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Newspapers and glass rectal tubes? The unofficial Call the Midwife antenatal class

Forget Mummy bloggers, Tara Ward collates all you need to know about pregnancy and childbirth from the 1950’s nuns of Call the Midwife.

Call the Midwife follows a group of 1950’s nurse midwives in the East End of London, who spend every episode pretending they’re not shitting themselves at the thought of being responsible for bringing new life into a depressingly foggy world of poverty and disease.

It’s a show that pulls on the viewer’s nostalgic heartstrings, like an obstetrician tugging on an umbilical cord. Call the Midwife’s strength is the emotive, uplifting themes that successfully sail through the treacherous sea of amniotic fluid and breast milk: strong female relationships, the courage of women facing adversity, and the struggle of love triumphing over life’s endless shitfest.

Plus, it has nuns on bikes. Which is awesome.

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But what if you were locked in your house for 40 weeks and Call the Midwife was your only source of obstetric intelligence? Could the wisdom of a 1950s East End midwife successfully guide you through pregnancy and childbirth, with their crazy ideas about newspaper under the bedsheets and fondness for glass rectal tubes? For the love of God, what life lessons can a bunch of nuns on bikes teach us?

Spoiler alert: a whole bloody lot.

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Take a deep breath, relax your jaw, and drift off to your happy place, as I present the official* Call the Midwife antenatal class. The advice is dubious, but you can thank me later. Preferably after you’ve named your first born in my honour.

*not sanctioned by anyone, especially me.

1) Don’t do anything dangerous, e.g. the dishes

Labour will inevitably begin when you hang out the washing. This happens several times in Call the Midwife and confirms what many women (mostly me) have believed for centuries: domesticity is dangerous.

It’s detrimental before pregnancy, during and after. The BBC have confirmed it, so it’s official. Stop it. Immediately.

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2) Lifestyle changes are entirely optional

Smoke, drink, brawl on the street. The world is still your oyster, my precious little vessel.

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3) Invite your support squad to share in your birthing story

Teamwork is vital during childbirth. Gather your squad, just like Taylor Swift will if she and T-Hiddy have tiny trans-continental babies. Imagine Cara Delevingne, Selena Gomez and Ryan Reynolds huddled around Taylor’s communal loo, a shiny scrum of clear skin and great hair, riding the wave of each contraction like the giant inflatable swan at Taylor’s annual pool party.

“Shake it off, Tay-Tay!” they’d cry. “Imagine the baby sliding down your giant 4th of July waterslide!” And Taylor would instagram the second stage of labour and be like #beautiful #miracle #squadgoals even though she’s a bloody mess and Ryan Reynolds is hogging all the Nitrous Oxide and Ed Sheeran won’t stop singing that fucking annoying Lego House song.

That’s pretty much what happens on Call the Midwife, only grimier.

Your fellow comrades will push when you push, they will feel every twinge and cramp, and they will relive the whole shebang with Maureen From Next Door for weeks to come. Solidarity, queens.

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4) Listen to your husband, for he is much cleverer than you

Men will know more about what’s happening to your body than you, because they have books, probably written by other men. Bow to their superior wisdom; no doubt your surging hormones are making you irrational and hysterical.

Calm down and make the man a cup of tea, there’s a love.

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5) Ultimately, every orifice is the same

Pregnancy is a challenging time for a woman. Your body changes, your ankles swell, your midwife confuses you with a pig. Don’t panic. Nuns travel in packs, and always know what to do when push comes to shove.

Nuns don’t judge, that’s their beef. Or their bacon.

Whatever, you’re now the proud mother of a delicious piece of pork crackling. Mmm. Pork.

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6) Childbirth is mostly physics + an enema

If something goes in, then something comes out. It’s the freaking law of physics (it’s also how women get into this mess), and if it worked for Macgyver then it’ll bloody well work for a nun on a bike.

Prepare for your bowels to move like the Indo-Australian techtonic plate: suddenly, and with brutal force and thunderous rumbling. Take a moment to enjoy a pint and a cigarette while you lie back and think of England. Bottoms up!

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7) Include ‘deliver in an unusual location’ to your birth plan

Who wants the misfortune of a boring old home birth? All that comfortable bedding and secure surroundings, yawn. Women need excitement and drama when they’re at their most vulnerable, so seize the day and deliver in a fish smoking shed, a grotty communal toilet, or on a Swedish cargo ship.

Better work stories, right? You’ll have heaps more kudos at your coffee mornings, and you can set up a whole new pinterest board called ‘absurd places to incubate’.

Be bold! Be brave! Ask yourself, where has a nun on a bike never been?

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There you have it, folks: all the tips and tricks for pregnancy and childbirth according to a gaggle of nuns. As you leave the nostalgic 1950s for the bewildering modern world of sonograms, hand sanitiser and disposable wipes, always remember the timeless advice of our favourite East End nuns: “we must see what love can do”. Also, “all babies look like fish”.


Boil the jug, fetch some towels and click below to watch seasons 1-4 of Call the Midwife on Lightbox today:

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