The Poetry of Life

Posted by Deborah McBain on May 22, 2019
Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in Season 8 Episode 8.
Ctm s8 ep 08 002
Credit: Neal Street Productions

OPINION | Deborah McBain on the importance of supporting roles.

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

I was relieved that there were no main characters killed off during this season. Despite the heavy issues touched on, this episode ended by reminding us to appreciate the joyful moments.

The most captivating performance during this season of Call the Midwife was a surprising character whose actions slowly drew the watcher, episode by episode, to understand the importance of her competence, humanity and grace. Some of the most heartfelt moments during this season were watching actress, Georgie Glenn represent one of the most underappreciated roles in health care. There are so many support roles in health care. Those surrounding the physician, midwife or nurse are essential to keeping the health care machine running.

The role of Miss Higgins, Dr. Turner’s receptionist/secretary reminded me of so many wonderful women who stood beside me during my career. Those at the front desk of any clinic often take the brunt of patients’ stress and anger. These unrecognized heroines are ad hoc traffic controllers, psychologists and mediators; whose talents allow the rest of us to do our jobs. They continually adjust schedules as the unexpected show up and scheduled patients miss appointments.

Another essential part of our team are the medical assistants who always knew what I needed when I needed it, and made sure it was where I needed it. Understanding that my support staff often had little official authority or control over their jobs, I tried my best to let them know how much I appreciated what they did. Their jobs are often difficult, underpaid and undervalued. I still think of them fondly, and miss the feeling of partnership we had.

One of the joys of being a retired “senior” midwife is the broad perspective the long view provides. I got along with most of my staff but knew some of my traits grated others. Although I am sometimes sad I could not have done more for some of my patients, I know I made a positive difference to many. I made warm and lasting friendships, but my views and personality put off others. There is no need for animosity toward those who do not grasp your soul. Such is the balance, the human quality and the poetry of life. The way Phyllis Crane gently steered her unwanted suitor toward Miss Higgins, was poetry in and of itself.

I personally will be ending this season as I started it. As you read this entry, I will be traveling again. Joyfully, I will be with my husband, daughter, her husband, their children and his family on a beach in North Carolina. I look forward to the creation of joyful moments. Picture me twirling with my granddaughters through sparkling waves. There is always so much inspiration in travel. In honor of Miss Higgins, a newly minted poetess, and to honor the poetry of life in general, I share the following. I wrote this while traveling on our last road trip. One can see how my poetic voice has been tuned by my past midwifery experiences. As I have been promised another season of life, we all have been promised another season of Call the Midwife. Journey safely and joyfully.

Vernal Highway

By Deborah McBain, 2019

Unending forests dotted with farms and fields, dull and bare,
Scattered among gray branches, first stirrings of life.
Blossoming trees show delicate petals of pastel
Swelling buds push out embryonic leaves
Landscape quickens as new life feeds on decay.
Roadside memorials sport moldering teddy bears.
Asphalt ribbons lay dedicated to fallen heroes.
Blown branches drape against coal colored cliffs.
A kettle of vultures circle in the distance.
Yet life emerges through the loss.
The sun arrives to midwife the laboring earth.
Warm assurance of another season.
Driving along amid the living,
Watching the circle. Wondering its eye

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.