.

But then Sister Hilda’s Victor Hugo quote can help with perspective. "What makes night within us may leave stars." Certainly stars shine brightest on the darkest nights. First responders and health care workers come to mind immediately. This week I have become aware of what are now being called the “last responders”. Despite dealing with unimaginable stress, circumstances and constraints of a lethal pandemic, the directors and staff at our local funeral home have shone bright as they work day and night to provide an essential service. Our family has experienced compassion and flexibility from them as we navigate through our loss.

Finally I end this post as the episode ends. Narrator: “The world shifts around us and we shape ourselves to fit.” When a blow is suffered, do you see pain or brightness in the stars in your head? I choose to shape a hopeful brightness. The pause becomes a push to be better.

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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.