Lessons on Compassion from "Call the Midwife"

There's nothing like a good Netflix binge to help calm the mind and reset the body for the week ahead. I've had a particularly rough week emotionally, so when Sunday rolled around with it's rainy OC weather and nothing on my to-do list, I figured what better time to catch up on "Call the Midwife!"

For those that are unfamiliar, "Call the Midwife" is a PBS show all about midwifery care in the 1950s and 60s. It is a beautiful show that portrays the dramatic ups and downs of midwifery, birth, life, and death in the impoverished East End of London. Each episode is guaranteed to tug at the heart strings. 

In episode two of the fifth season, there is an interesting commentary on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding with a beautiful lesson on listening to an individual mothers needs and desires.

Without going into too much detail (because really, if you aren't watching this show yet, you should!!) one of the midwives is extremely vocal of her disapproval of formula feeding. Keep in mind that formula was a new phenomenon in the 1960s and that some people could barely afford to put food on the table. Sister Evangelina, the notoriously vocal midwife touts the benefits of breast milk as being the perfect food for baby and bonus, it's free! 

As a Birth & Postpartum Doula, I of course, know her views to be valid and correct from a logical standpoint, but I cringed at the words she used and the attitude she portrayed, essentially poo-pooing anyone who dared challenge her expertise and views. 

Fast forward to a mom struggling to breastfeed and this same midwife (while encouraging her to keep trying), dismisses her fears and the pain breastfeeding was causing her. It took bleeding nipples and a full emotional breakdown for the midwife to finally admit that she was wrong and that formula was NOT, in fact, evil. 


Witnessing the guilt and shame this mother felt for not being able to breastfeed her baby brought tears to my eyes and further reinforced the need for us as Doulas and Infant Care Specialists to be gentle and in tune when it comes to the uniqueness and complexity of each family's needs.

It made me sad that we are still struggling with similar issues in our society today, almost 60 years later. Women are still feeling guilt and shame around the way the choose to feed their babies. People are still being judged for the way they choose to parent. 


We hear it day-in and day-out:

"I'm scared what will happen if I can't breastfeed... Is formula ok?"

"Will you support me if I decide to pump and bottle feed?

"Can I still hire a Doula even if I get an epidural?"

"I'm scared someone is going to judge me if I sleep train my baby."


The truth is there is no "one size fits all" model of birth, postpartum or parenting. What works for one family or parent could be a complete disaster for another. And while I believe that a lot of us just want to fix things with our well intentioned knowledge and advice, I also know that being "fixed" is not what everyone needs.


Sometimes a new mom just needs to be heard.

Sometimes a parent just needs to be told that it's ok.

Sometimes they need validation to take a different route.

And sometimes parents simply need encouragement and someone to hold their hand when they decide to keep trying. 


It is our desire and goal at Doulas of Orange County to ensure that you are heard, validated, and supported no matter what your birth or parenting choices. We pride ourselves on doing this without judgment. We trust you and your own instincts, knowledge, and beliefs to guide you into making the best decisions for your body, your baby, and your family.

It is our commitment to you that we will help you get the information you need to make the choices that sit well with you. It is our commitment to answer your questions without bias. It is our commitment to further help if what you want is to keep trying. And it is our commitment to do all of this with compassionate and trustworthy care. 

I'm thankful for shows like "Call the Midwife" that teach such powerful lessons. It's way too easy to sit in our own bubble and judge others when they choose something foreign to us. The ramifications of such actions can be huge and it is our hope that as time progresses we learn from the mistakes of history and begin to make positive change. Cause let's face it, childbirth and parenting are hard enough without all the shame and guilt.