Call The Midwife: A Memoir Of Birth, Joy, And Hard Times by Jennifer WorthCall The Midwife: A Memoir Of Birth, Joy, And Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

Call The Midwife: A Memoir Of Birth, Joy, And Hard Times

byJennifer Worth

Paperback | August 29, 2012

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The highest-rated drama in BBC history, Call the Midwife will delight fans of Downton Abbey

Viewers everywhere have fallen in love with this candid look at post-war London. In the 1950s, twenty-two-year-old Jenny Lee leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in London's East End slums. While delivering babies all over the city, Jenny encounters a colorful cast of women—from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives, to the woman with twenty-four children who can't speak English, to the prostitutes of the city's seedier side.

An unfortgettable story of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the strength of remarkable and inspiring women, Call the Midwife is the true story behind the beloved PBS series, which will soon return for its sixth season.
Jennifer Worth trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. She then moved to London to train as a midwife. She later became a staff nurse at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, and then ward sister and sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in Euston. Music had always been her passion, and in 1973 Jenn...
Title:Call The Midwife: A Memoir Of Birth, Joy, And Hard TimesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8 × 5.3 × 0.7 inPublished:August 29, 2012Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143123254

ISBN - 13:9780143123255

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating! It was a fascinating look at the microcosm of Poplar and the inner workings of its inhabitants.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from ran a bit long loved this, but felt like it would never end even though it was pretty short
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I loved this book! The editing was a bit shoddy (which is not the author's fault), but I felt like I could see mid-century East London and my heartstrings were pulled by the author's rendition of her subjects' stories.
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lame This was a book that everyone was talking about... so I had to read it... man was I let down
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from wow! An amazing glimpse into a world that is no longer there.
Date published: 2017-01-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great accompaniment to the show Love the show and the book adds more history and detail to the stories I've seen there. I especially loved the detail about Chummy and Conchita. Can't wait to read the next one!
Date published: 2017-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from i loved this! I love midwife history and this memoir detailing midwifery in the 1950s-1960s was fantastic. Every bit was a wonderful look into the lifestyle and culture of east end of london.
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautiful rendering of one's past experiences!! When I first picked out this book to read, I was wuite skeptical because I normally do not read memoirs, but I decided on something new and am quite glad that I did! Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth is one of those few books that you get wrapped up in because you want to know what happens next - in this case it isn't a suspense novel, but you remember that they are and were real people who interacted with Jenny Lee in one way or another. This memoir also reminds the reader of a time long gone when communities were close knit and everyone actually went outside and spoke to one another rather than messaging them online to see how they have been. This take on what life was like in East-End London after the war and what went one and how people lived that Jenny experienced is heartwarming, heart-wrenching and even sometimes shocking. Altogether this rendering of her past experiences deserves a 5/5 star rating because it allows for you to connect with the characters, through all their mistakes and imperfections that we as humans relate to, as well as following Jenny in her journey of being a midwife.
Date published: 2016-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully Honest and Raw I loved this memoir. Jenny is very honest about her mistakes, and takes joy in her triumphs. The people around her are very colourful. Plus midwifery in the 1950's and all it's procedures are very interesting. I watched the show first and was not disappointed by the real thing. Fair warning though there is a very graphic chapter (believe it is the cable street one) about a girl (Mary) being forced into prostitution. It can be skipped if necessary, but I do believe Mary's story is important in it's own right.
Date published: 2015-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great read! I first stumbled across the world of the East End and Nonnatus House through the pbs series "Call the Midwife" and just couldn't get enough. I was devastated when the series ended, and so I decided to look up the book that it was based off of. I was not disappointed. Jennifer Worth's memoir is so well written, I often forgot that I was actually reading a memoir! I couldn't put it down. I am currently ordering the second book of the trilogy.
Date published: 2015-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love! Loving the series and then heard about the novels. Love them both! I am finding the time and occupation intensely interesting, more so after my own experience with my midwives.
Date published: 2015-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife Love the Midwife stories!
Date published: 2014-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife I love this book and its stories told by Jenny as a midwife in post-war London. The characters are memorable, and it was very interesting to read about life in London in the 50s. Beautifully written!
Date published: 2014-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife The first season was fabulous in so many ways... can't wait to join them for more adventures. To see the progress made in 50+ years from medical car to cars makes my head spin!
Date published: 2014-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife Exellent pulls you back in time that shockingly shows you how people used to live not that long ago. When old people say you dont know your born you dont. The story is set just after the war in the eastend and shows you how the nhs was launched with people mistrusting its for everyone the storys told about reall people ate often heart breaking espesialy the workhouse ones.
Date published: 2014-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife I loved the show, then I read the book and loved it even more! I wish I had read the book first. I wouldn't have even bothered with the show. I highly recommend this book!
Date published: 2014-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the midwife Amazing! The story of poverty, birth and life in London's east end.
Date published: 2014-05-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heartwarming History This book is full of heartwarming stories and is a living history that takes the reader back to 1950. Also makes me want to become a midwife.
Date published: 2014-03-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Easy reading. Interesting glimpse into 1950's midwifery
Date published: 2014-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife - Fantastic! I've been watching this series on Netflix and decided to buy the books. Wow! I love all of the characters but especially Sister Evie, Sister Monica Joan & Chummy. The things these midwives did to help their community is amazing. Well told memoirs & definitely worth the read.
Date published: 2014-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife - Fantastic! A true to life memoir and often at times shockingly blunt, this book looks back to the life and times of lower and middle class England. Being a midwife was highly respected, and once reading just a few chapters, you begin to understand why. These women go through the most horrible working conditions and make best with their surroundings to bring new life into the world. Chapter after chapter, you delve deeper into a new corner of the profession. I'll guarantee you will not want to put it down.
Date published: 2014-01-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife - Fantastic! Loved this book. I don't usually read books that have been made into tv series but this book changed my mind. Raw and emotional tales of the trials of east end families in the 50's told honestly and without judgement or bias. Looking forward to her other stories.
Date published: 2014-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife - Fantastic! great read by a terrific author. It is hard to believe how hard woman had it during the early half of the 20th century. This book is a terrific view into the life of the early London dock workers wifes and the woman who helped them,
Date published: 2014-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Call the Midwife - Fantastic! Loved this book. Being a Perinatal nurse it was interesting to see just how much stuff has changed and maybe not all for the better.
Date published: 2013-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent read! An excellent read! A great companion to the TV series.
Date published: 2013-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superbly Written Memoir! Story Description: Penguin Books USA|September 4, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-14-312325-5 Jennifer Worth was just twenty-two when she volunteered to spend her early years of midwifery training in London’s East End in the 1950’s. Coming from a sheltered background there were tough lessons to be learned. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying. My Review: At Nonnatus House lived a long list of midwives and was situated in the heart of the London Docklands. The practice covered a wide area from Stephney to Limehouse to Millwall to the Isle of Dogs and beyond. Family life was lived in close quarters and children brought up by a widely extended family of aunts, grandparents, cousins, and older siblings, all living with a few houses of each other. Often families of up to nineteen lived in 3 rooms and the conditions were deplorable. Fleas and lice were common pests. There was no transportation in those days so the midwives rode bicycles to the homes of their patients to deliver babies. Riding a bicycle through rain, thick fog, and freezing temperatures at two or three in the morning was no picnic I’m sure. Children were everywhere, and streets were their playgrounds. In the 1950’s there were no cars on the back streets, because no one had a car, so it was safe to play there. In some very overcrowded houses, domestic violence was expected. But gratuitous violence was never heard of towards the elderly. People worked hard for their money, working long eighteen hour days unloading crates at the docks. Employment was high, but wages were low. Early marriage was the norm and most families had fourteen to nineteen children until the introduction of the pill in the 1960’s and the modern woman was born. Women were no longer tied to the cycle of endless babies. In the late 1950’s there were 80-100 deliveries per month and in 1963 that number dropped to 4 or 5 a month! Nursing and midwifery were in a deplorable state and was not considered a respectable occupation for any educated woman. In the nineteenth century no poor woman could afford to pay the fee required by a doctor for the delivery of her baby. So she was forced to rely on the services of an un-trained, self-taught midwife, or “handywoman.” Finally in 1902 the first Midwives Act was passed and the Royal College of Midwives was born. The work of the Midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus was based upon a foundation of religious discipline. Jennifer Worth first met with the Midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus in the 1950’s and it turned out to be the best experience of her life. At first, Jennifer wondered why she’d ever started this midwifery thing – she could have been anything: a model, air hostess, or a ship’s stewardess but there she is at 2:30 in the morning riding her bicycle through the rain soaked streets on her way to a delivery after a 17-hour work day and only 3 hours sleep. As she arrives at the home of her patient, she is greeted by a congregation of women –the patient’s mother, two grandmothers, two or three aunts, sisters, best friends, and a neighbour. In the middle of this gaggle of women is a solitary man. The patient is, Muriel, a girl of twenty-five who is having her fourth baby. Jennifer realizes quickly that Muriel is nearing the end of her second stage of labour. As Jennifer prepares to conduct an internal exam, she sees another pain come upon her – you can see it building in strength until it seems her poor body will break apart. Jennifer readies her tray of equipment – scissors, cord clamps, cord tape, fetal stethoscope, kidney dishes, gauze, cotton swabs and artery forceps. Muriel’s pains are coming every 3 minutes now and suddenly her water breaks and floods the bed. With the next contraction Jennifer can see the head. More and more contractions come and the head is coming fast, too fast! She tells Muriel to pant, the head is out and she is just delivering the shoulders. Finally the baby slides out and it’s a boy! Jennifer is excited, she now understands why she does this job. She steps outside in the bright morning sunlight with plans to return to see the new mother again at noon hour and once more in the evening. However, as you will read, not all her deliveries go quite so well. Jennifer’s life developed from a childhood disrupted by war, a passionate love affair at only age sixteen, and the knowledge three years later that she had to get away. So, for “purely pragmatic reasons, my choice was nursing.” Does she regret it? “Never, never, never. I wouldn’t swap my job for anything on earth.” Call the Midwife is an honest look at midwifery in the 1950’s and 1960’s and the deplorable conditions that these women were forced to bear their children under. Without Midwives, I don’t know what these women would have done. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and read it in one sitting.
Date published: 2012-10-19

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION“Whoever heard of a midwife as a literary heroine? Yet midwifery is in itself the very stuff of drama and melodrama” (p. xi).In the early 1950s, Jennifer Worth became a nurse. After her general training, she found herself in the convent of the Midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus, an order of Anglican nuns devoted to delivering babies in the slums of the London Docklands. An agnostic, she little expected that she would eventually spend two and a half years with the sisters that would transform her life forever.Although a mere fifty years distant, the world of Call the Midwife is profoundly different from our own. The Pill was yet to be introduced, and the average nuclear family was several times larger than it is today. Parents with a dozen or more children regularly shared two or three rooms, counting themselves lucky to have an indoor cold–water tap with which to manage the cooking, cleaning, and endless piles of laundry. Equally astonishing is Worth’s recollection that she and her colleagues—unlike the area’s policemen—could safely traverse the East End’s unlit roads at night, alone. “So deep is the respect, even reverence, of the roughest, toughest docker for the district midwives that we can go anywhere alone, day or night, without fear” (p. 10).It is within this milieu that young Worth encounters the vastness of the human drama and a cast of characters worthy of Dickens. Her antenatal rounds bring her into intimate contact with the women of London’s working class—from Brenda, physically bowed by Rickets but possessed of indomitable good spirits, to Molly, a teenage bride whose brutal husband forces her into prostitution and imperils the lives of their three children, to Conchita, a native Spaniard who does not speak the same language as her doting husband but is about to deliver their twenty–fourth child. Worth relates their stories and more with compassion and affection in equal measure.Working side–by–side among the sisters, Worth soon learns that they, too, possess compelling histories. Sister Monica Joan is a mischievous and slightly dotty octogenarian when Worth meets her at Nonnatus House but in her youth, the sister defied her aristocratic family to become a nun and midwife, eventually delivering thousands of babies in London through the worst bombings of the Blitz. However, it is Sister Evangelina who most surprises Worth. After accompanying the abrupt and seemingly humorless nun on her rounds, Worth discovers that the sister is a war heroine who is beloved by her patients for her scatological tales and ability to emit a fart of Chaucerian proportions. Wise and saintly Sister Julienne is the stability of the convent, and clever Sister Bernadette is the perfect midwife.Written in response to an article in The Midwives Journal lamenting the notable absence of midwives in literature, Call the Midwife offers a riveting look behind the scenes at one of the world’s earliest and most little–known professions. Worth’s memoir of her early years at Nonnatus House is alternately heartwarming and heart–wrenching and the stories she shares will fascinate anyone who enjoys a good yarn—but especially anyone who has ever had or plans to have a child. ABOUT JENNIFER WORTHJennifer Worth is a former midwife as well as a writer and musician. She lives in London. A CONVERSATION WITH JENNIFER WORTHQ. Why do you think midwifery is cloaked in mystery?Mystery and magic have always surrounded childbirth, mostly due to ignorance. Likewise midwives have been reviled and ridiculed, even feared as witches. Sex, birth, and death are still taboo subjects in varying degrees in different cultures.Q. Why do you think this is?Fear, perhaps. Fear of the power these things have over human life. Knowing that we don’t control everything, maybe. I’m not quite sure. Perhaps an anthropologist could tell you, or a philosopher.Q. Were you ever reviled or ridiculed?Oh, no, we were valued and respected. But it was not until the beginning of the last century that midwifery as a profession came to be taken seriously. That’s only a hundred years ago, in thousands of years of human history.Q. What are the characteristics of a successful midwife?Well, in my day it was said that it took seven years to make a good midwife, so obviously experience counts a good deal. I think the innate ability to inspire confidence in a woman in travail must be high on the list. Training, knowledge, judgment, patience all come into it, and the capacity for hard work.Q. That sounds like a formidable list. What was the attrition rate among young midwives you have worked with?Almost nil, I would say.Q. You mean no one dropped out? No one found they couldn’t take it?No, not in my experience, and that was because the work was so fulfilling. Job satisfaction is the term we would use today. It is a lovely profession. A midwife is in the thick of life. She is the key figure in the most intense and intimate time of a woman’s life.Q. Can you relate your favorite experiences as a midwife?Every new birth was my favorite experience, just the joy, the thrill, the privilege of bringing a new life into the world. I’ve had hundreds of “favorite experiences.” What a wonderful life.Q. Is that why you wrote the book?Yes. And also because, aside from textbooks, there is no book in all American or European literature written by a midwife about midwifery. Given the enormity of the subject, that’s extraordinary!Q. What changes have you seen since you started midwifery fifty years ago?Well, half a century is a long time and everything has changed. I would say there is more anxiety attending childbirth these days; more caesarian sections, more inductions, more drugs, more drips, more medicine in other words. Childbirth has drifted away from being a natural event into a medical condition requiring medical treatment.Q. The tide seems to be turning back towards a more natural approach, and many women are choosing a midwife. Do you think this is good?Yes, but perhaps not for everyone.Q. What advice would you give to a woman planning her delivery?Stick to what you think is right for you. If you think a home birth attended by a midwife is best for you, don’t be deflected. But if you would feel safer in a hospital environment, that’s all right too.Q. What advice would you give to a woman training to be a midwife today?Always remember you are part of the most wonderful, the most important, and the most privileged calling in the world. Nursing and midwifery are a vocation, not just a job.Q. You went to Nonnatus House an agnostic, but you found God. Did you contemplate becoming a nun?That is a very deep question, and I do not readily wear my heart or my faith on my sleeve. Call the Midwifeis the first of a trilogy and the three books together depict a spiritual journey. My life was transformed forever by the sisters. They are still a religious order, and I have ongoing contact and communion with them and lean heavily on them for prayer and guidance. DISCUSSION QUESTIONSEven though the Docklands were notoriously dangerous, the midwives and district nurses were able to walk unaccompanied without fear. Is there a comparable profession today?How many children in a family do you think is ideal? Why?Discuss the Church’s decision to take away Mary’s baby. Would she have been able to provide for it without turning to prostitution?Worth asks, “What woman worthy of the name Mother would stand on a high moral platform about selling her body if her child were dying of hunger and exposure? Not I” (p. 162). Is it biology or psychology that drives women to extreme measures to protect their children while fathers often deny either paternity or their paternal responsibilities?Should Doris have allowed Cyril to send away the baby she bore illegitimately? Did she have a choice?Ted became a loving and wonderful father to Edward without actually being his biological father. How important is biology in the parent–child relationship?Babies as premature as Conchita’s twenty–fifth child are never allowed to stay home today. Do you think he would he have survived if he had been taken to the hospital?After learning their respective histories, Worth radically changes her opinion of both Sister Evangelina and Mrs. Jenkins. Share an episode in your own life when your initial dislike for a person was transformed once you got to know him or her better.During the time that Worth recounts, most women delivered their babies at home and were deeply suspicious of hospitals. Today, the opposite is true. How do you think such a dramatic change came about and is it for better or for worse?If you already have children, did you use a midwife? If you don’t but are planning to have children, would you? Why or why not?

Editorial Reviews

"Jennifer Worth's memories of her years as a midwife were at once hilarious and tremendously moving." -Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits"Worth is indeed a natural storyteller. . . . Her detailed account of being a midwife in London's East End is gripping, moving, and convincing from beginning to end." -Literary Review"I loved the people, the nuns, the tough dockers, the prostitutes and pimps, seen with the fresh eyes of youth." -The Guardian "Readers will fall in love with Call the Midwife . . . an affirmation of life during the best and worst of times." -Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor's Wife