The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times [Reading] ➸ The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times By Jennifer Worth – Thomashillier.co.uk Call the Midwife is a most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife Call the Midwife is a A Memoir PDF/EPUB » most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife in the East End of London in thes and is a graphic portrayal of the quite appalling conditions that the East Enders endured.


10 thoughts on “The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times

  1. Corinne Edwards Corinne Edwards says:

    Having given birth with the support of a midwife three times, when I heard about this one, I knew I had to make time to read it The Midwife is the memoir of Jennifer Worth Jenny and her experiences in the East End Slums of post war London I think three things come together to make this a very interesting book.First, the voice of Jenny She is candid and real her storytelling doesn t sugar coat her experiences or her mistakes She never pretends that the East End was anything other than w Having given birth with the support of a midwife three times, when I heard about this one, I knew I had to make time to read it The Midwife is the memoir of Jennifer Worth Jenny and her experiences in the East End Slums of post war London I think three things come together to make this a very interesting book.First, the voice of Jenny She is candid and real her storytelling doesn t sugar coat her experiences or her mistakes She never pretends that the East End was anything other than what it was a hard place to live where people still found things worth living for She shares her prejudices with us and shows us how they crumbled as she becameintimate with the people she cared for, both as a midwife and as a nurse Life in the convent, its routines and relationships Jenny relates these things with an unaffected and honest candor Every once and a while the narrative felt a bit jumpy moving between time periods, etc , but because I was interested wherever she took me, it didn t bother me.The second thing is that the time and place is so narrow we get such an intimate slice of a group of people, their trappings and failures and the things that make them tick Some of their vices are described in uncomfortable detail and you can imagine how hopeless and degrading life could be She teaches us to appreciate Cockneys and there is even an appendix so we can read Cockney and understand what they are saying As much as this book is about being a midwife, I also think it stands well as a cultural study of a group of people that no longer exist in the same sense.The third thing is the art of midwifery itself and her journey as a midwife I caught myself smiling while reading some chapters, there is so much joy and other chapters brought me to tears and had me biting my lip with worry She was in the thick of the struggle between life and death that all mothers experience as they bring a new one into the world And I think there is a nice balance between medical information and theextensive personal stories that make Jenny s neighborhood vibrant, full of characters and their histories She never pretends that it was easy or glamorous work, and sometimes the conditions she worked in were downright disgusting I kept having the thought this was REAL It was her LIFE Women gave BIRTH this way, lived this way medical science was so different and I think this memoir gives a fascinating perspective of a way of life that is no longer, as well as a flavor for the satisfaction that comes from working with pregnant women.It s not lyrical or dreamy it s a down in the gutters look at an ages old profession I loved it


  2. Alaine Alaine says:

    I m writing this as I m just about halfway through so I may revise this later For now, oh man I have some issues with this book I started reading it after I watched all of the first season of Call the Midwife on Netflix I loved the show and got excited to see they were based on actual books Maybe my opinion is tainted by the fact that the author states she was trying to be the James Herriot of midwives But as I ve been reading, I ve had the impression in many places that she was trying to I m writing this as I m just about halfway through so I may revise this later For now, oh man I have some issues with this book I started reading it after I watched all of the first season of Call the Midwife on Netflix I loved the show and got excited to see they were based on actual books Maybe my opinion is tainted by the fact that the author states she was trying to be the James Herriot of midwives But as I ve been reading, I ve had the impression in many places that she was trying to copy his style, and failed James Herriot writes in an easily followed conversational style Jennifer Worth throws out obscurely large words that I have to look up on a regular basis I have a decent vocabulary but internecine Just thrown into the middle of an otherwise conversational style, it s incongruous I enjoy reading the cockney dialect and learning English terms for things but these ten dollar words look like trying too hard, and they re annoying.I realize Ms Worth is a product of her time and I am trying very hard to not judge her unfairly using my time and culture as a standard But it s difficult to ignore the ethnocentric comments sprinkled throughout the book She described an impoverished immigrant woman as looking like a Spanish princess Making the foreign person into something exotic is objectifying, and keeps her in the other category When we got to little Mary, the teenage Irish prostitute, she is described first as a Celtic princess, then as maybe the product of an Irish navvy manual laborer and then says maybe they re the same thing Alright You need to stop right there, lady.I don t think James Herriot would have had a graphic description of group sex, including blow jobs I understand this was a section of the book about prostitution but that scene really seemed to not fit the tone of the book up to that point It felt gratuitous.The description of the henpecked husband is just one of many examples of internalized misogyny that got on my nerves Sometimes the lines between class and gender blurred, but it was always clear Ms Worth felt above these people You can t ramble at length about how very much a poor, sick woman repulses you and end by saying, Well, I m not here to judge Because you just did, for many pages This makes for an uncomfortable read.There is also plenty of romanticizing the past, talking about how no one had to lock their doors and when girls got pregnant, their men rose to the challenge and married them She doesn t come out and say that she thought it was better that way, but I think it s implied And that bothers me All that said, it is an interesting read and I am having a hard time putting it down I plan to finish it and read the others in the series I just have some issues Giving it three stars because I am actually enjoying reading it for the most part It s not perfection, I doubt I ll want to re read it, and it s definitely not James Herriot James Herriot made it sound like tramping around in a freezing cold barn armpit deep into a cow s vagina was still somehow a good time Worth does not have that skill.Edit This is where I got angry Really angry In a passage describing how married women were free to cheat on their husbands because a pregnancy wouldn t be as difficult as for a single woman, Worth writes I have often felt that the situation is loaded against men Until recently, when genetic blood tests became possible, how could any man know that his wife was carrying his child The poor man had no other assurance of paternity than his wife s word Unless she is virtually locked up, he can have no control over her activities during the day while he is at work.Those are some seriously loaded words We are talking about a time and place in which impoverished women are forced to carry baby after baby because there is no reliable birth control Husbands simply refused to wear condoms, and wives were expected to submit Legally, there was no such thing as a rape occurring within marriage, but we know that it happened We know that there was domestic violence against women and children, and Worth mentions the impossibility of East End mothers leaving home to work They were up to the gills in children and laundry It wasn t just life circumstances keeping women down in this time it was powerful social control, such as happens when women of higher,influential, classes, make casual comments about locking wives up.I wanted to read the rest of the series but I think I can probably find another book to read about life in the workhouses Watch the show The show is better


  3. Petra-X Petra-X says:

    I read the companion book to this last year and hadn t been able to get this in the US, but now I am in the UK with my terminally ill mother I took the opportunity to find it You wouldn t think that the world of the 50s was so different as it is now, but this depiction of the 50s, of bombed out London, health care where antibiotics were the new miracle drug and children played safely in the streets because there were no cars is truly another world This, though, is also the story of a young nur I read the companion book to this last year and hadn t been able to get this in the US, but now I am in the UK with my terminally ill mother I took the opportunity to find it You wouldn t think that the world of the 50s was so different as it is now, but this depiction of the 50s, of bombed out London, health care where antibiotics were the new miracle drug and children played safely in the streets because there were no cars is truly another world This, though, is also the story of a young nurse living in and operating from an inner city convent of nuns dedicated to midwifery, good cooking, the odd glass of wine and full of the most eccentric characters Its a wonderful book, history, memoir and a full of cockney humour


  4. Diane Diane says:

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book I liked the setting 1950s London but I had been wary of reading 300 plus pages about pregnancies and birthing and midwifery In movies and TV shows, for instance, I hatehatehate childbirth scenes It s always the same The mother cries out in pain, the father looks anxious, the doctor sternly gives orders, and then presto A sweet and wrinkled baby is handed to the parents But Call the Midwife which is also the name of the 2012 BBC seri I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book I liked the setting 1950s London but I had been wary of reading 300 plus pages about pregnancies and birthing and midwifery In movies and TV shows, for instance, I hatehatehate childbirth scenes It s always the same The mother cries out in pain, the father looks anxious, the doctor sternly gives orders, and then presto A sweet and wrinkled baby is handed to the parents But Call the Midwife which is also the name of the 2012 BBC series based on the books the original title was just The Midwife was thankfullythan just a collection of childbirth stories I ended up loving the social history of that postwar period Jennifer Worth moved into a convent and became a midwife in the slums of London s East End, and she had good stories about the women she met and the trials of daily life for the lower classes I regret that I have not been able to get to know the men of the East End But it is quite impossible I belong to the women s world, to the taboo subject of childbirth The men are polite and respectful to us midwives, but completely withdrawn from any familiarity, let alone friendship There is a total divide between what is called men s work and women s work So, like Jane Austen, who in her writing never recorded a conversation between two men alone, because as a woman she could not know what exclusively male conversation would be like, I cannot record much about the men of Poplar, beyond superficial observation There was a particularly fascinating and disturbing section on prostitution in the area, which Worth had to deal with when she befriended a young girl who had been lured into a brothel Worth also mentions the horrible workhouses in London, which she learned about while caring for a traumatized patient who had lived there for decades When Worth asked an older nun about the workhouses, she was told Humph You young girls know nothing of recent history You ve had it too easy, that s your trouble I think Worth s later memoirs talkabout this, so I expect to hear manyhorror stories.It was especially interesting to see the discussion on how much England s National Health Service changed health care for the people Worth frequently comments that certain medical procedures had previously not been available or affordable to the lower classes Besides the rich history, there were also amusing stories of Worth s fellow nurses and nuns One of my favorite characters was nicknamed Chummy played by the hilarious Miranda Hart on the BBC series and whenever she was involved a story, I couldn t help but smile at her earnestness, which usually manifested itself in clumsiness There was also a deliciously batty old nun named Sister Monica Joan who says things like Mars and Venus are in alignment The static forces, the convergence of the fluid with the solid, the descent of the hexagon as it passes through the ether This is a unique time to be alive So exciting The little angels clap their wings I listened to this on audio, narrated by Nicola Barber, and it was excellent She does fantastic voices and accents, and I plan to listen to her read the other two books in the series Worth wrote a passage about babies that has stayed with me weeks after I first read it The helplessness of the newborn human infant has always made an impression on me All other mammals have a certain amount of autonomy at birth Many animals, within an hour or two of birth, are up on their feet and running Others, at the very least, can find the nipple and suck But the human baby can t even do that If the nipple or teat is not actually placed in the baby s mouth and sucking encouraged, the baby would die of starvation I have a theory that all human babies are born prematurely Given the human life span three score years and ten to be comparable with other animals of similar longevity, human gestation should be about two years But the human head is so big by the age of two that no woman could deliver it So our babies are born prematurely, in a state of utter helplessness


  5. Carol Carol says:

    Post war London with its bombed out buildings and slums is the setting for much of this interesting and entertaining non fiction read There are so many incredible stories in this memoir by Jennifer Worth that it is difficult to pick a favorite, but I loved Chummy with her big ole heart, old fashioned bicycle and her hero Jack who, as you will see, did become important in his day Mary s story of prostitution is sad and touching, but Mrs Jenkin s surrender to the workhouse is just beyond words Post war London with its bombed out buildings and slums is the setting for much of this interesting and entertaining non fiction read There are so many incredible stories in this memoir by Jennifer Worth that it is difficult to pick a favorite, but I loved Chummy with her big ole heart, old fashioned bicycle and her hero Jack who, as you will see, did become important in his day Mary s story of prostitution is sad and touching, but Mrs Jenkin s surrender to the workhouse is just beyond words.While most residents of the war torn Dockland s lived in squalor with detestable sanitation conditions and little hopeOMG the bomb site dump , there is still a nice mix of happy, and funny stories here too I will not forget Conchita with her 20 babies or the hilarious antics of Sister Monica Joan.I now have a new respect for the Midwives and Nuns of the 1940 50 s era..they were an extremely knowledgeable and formidable breed with unbelieveably immeasurable responsibilities. Amazing life Excellent memoir one last note the man they called turd was aptly named


  6. Katrina Noble Katrina Noble says:

    It was an incredible read that was marred by an obscenely disgusting chapter right smack dab in the middle that made me have to question whether I should continue or not I did continue after skimming past the incredibly gross part and was glad that I did because the remaining stories were very interesting unique and the final few were inspirational I just really hated that such a wonderful read had to be almost ruined entirely by a poor editing choice Granted this was based on real life exper It was an incredible read that was marred by an obscenely disgusting chapter right smack dab in the middle that made me have to question whether I should continue or not I did continue after skimming past the incredibly gross part and was glad that I did because the remaining stories were very interesting unique and the final few were inspirational I just really hated that such a wonderful read had to be almost ruined entirely by a poor editing choice Granted this was based on real life experiences and memoirs of this woman, but the obscene part was taken too far and had little to do with the overall purpose of the book being women having babies motherhood The scene involved a woman getting taken into prostitution and a show girl and although these were real people this midwife encountered I don t think the description needed to contain all the colorful details just enough to make the reader pity the girl s plight Anywayother than that huge blight on the story, the author was a fabulous story teller and I loved the variety of stories she told from her adventures as a midwife


  7. Chrissie Chrissie says:

    I see now that this is the first book of a series book is fun You are told astounding stories about the author s years working as a midwife at the Nonnatus House Convent in the Docklands during the 1950s You meet the wonderful Sister Monica Joan, a somewhat crazy ninety year old nun, Conchita Warren who will give birth to both her twenty forth and twenty fifth child, the latter premature of only 28 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds, I see now that this is the first book of a series book is fun You are told astounding stories about the author s years working as a midwife at the Nonnatus House Convent in the Docklands during the 1950s You meet the wonderful Sister Monica Joan, a somewhat crazy ninety year old nun, Conchita Warren who will give birth to both her twenty forth and twenty fifth child, the latter premature of only 28 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds, born during a thick London smog You will not be able to put the book down during these chapters You meet a prostitute and here her story Heart wrenching You come to understand the lives of the women of the East End I promise, you will laugh and cry.The structure of the book is anecdotal, but even I who dislikes short stories, was in no way disappointed The sisters of the convent become as members of a family, each with their own idiosyncrasies Each child born is a wonder And Jennifer, the author, is surprisingly honest about her own weaknesses and failings I haven t told you a thing about Sister Monica Joan Her escapades will definitely make you smile and laugh outright She is something else The only way to meet her is by reading this book, which I highly recommend


  8. Juli Juli says:

    I have had this series by Jennifer Worth sitting on my bookshelves for a year My sister in law let me borrow the five books Call the Midwife, Farewell to East End, In the Midst of Life, Shadows of the Workhouse and Letters to the Midwife because I enjoy the PBS television show I got so tied up in adulting, working, reading new releases for review and other books on my TBR stack, that the books sat there on the shelf Then I signed up for a 2018 reading challenge..Beat the Backlist I have had this series by Jennifer Worth sitting on my bookshelves for a year My sister in law let me borrow the five books Call the Midwife, Farewell to East End, In the Midst of Life, Shadows of the Workhouse and Letters to the Midwife because I enjoy the PBS television show I got so tied up in adulting, working, reading new releases for review and other books on my TBR stack, that the books sat there on the shelf Then I signed up for a 2018 reading challenge..Beat the Backlist..that challenges readers to enjoy books published before 2018 I started looking at my shelves.seeing all the lovely books I had intended to read.some have been on my shelves for years waiting for their chance Since I borrowed the series by Jennifer Worth, I decided Call the Midwife would be first Knowing how busy the holidays are and to squash any excuses, I found the audiobook version from my local library s digital site I listened while wrapping presents, putting up the tree, travelling to family s homes, running errands.it all worked out perfectly The book is just as enjoyable as the PBS show And the show actually follows the book very closely Excellent Jennifer Worth was a midwife in the East end of London in the 1950s She and the other midwives rode bicycles to prenatal exams, deliveries and other midwife duties, providing care for the poor women that lived there The book has tales about problem deliveries, dealing with STDs, vermin and other concerns, domestic violence, large families and antiquated opinions about childbirth and women The book is heart warming, alarming and nostaligic, all at the same time Just a lovely read I don t know how women survived before modern medical care, birth control and increased opportunities that we have now Plus, changes in public opinion on some things like teenage and single mothers Unwed mothers are no longer shunned in our western culture and left with nothing, their babies sometimes adopted out without consent I hope that sort of horror never comes back The audiobook I listened to HighBridge Company is just over 12 hours long unabridged Nicola Barber narrates Because of my hearing loss, I sometimes have problems hearing and understanding female voices, but I was able to completely understand Barber s narration She reads at an even pace with great tone and animation in her voice I loved the audiobook I kept seeing Chummy wrecking her bicycle, Fred with his pigs and all the action from the TV series in my head as I listened I will definitely be reading or listening to the rest of the series Especially since my reading goal for the new year is to readbooks off my shelves The Midwife series might be a bit of a cheat I borrowed the books months ago And I hate hate hate it when people borrow my books and take ages to bring them back So, I am going to return my SIL s books..and borrow the books online to read I m still counting them as backlist off my shelf, but giving them back immediately because they belong to someone else Sort of a cheat but not really Given the subject matter.this book does talk a lot about child birth, vaginas, STDs, medical procedures, family problems, etc..and might not be something to listen to in front of very young children, unless you want to be answering questions lol My son is 13walked into the room, listened for a moment and ducked out of the kitchen I heard him telling his dad Oh mom is doing the dishes and listening to some book about vaginas LOLOLOL If all it takes to keep the men out of my kitchen when I m working is to listen to books on vaginas..I m going to findha haAll in all, a great book I will definitely be reading listening to the rest of the series


  9. Elinor Elinor says:

    Call the Midwife, the first of a trilogy by Jennifer Worth, n e Lee, is a memoir of the author s work as a midwife, working with the nuns of Nonnatus House , in the East End during the 1950s It is a collection of comical, sad, mischievous, happy, and unexpected true tales of poverty stricken large families living in post war London, often in squalid tenements, deemed unfit for human habitation In this educational, warm, easy, and humane book, the reader gets a glimpse of sleeping by the Cut, Call the Midwife, the first of a trilogy by Jennifer Worth, n e Lee, is a memoir of the author s work as a midwife, working with the nuns of Nonnatus House , in the East End during the 1950s It is a collection of comical, sad, mischievous, happy, and unexpected true tales of poverty stricken large families living in post war London, often in squalid tenements, deemed unfit for human habitation In this educational, warm, easy, and humane book, the reader gets a glimpse of sleeping by the Cut, pig breeding, boys never found in secret hideouts, the discrete lives of nuns, and the maddening heartbreak of poverty, adoption, and brutal loss.There has always been something about Cockneys, which is perfectly portrayed here rough around the edges, fundamentally kind, and always up for a good laugh This book really worked well for me, at times I was thoroughly engrossed, checking the map of London, reading up on workhouses, Cable Street what has this street not been privy to , and reading up on the bits and pieces that needed filling in I hope others enjoy it as much as I did Note This beautiful edition is vividly illustrated


  10. Hayley Hayley says:

    I decided to read this book because I recently watched the BBC PBS show Call the Midwife , which is based on the memoirs by Jennifer Worth I absolutely fell in love with the TV show it has a perfect mix of happy and sad, with great characters That being said, I actually came away from the book Call the Midwife feeling a little unsatisfied I certainly enjoyed the stories that she told Some were heart breaking, some sweet or funny I enjoyed the subplot about Jenny discovering a profound I decided to read this book because I recently watched the BBC PBS show Call the Midwife , which is based on the memoirs by Jennifer Worth I absolutely fell in love with the TV show it has a perfect mix of happy and sad, with great characters That being said, I actually came away from the book Call the Midwife feeling a little unsatisfied I certainly enjoyed the stories that she told Some were heart breaking, some sweet or funny I enjoyed the subplot about Jenny discovering a profound faith in God though I found her a little unrevealing about other aspects of herself who is this man she loved so much The religious subplot is, sadly, conspicuously absent from the TV series Unfortunately, I found that overall the book really lacked a cohesive narrative thread Maybe that is the nature of memoirs I also felt a few of the main stories particularly Mary s went on a bit long I was a little disappointed that there weren tstories about the people she worked with I did enjoy the book, and I am interested in reading the other two but I didn t fall in love with it like the TV series Disclaimer I have seen many other reviews mention this and I will too The chapter Cable Street can easily be skipped It takes a look into the life of prostitution and has a shockingly graphic group sex scene The detail that the author goes into was unnecessary I can get the idea without the detail If you read that chapter just be forewarned that that scene is in there


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