Since I don’t have cable (Does anyone still use an antenna in the 21st century? Cuz sometimes I feel like the *only* one.) and I work at PBS, I have the advantage of knowing nearly every program on our Public Broadcasting Station. My favorites are Nova, BritComs, and most recently, Call the Midwife.
It’s a sentimental period BBC drama. The main character is a young woman, who goes from a fairly privileged lifestyle to the slums of a British town to become a midwife at a nunnery. There are so many subtle, fantastic messages in this mini-series.
For one, it’s very refreshing to see a television show display religion in a good light. Call the Midwife doesn’t promote or advocate a religion, but it does place the main character in a spiritual environment where charity is the intention. She helps birth babies to low income mothers. It’s a nice reminder that our faith is based on serving others, *especially* those who have less than us.
I identify with the main character, because I did come from a comparatively speaking, fortunate family. I have loving parents who always supported my decisions and choices. I never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from, and I was never told I couldn’t go to the doctor because we “couldn’t afford it”. For many families these are piercing realities they face every day. I forget that*. (I’m brewing up another post in the future about the importance of charity work, and that’s kind of what I’m hinting at here.*)
There’s a line I absolutely love, when the main character sees a pregnant woman who has just discovered she has Syphillis. The mother does not know who the father is. The midwife says, “I didn’t know people lived like this!” The nun replies, “But they do. And it’s why we’re here.” It’s an important reminder that the world we live in consists of so much more than what we see.
Lastly, this show portrays reproductive health in a very revolutionary way. Because creating life and birthing it are such an important part of the story line, they can’t cut corners. I’m not a huge fan of Doc Martin, but I remember there’s a scene in the Season 1 finale, where one of the characters gives birth in like half an hour. (Not screen time, but perceived time.) She heaved a few times and boom – out pops a baby, mind you, in a hotel lobby with no doctor. I’ve never had a baby, but I think the process is a little more complicated than that. And Call the Midwife doesn’t fall short in this department. It’s gritty. It’s ugly. But it’s also beautiful. It touches on some controversial subjects, but handles them gracefully. Even though it’s set in the 1950’s, the subject matter is spot on relevant to what we see going on with reproductive health today.
Many of the low income mothers on the show have obviously little education and some are prostitutes. In all this talk about preventing STD’s and unplanned pregnancy, it’s really easy for me to say, “Well don’t take risks you’re not willing to deal with the consequences of.” But that waters down a vastly complex subject into an overly simplistic black and white way of thinking. It’s always nice to be reminded that our world is not black and white at all, but rather full of color and in betweens.
I really encourage anyone who’s in the reproductive health world to check this show out. It’s free and online! (Or possibly on your local PBS station.)