With the British nation still on a nostalgic high following the final airing of Call the Midwife last weekend, it was a joyful coincidence that I listened to part of Jeremy Vine's broadcast on Radio 2 this lunchtime.
He interviewed Mary Cronk MBE, a midwife who trained in the 1950s. Mary's reminiscences were wonderful - just like the TV show she evoked an era where the midwife did indeed attend home deliveries on a bike, dressed smartly in a starched uniform and hat with the obligatory bag of medical equipment precariously strapped to the handlebars.
I doubt Mary ever fell off her bike like "Chummy" did (brilliantly played by Miranda Hart in the TV series), but nonetheless she captured the essence of midwifery in the 1950s, when one to one home deliveries were commonplace and hospital back up couldn't be relied upon as it is today. However it can't have been pleasant attending births where you regularly had to contend with little running water and blocked shared toilets!
Back then the midwife was revered as an integral part of the community and just like the midwives today, their hard work and dedication meant they would often go the extra mile to support a young woman at the start of her mothering journey.
That's not to say that some midwives weren't formidable characters that used to blatantly enjoy being bossy and banning men from attending deliveries.
The series and this radio show also reminded me of my own dear Grandma who, had she lived, would have turned 90 this week. A kind, practical and no-nonsense Yorkshire woman, she thought nothing of riding a bike to conduct errands right up until the day she gave birth... and once told me of the time she was chastised by her midwife who caught her standing on a ladder to clean around a "dusty" picture rail just a day after giving birth. This was a time when young mothers were commonly ordered to bed rest for a week.
Mary herself had a long and distinguished career and only retired 3 years ago. At the last community birth she attended with a colleague, they delivered twins and when explaining how the second baby was breech, her words summed up the spirit of midwifery.
"We just got on with it," she said, "and thanks to the mother's efforts the baby was delivered beautifully".
Written by Penny Hosie on 24.2.12 Comment on this blog by emailing email@example.com