Penguin Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-14-311623-3.
Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
Posted on 04/23/2009
"Why did I ever start? Do I regret it?" Jennifer Worth asks herself in her memoir The Midwife. "Never, never, never. I wouldn't swap my job for anything on earth." Worth began her career as a midwife in the 1950s in the London Docklands.
The Docklands were poverty stricken, dirty, and recently bombed during World War II. People lived in condemned buildings among rats, grime, and violence. Worth worked out of a Nunnery, providing prenatal care, delivering babies in their homes, and checking up on the moms and babies afterward. It was a busy life with highly unpredictable hours.
One of the most memorable women in the book was Conchita Warren. Worth delivered two of her babies, numbers 24 and 25! The Warren family all lived together in a small London apartment. What was most remarkable—apart from the vast number of children—was the fact that Conchita spoke no English. Her soldier husband had met and married her in Spain and brought her home with him. "Quite suddenly, with blinding insight, the secret of their blissful marriage was revealed to me," Worth wrote. "She couldn't speak a word of English, and he couldn't speak a word of Spanish!"
Some readers may be turned off by the subject, fearing gore, blood, and other unpleasant things often associated with birth. But this is one book you don't want to judge by its cover. The Midwife is, more than anything, the story of an amazing woman in 1950s London and the people she met. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history, motivating stories, or who just wants a good read.
Jennifer Worth trained as a nurse and then moved to London to become a midwife. She lives with her husband in Hertfordshire, England. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.
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