Title: It Shouldn’t Happen to a Midwife
Author: Jane Yeadon
Publisher: Black & White Publishing 2012
Reviewer: Jenni Middleton, editor, Nursing Times
What was it like?
The novel relives the author’s experience of midwife training in Belfast during the “swinging sixties”. The story is told through Jane’s eyes, although she also introduces us to a colourful cast – a frosty matron, a strong-willed sister, a tedious professor and some less than empathetic medical students. Also along for the ride are her fellow midwifery students – the eternally shy Marie, strong-willed Margaret and proud Cynthia. The scrapes they get into during their classroom exploits and placements are poignant – looking after unmarried mothers, advising Catholics about birth control and trying to contend with breech births are some of the highlights.
What were the highlights?
There’s some lovely moments in the book – Jane looking after a patient in labour better than the medical student assigned to the birth; Margaret desperately trying to learn to ride a bicycle so she can pass her nurse training (it was an essential skill in the 1960s to be able to get about on two wheels) and the finale where Jane delivers a breech birth in a house surrounded by swirling fog. The personalities of the women in labour shine through and punctuate the classroom training anecdotes with warmth.
Strengths and weaknesses?
It’s certainly not as funny as the “It shouldn’t happen to a vet” series, and while there are funny moments (Jane trying to call a sister from someone’s house on a kid’s toy phone and her adventures with a bed pan to name two), it’s not a laugh-a-minute read. So if you are looking for full-on humour, this is not for you. I think I’d have liked to have learnt more about the differences between labour wards then and now, so more detail of the equipment used and procedures advised would have made it more intriguing for me, personally. That said, I liked the characterisation of the nurses in charge of the students, their cautionary tales about not going out at night and the discussion about how to handle unmarried mothers is also heartfelt.
Who should read it?
Anyone who trained in the 1960s as a midwife or a student looking to be a midwife now would find this book interesting – even though they may like more detail to compare and contrast. However, this book is not claiming to be a historical record, more a work offering a little light relief. And it achieves that exceedingly well. It’s an easy-to-read book that you can pick up and put down, and it’s an ideal distraction for a long journey or a pre-bedtime read.