As the new PBS drama "Call the Midwife" opens, nurse/midwife Jenny Lee arrives in 1950s East London to deliver babies, some 150 each month, nearly all at home. That, says Kim Collins, is just one difference between then and now. "Call the Midwife" has an all-star cast, including Vanessa Redgrave and comedian Miranda Hart in her first dramatic role.
Collins is a doula and a childbirth educator, who supports women and their families through pregnancy, birth, and the weeks afterward. Having attended hundreds of births, she agrees with writer Jennifer Worth (no relation to this writer) who penned the memoir behind the new series. Worth was inspired to tell her story when she noticed the growing number of medical dramas that focus on doctors, rather than nurses and midwives.
Collins agrees that midwives are under-represented in popular medical shows. "You don't see the broad range of midwifery," she says. In addition, "birth is treated as a crisis" in most television and movies.
While "Call the Midwife" portrays childbirth in challenging situations, the show represents what Collins says is a more realistic timeframe. She has worked with dozens of expectant mothers who fear going into labor and delivering a new baby minutes later.
"That's only on tv," laughs Collins, who says that labor is often as exciting "as watching paint dry."
Another difference to watch for, says Collins, is who is present for the birth. Most births today, in the United States, take place in hospitals, attended by medical personnel and perhaps the woman's partner or friend. In "Call the Midwife" women in labor are attended by female family members. One woman gives birth with a spirited Christmas party taking place all around her.
Collins is looking forward to seeing the new show. "It will be interesting to see what I do, or some version of it, on screen. And, of course, new babies are always exciting."
"Call the Midwife" is PBS, Sunday, September 30, at 8p.m.