During a discussion about doulas and midwives, a friend of mine recommended that I read the “Call the Midwife” series of books. I had heard mixed opinions on them, so I hadn’t planned on reading them. But after the conversation with my friend, I decided to start looking for the books. I found the first one in our local used bookshop where we trade for books, and very happily, I started reading it that same night. Can I just say wow, it was more than I hoped for. So I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the book as they relate to what I’m experiencing in my own life.
First, I don’t watch TV, but I make an exception for “Call the Midwife,” because I love watching women give birth. It makes my husband cringe, but I love the joy that comes when babies are born. I also love the idea of these women living and working in the poorest part of London; it’s something I would love, love, love to do. I also like the fact that the show is set in the late 1950s as Mark’s mom gave birth to her first son right around the same time, and I can picture her as I watch the show. It does my heart good. So I was hoping the book would be like the show, but I can honestly say that I really enjoyed the book for the simple reason that you get much more detail from it than the TV show. BUT with that detail comes a lot more the nitty gritty ugliness of poverty, prostitution, illegal abortion, etc. It’s heartbreaking. Even more heartbreaking is how the author compares the year 2000 with the 1950s/1960s. We’ve only gone down hill in the fight against prostitution, in the keeping together of the family unit, and in many ways, just social structure itself. So if you want to dive into all of that, you should read the books. Just be warned that there is some heavy description of prostitution/abortion. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But having said that, it also goes into more detail about the author’s journey from starting out as an agnostic to becoming someone whose heart is totally open to God by the end of the book. She is very honest in talking about her struggles with how living amongst the poor (sights, smells, sounds, etc.) affects her. She goes through a bit of culture shock as she adjusts to her new life. And she’s also honest about how she adapts to living with a bunch of nuns, and yet she realizes that her heart changes due to both things. It’s really interesting and helpful to read as it’s always good to see how changes happen in someone’s heart.
Something else that really stood out to me is how the author recognizes how much people are searching for love. She mentions the need for love, for companionship, for recognition a lot as she tries to come to terms with all the hurting people she meets. She also contrasts them with the poor, but happy, families that she meets. She easily recognizes the families that are full of love vs. those that are full of abuse and unhappiness. Their circumstances are the same, but some have chosen to make the best of it while others have made quite terrible choices. She very readily realizes the prostitution is such a huge problem due to a lack of love; people are needing someone to touch, someone to be with, someone to love. And to us, prostitution seems like such a wrong way to get love, but to a desperate person who has no sense of God or His love, it doesn’t seem so wrong. To read all of this from a woman who doesn’t know the Lord is quite interesting. It totally drew me in as her heart breaks for the people even while her mind rejects the sights, smells, and behavior that she encounters. She desires to become someone who can love more and serve more through her midwifery, and I could totally understand her heart throughout the book. It’s my heart too.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the first book of the series much more than the television series, because I felt like the book was more honest and real. I feel like the TV series emphasizes things that the book didn’t at all. I also felt like I got to meet the women whose babies were delivered, and so many of them have such great stories. I love both the TV series and the book for the history of London in the 1950s and for the midwifery aspect. But I really enjoyed the book for the heart/ministry aspect. So for anyone who has thought of reading the books, I’d say go for it. The second book is focused on the workhouses, and I’ve started it and know it’s going to really be heart wrenching. But I’m still hoping though to learn a lot and to be challenged to love more. I also look forward to reading more about the author’s journey and I hope she continues to ask more questions about the Lord and has a happy, spiritual ending.
**I want to add one more thing regarding prostitution. No one gets into prostitution without being desperate. Obviously, the prostitute’s reasons for doing it are very different from the customer’s (is that even the right word?) reasons. The reasons are many, but the desperation for employment, for food, for security, for love, or for whatever reason is very real. And this goes without saying, but women who are forced into sex trafficking vs women who get stuck into prostitution are in different scenarios. So I’m not excusing prostitution as being okay or being simply an avenue to obtain some sort of love. I’m just pointing out one of the heart issues that could be behind it. I hope that makes sense . . .