“Call the Midwife” – A Review

I’m sitting in front of my computer right now as Eggs sits in his highchair snacking on Cheerios. I’m exhausted after staying up too late and then enjoying the wonders of the 8-month sleep regression. Monkey is asleep for his only nap of the day. It’s too early, but I was desperately hoping both boys would nap at the same time so I could catch a couple of winks myself. It worked for about half an hour. I’ve wriggled my way into a new pair of jeans, the first non-maternity clothes I’ve worn since 2014. My soft belly doesn’t fit in them the way it used to.

So when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching a show about mothers and babies, you’ll understand why.

Call the Midwife follows a group of nurse midwives living in the East End of London in the late 1950s to early 1960s. Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife is a story about women, childbirth, and love. It addresses issues about faith, unwanted pregnancies, birth control, poverty, and economic privilege.

I’ve watched the first three seasons in quick succession on Netflix (Canadian, of course), and I’m heartbroken that there isn’t more. There are five seasons, plus holiday specials, that have aired on the BBC and there is promise of another season next spring. I hope that the next two seasons are quickly added to the Netflix line up so that I can devour more of this show.

The episodes are somewhat formulaic. We follow, for the most part, Nurse Jenny Lee (played by Jessica Raine) as she tends to the needs of the soon-to-be mothers of the neighbourhood called Poplar. She is joined by Nurse Trixie Franklin (played by Helen George), a playful blonde with a big heart and a sassy streak; Nurse Cynthia Miller (played by Bryony Hannah), a quiet, gentle soul who feels  for each of her patients; and Nurse Camille “Chummy” Browne, a clumsy, often foolish woman who is both lovable and hilarious. There are also several nuns, each with their own distinct personalities and flaws. Each episode usually has one birth and one death, both sprinkled with the drama of the ongoing lives of the nurses and nuns who inhabit Nonnatus House.

While the story itself is not that complex, its characters are. Each woman is unique and contributes something invaluable to the show. And it is mostly women. There are only three men who have made continual appearances throughout the three seasons I’ve watched: Fred Buckle the handyman (played by Cliff Parisi), Police Constable Peter Noakes (played by Ben Caplan), and Dr. Patrick Turner (played by Stephen McGann). All are satellites in the world of these women. All other male characters are love interests or fathers of children. And even Mr. Buckle, Constable Noakes, and Dr. Turner fall into those categories. While I know Call the Midwife is targeted at women, it’s not often that we see a show so completely populated by them.

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Look at all the ladies! (Source)

Sadly, there is something else that one can see when looking at that cast photo: the overwhelming whiteness. There are exactly three episodes in the first three seasons that have people of colour and two of those episodes are about white women that have slept with black men and produced darker-skinned children. The third is about a black, immigrant mother and how she is treated by the women in London, though not by our heroines. I think it’s supposed to be progressive, but mostly I felt a little nauseated. Oh look, a white woman being praised for actually treating other people with respect. I don’t know how many immigrants came to London post WW2, but I feel like 3 in sea of people is a little off.

What the show lacks in racial understanding, it excels in other areas. The neighbourhood is a very poor one and we are constantly confronted by how truly awful the conditions are. Nurse Lee, who hadn’t ever seen such poverty, acts as the audience’s avatar, emoting exactly what the viewer feels when she enters a home where bugs feast on the biscuits offered to her or a prison that doesn’t get cleaned nearly enough. We see the near hopelessness of families who cannot feed the child that is about to be born and the brokenness of prostitutes who find themselves pregnant. We shudder at their circumstances, but they find strength to go on each day and, yes, experience joy at the birth of a new life.

There is something honest and human about this show. A woman begs for birth control after her eighth pregnancy and, refused, seeks to sterilize herself at home. Another woman, who lost her child to an orphanage after being deemed unfit, kidnaps another woman’s child to replace the one she lost. And yet another is afraid and desperately in love with an abusive husband, one that causes their children to nearly die. There are no pretty births here. It’s not graphic, but it is realistic (at least in my experience).

There is also a strong Christian influence on the show. There are nuns, so I’d say it makes sense. It’s not a preachy, unapproachable Christianity that we so often see. It’s one that serves with no thought of return. It’s focused on duty to mankind, not judgement. In fact, we see nuns ignore the sins of others in an effort to love and serve them instead. I think it’s beautiful.

It is strange that a show centred around the beginning and the end of life should make me proud to be a woman, but it does. Proud to be another in the long line of those that struggle and fight to bring life into the world. Proud to be in that sisterhood of women. Proud to be the daughter of a nurse and inspired to help others in any way that I can.

I know that I’m in Call the Midwife‘s target demographic, but that doesn’t stop me from really loving this show. For my mother friends, I think this is something you’d enjoy. For my non-mother friends, I’m not sure. You might get turned off by the birth stuff, it’s not the most… dignified. But if you like shows that are women-centric and well-written, I’d say this is a good watch.

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Crochet Dragon Egg Bag

When I was a little girl, we had an English nanny. Her name was Mrs. Wilson and she was our family’s Mary Poppins. She didn’t sing and she was a grandmother, but she had the loveliest accent and she took care of my siblings and me while my parents worked.

One of my fondest memories of Mrs. Wilson was when she taught us how to knit. My sister and I knitted scarf after scarf under her tutelage, though we weren’t that great. The scarves often had holes or missed stitches or grew very, very wide, but we were so proud that we could make something useful out of a bit of string.  Steph was always better than me at knitting.

Once I was an adult, a friend of mine taught me how to crochet. It was like my eyes had been opened. All the frustrations I had with knitting suddenly disappeared because I could make a dozen different shapes and my hands seemed to have been made to crochet, unlike knitting where I had to focus my entire brain on a stitch to make it look mediocre.

I took to crochet like a dog to a puddle and never looked back. While I am pretty good at making hats, I love mastering new stitches and making new things. So in the last couple of weeks, I learned how to do the crocodile stitch and made a bunch of bags with it.

I use these bags as dice bags because they remind me of dragon eggs and what is more nerdy than dragons? The stitches look pretty complicated, but really, it’s just a bunch of double crochets. It takes me about two or three hours to make one of these suckers and I’m thoroughly enjoying how they look with different types of wool.

I thought I’d share the pattern to make this guy for any other housebound folks out there.

Crochet Dragon Egg Bag

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Inspired by this

 

First, I used Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable Yarn in Dragonfly to make this bag with a size H (5 mm) hook. I also really liked using Patons Metallic yarns to make it look shiny.

1.Make a magic ring (or chain four stitches and connect with a slip stitch). Chain three stitches. Double crochet 12 stitches in the ring. Slip stitch last double crochet to the third chain to join the round. (12 stitches)

2. Chain three stitches (does not count as double crochet). Double crochet twice in each stitch. Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (24 stitches)

3. Chain three stitches. Double crochet twice in first stitch, then double crochet once in the second stitch. Repeat until all the way around.  Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (36)

4. Chain three stitches. Double crochet twice in first stitch, then double crochet once in the next two stitches. Repeat until all the way around.  Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (48) (End here if you’d like a smaller bag)

5. (Only if you’d like a bigger bag) Chain three stitches. Double crochet twice in first stitch, then double crochet once in the next two stitches. Repeat until all the way around.  Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (60)

6. Chain four stitches. Double crochet in same stitch. Skip two stitches. *Double crochet, chain, then double crochet again in next stitch (called a V stitch). Skip two stitches.* Repeat from * to * until all the way around. Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round.This is the base of the scales.

7. Chain three stitches. Double crochet four times around first post of V stitch (/). Chain one. Double crochet five times around second post of V stitch (\). This is called a crocodile stitch. *Skip 1 V stitch. Double crochet five times around first post of V stitch (/). Chain one. Double crochet five times around second post of V stitch (\).* Repeat from * to * until all the way around. Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. This is the first round of scales.

8.-24. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the bag is as tall as you please. When you’re ready to make the holes for the draw string, repeat step 6.

25. Chain one. Single crochet once in each stitch around. Slip stitch in chain to join the round. Bind off.

You can use any kind of string as the draw string of this bag, threading it in and out around each v stitch on row 24. I like to chain a bunch of stitches to make a long rope, then crocheting single crochets down the rope to strengthen it.

There you go! I hope you like it! Let me know if you have any questions. And if you make this bag, send me over a picture! I’d love to see it!

Hello? Is Anyone There?

Monkey loves to pretend to be talking on the phone. He lifts it up to his ear, tilting it back to listen to the screen rather than the ear piece. He grins and looks for approval from the nearest adult. But only if he hears, “Hello? Hello, Monkey! Hello? Is anyone there?”

I have a sound bite on my phone of me saying that. It’s fourteen seconds long. When it plays, he looks at my face because he recognizes my voice. He’s so confused and delighted when my voice comes from in the phone itself.

Yes, he loves talking on the phone, but only when someone talks back.

We are all like that. We love to post on social media, we love to have conversations, we love to interact with the world, as long as we are interacted with in turn. Being a stay-at-home parent is difficult because we don’t get a lot of that meaningful communication without at least double the amount of effort it used to take to get it.

Someone rang my doorbell this morning. I was upstairs in our living room with the two boys. Eggs was screaming because he seems to know when I’m thinking about leaving the room and it seems to be his worst nightmare. Monkey was screaming because we are transitioning to one nap and it is going so poorly. The dog was barking because someone was at the door. And I was angry. Angry that someone was at my door without sending me a message first to let me know they were coming. Angry that Eggs is still up through the night and I’m so tired and he won’t stop crying if any person leaves the room. Angry that Monkey is always miserable and always getting into things and always wanting to explore and I just want to sit. Angry that we never trained my dog to be quiet when people come to the door. Angry that Brian doesn’t have to be here every day.

I ran to put some clothes on because, I’m going to be honest, even getting dressed is hard for me these days. I bolted down the stairs to see if whoever rang my doorbell was still there. Leaving the boys upstairs provoked a new round of high-pitched wails that put my teeth on edge. I snuck out the door so that my dog wouldn’t follow me to find our landscaper had forgotten to charge us for something and here was another $1300 we needed to pay. He looked at me and said, “Rough morning?”

That was the first adult conversation I had today. If I didn’t have coffee planned this afternoon, it would have been the only conversation I had today unless Brian and I force ourselves to take time with each other.

Brian and I are often ships passing in the night. When he’s home, we each take a kid and do whatever it takes to keep them from injuring themselves or breaking things or screaming constantly. Conversations are limited to “Can you grab that for me?” or “Where’s the ____?” until the boys are gone. To be honest, we are mostly guessing what the other person is saying since we can’t hear each other over the jingling toys, the yelling children, or the dog. And, sometimes, the TV. If we get a conversation, it’s usually about the kids. During the week, we are bailing to keep afloat.

Sometimes I think that if 20-year-old me saw a day like today, she’d decide that maybe children weren’t for her. I wouldn’t blame her.

I long for communication, but I dread the amount of work it takes to get it. I have to start getting the kids ready to leave 45 minutes before we actually go anywhere. They need clean diapers, recent feedings, acceptable clothing, shoes on, bottles full and in the bag, sunscreen, bug spray, hats (that will be pulled off their heads and put back on about thirty times), and then I take the boys out to the car one at a time. Eggs screams because he’s been left alone.

When I get to where ever I’m going, I have to figure out how I’m going to get inside. Monkey wanders so there is no way that I can put him on the ground. He’d disappear in a minute. But Eggs can’t walk so I carry one kid in each arm and my bag slung around my shoulder. I’m often out of breath by the time I get to the building. Then we have to unpack where ever we are.

So I satisfy my desire for communication through texting and social media. Now I’m not criticizing those platforms for communication, but they are as satisfying as replacing a meal with candy. It fixes things temporarily, but it isn’t healthy. We all know how easy it is to present only the nice sides of ourselves on social media. Texting is good for small talk or making plans, but not much else. Tone is lost, non-verbal communication is lost, intimacy is lost.

I end up feeling profoundly lonely. It’s a loneliness that isn’t swept away as soon as I’m in the presence of another person. It’s a loneliness that has seeped into my soul because it knows that I may have someone to talk to today, but I know that tomorrow will be different. It knows that I had the energy to meet up with someone today, but I won’t have it tomorrow and there will be no time to rest because children do not leave time for rest. It’s a loneliness that tells you that no one else feels the same way you do because look at their pictures on Facebook. Look at how happy they seem with their lives. Look at them glow. 

Jenny Lawson says that depression lies but I think that loneliness does too. Sometimes you pick up that phone and loneliness is on the other side whispering, “You can’t do this. There is something very wrong with you. And no one can relate to that because everyone else was made factory perfect. The machine malfunctioned while you were on the line. And you just sound like a whiner to everyone else who has it right. Why do you keep trying when you’re missing the piece that makes a someone a good mother?”

I’m helping start a moms’ group at my church because I hope that I can help someone who feels the same. I kind of hope that there is someone who feels the same way, that my loneliness has lied to me about that. But then I feel like a bad person because feeling like this totally sucks. I’m not excited about this group, not because it’s not going to be great, but because the loneliness has called me again. “It’s going to be a lot of work to go. And no one is probably going to like you. You’re not like them. And your kids? The other moms will see your flaws in them from day one and they’ll wonder why you don’t have it together. You don’t discipline them enough. Your mom always told you that you weren’t disciplined. You’ll be that one person that everyone kind of hopes doesn’t show up. It’d be better if you stayed home.”

But if I go, if I spend time with others, if Brian and I spend time with friends, I know that it’s like I’ve hung up the phone. Loneliness doesn’t do face-to-face conversations. Loneliness loses some of its potency when its lies come to light. So if you are feeling the way I do sometimes, if you feel like the only person who has your number is that loneliness, I encourage you to reach out to others. Send me a message. Come to our moms’ group. Call a friend to go for coffee. Find a way to have a communication meal. And remember that it’s all just lies.