(All photos belong to Neal Street Productions/BBC)
This "Things I Love Thursday" post is all about one thing that I'm totally loving: Call the Midwife! PBS began airing the BBC One show a couple of years ago, shortly after Downton Abbey took off, and season 3 begins on Sunday, so obviously I'm very excited. Call the Midwife is based off the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a British nurse who worked as a midwife in poverty-stricken East End London in the 1950s, shortly after WWII ravaged Europe and soon after the workhouses closed. I won't lie, I prefer Call the Midwife over Downton Abbey in a heartbeat. Not only are the characters more genuine and engaging, but every episode has a strong moral to it. I gain perspective with each episode - valuable insight into a life which I am thankful to not be living, while still being able to have tremendous respect for those characters in the show who do have to go through such hardship.
I don't know anyone else who watches Call the Midwife - I don't think it's really caught on here in the States like Downton Abbey has - so I'm not able to talk about it with anyone. Instead, I always spend quite a bit of time after each episode thinking very deeply about what I just saw. Although the show is witty and sweet, I mostly love it for being so hard-hitting and very, very much filled with heart and wisdom.
One of the most poignant episodes was in season 2. It was the story of a woman who had had several children and couldn't afford to have anymore. Yet, she was pregnant again (no access to birth control!). The episode depicts her struggle to find a way to abort the baby, fearful of bringing it into a world where it would have no chance of a good life. In her struggle, she herself almost loses her life. I remember watching it with my boyfriend at the time and giving him a long lecture afterwards about why every woman (and person, really) should be so thankful to live in a country with access to inexpensive birth control and legal abortion - because those are the alternatives, and those are the huge risks that are taken in the desperate struggle to terminate a pregnancy. I was so pleased that Call the Midwife chose to highlight such an important story - especially in a show which is entirely about giving birth, not about terminating birth. It's incredibly important to show every side of the struggle of childbearing, as well as the obvious pain-filled child birth scenes.
I love any show with well-rounded female characters of course, but I love Call the Midwife because it is driven entirely by what makes women different from men - our ability to bear children - and celebrates what the means to a woman. There are feminists who say that until the day when babies can be created and born in incubating machines, there is no way that women will be seen as equal to men. This notion has always made me rather queasy, but so has childbirth. I'm caught between this feeling of wanting to celebrate the special gift that women have, but also being uncertain of just how to honour that because it's an extremely terrifying gift. That's where Call the Midwife gets it right. They present childbearing not only as a great gift, but also as an intense struggle which reveals how truly strong and empowered women are. All women. Not just those giving birth, but those nurses delivering the babies as well.
The show follows Jenny Lee most closely (of course, as that is who the memoirs are written by). She's a fantastically well-developed character and I enjoy seeing her struggles because they are so relatable to the struggles that many young women face. I think that I especially relate well to Jenny because she is only just starting out her career. In season one you see her as the new girl, very much uneasy with her new work. As someone who is also just starting my own career - and who is often the "new girl" as I do short internships here & there - her doubt was something that I definitely felt in myself, but seeing her flourish gave me so much inspiration. It's funny because she's a midwife and I just work in an office, but seeing a woman with work ethic like that as a main character on a popular TV show was eye-opening. There are not many shows or movies, not that I watch at least, where you see women working that hard, overcoming barriers, and using their minds to go above & beyond in their career. Jenny Lee is definitely a unique character in that respect, and it is also in that respect that draws me so much into the show.
If you're in the States & haven't had a chance to catch Call the Midwife, the first two seasons are available on Netflix - and the third premieres on Sunday on PBS! I highly recommend this show to all women. As someone who is extremely squeamish about childbirth and highly doubts that I will ever have children, the show still has huge appeal to me because it is so uniquely about women and honouring women. Call the Midwife has already been picked up for a fourth season & a 2014 Christmas special. What is it about British TV programs? They always have Christmas specials, which is perfect and magical and obviously I love.
Also, as a side note because I love period pieces in large part for the fashion: I completely dork over the scenes when they go out on the town, out of uniform. There were so many fab cigarette pants in season two. I'm sure season three won't disappoint in that respect, either!
Do you watch Call the Midwife? What is your favourite thing about the show? (And to you British readers, no season 3 spoilers please!)