Despite a general feeling that I'd rather be reading a book, there are some TV shows that I've gotten sucked into. In the past year, I've watched all of House of Cards, all of Orange is the New Black, and all of Luther. In each case it's been in a not-binge, not-attenuated way like thirteen episodes in two weeks - not thirteen weeks, not thirty six hours.
A couple of months ago, I started on Call the Midwife, and I was hooked from the beginning. It's set in mid-century London, and the main characters are a group of lay and nun nurse-midwives, caring largely for poor working class families. Gripping explicit birth scenes punctuate a through-story of the interpersonal dynamics of the midwives, and a fascinating exploration of the life and times of post-war London. It's fabulous television (and my friend the midwife says the birth scenes are really well done).
One night, after I'd watched a few episodes, all by myself on the couch, enraptured, the girl child came downstairs to see what I was doing. Oh, watching TV, said I. Can I watch with you?
Around went the wheels in my head. Many of the pregnancies and births are difficult - babies die, a mother dies, a mother's been beaten, there's an illegal abortion, a teenage pregnancy, incest. I thought quickly, and said yes. (And then looked it up on Common Sense Media, which rates it 14 and up.) A week or so later, she came down and asked again. That time, I said let's start at the beginning, and we'll watch the whole series together.
We watched the first two seasons on Netflix, and switched to the DVR to watch the third season on PBS (it's since been added to Netflix). The girl was distinctly amused by the warning that came up on the PBS broadcast:
Call the Midwife is definitely not for every 10 year old. In fact, there are plenty of grown-ups who might be too squeamish for it. But for me and my girl, it was a wonderful TV experience. I paused it from time to time so we could talk about what was happening. Pre-eclampsia is still a very serious pregnancy complication. A rare few women have 25 pregnancies. Oh, that white woman had an affair with a black man - how's the mixed race baby going to go over? [Actually, that happened in two episodes, with radically different end results.] It's highly unlikely that a woman would give birth to triplets without having known there were multiples. No one should give birth alone. Sometimes babies die. Mostly babies come out head first; a breech birth is a hair-raising event. Wrap that baby in a blanket so it doesn't get cold! Placenta previa, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, polio, retained placenta and cancer all make appearances.
It so happened that her math teacher was pregnant while we were watching, which lead to a lively discussion about what would happen if said very pregnant math teacher went into labor in the classroom. I could deliver the baby, she said. I'd send all of the boys out to get clean towels and hot water, and I'd tell her 'little pants' and now 'a big push'. I suggested she might should run get the principal and have someone call an ambulance. She agreed. I don't think I want to see my math teacher's lady parts.