Call the Midwife meets In the Middle of Nowhere in this heartwarming memoir of an adventurous Aussie midwife's life 'catching babies'.
Outback Midwife is the story of Beth McRae's 40 years as a midwife, from her terrifying first day witnessing a birth as a naïve student nurse to her training as a midwife – the days when the words ‘birth plan' were unheard of and what women wanted was a long way from being part of any plan - to the outback.
Beth's career of catching babies takes her from the city to the bush, bonding with people from all walks of life at one of the most important moments in their lives. But there was one more frontier she was determined to conquer.
At a time when most people are thinking about slowing down, Beth decides to move to a remote Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land to embark on a whole other adventure.
Beth McRae began her training as a midwife at Preston and Northcote Community Hospital in Victoria, in the days when birth plans were unheard of, and went on ‘catch babies' all over Australia.
After more than 30 years on the job, in her 50s there was one more frontier she was determined to conquer, the outback, where she believed her experience was needed more than anywhere else. So Beth upped sticks to a remote Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land and embarked on a whole new adventure.
I had the great pleasure to meet Aussie author Beth McRae at a recent event for the launch of her book Outback Midwife. She was a very interesting speaker and created a long question and answer time with her stories about her life. So I was keen to read the book and I haven’t been disappointed.
Outback Midwife kept me interested from the very first page, where we learn about Beth’s life with her strict parents in rural Victoria and the closeness she shared with her sister Faye. As Beth became a teenager the thought of nursing was what started her life caring for the sick. It was during her training years that she discovered a love of babies and the maternity section of the hospital she was working in. Her mentor suggested she study midwifery; Beth didn’t look back from that time onwards.
Beth is currently working and delivering babies for Aboriginal women in Arnhem Land with her husband Ian by her side – she is a grandmother now herself and in June 2015 her five year contract finishes. She is looking forward to returning home to see her grandchildren grow but is sure she won’t be retiring just yet! Beth’s memoir is an interesting one, telling many funny and also sad anecdotes of different times throughout her forty years as a midwife.
I have no hesitation in recommending Outback Midwife highly.
With thanks to NetGalley and Random House Australia for my copy to read and review.
I loved Outback Midwife. As a former nurse I'm drawn to nursing and midwifery stories, and not only is Beth's memoir an entertaining read with humorous and heartbreaking anecdotes but with 40 years experience as a midwife, it's like getting the history of midwifery in Australia without the dry history lesson.
Beth's nursing training, the slow changes to prenatal care, birth and neonatal practices over the years made me both giggle and cringe in acknowledgement. I also identified with the tragic loss of her baby daughter at 26 weeks, it echoed how little had changed when my own baby died.
I loved reading about her time in remote aboriginal communities, especially Beth's last posting to Maningrida in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. We lived in Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory for 5 years and briefly visited Maningrida so Beth's time there brought back memories ...
The cultural differences, respect for ancestors and aboriginal family structures, friendships formed out of acceptance and respect. Beth was accepted by the community, included in "women's business" and learnt as much as she taught.
Remote area nurses provide life-altering and often life-saving care in isolated and challenging conditions, their experience is invaluable but you can feel reading this that Beth feels the privilege is all hers, she is passionate, candid and humble.
Beth completed her contract in Maningrida in June 2015, returned home to Wodonga planning to spend time with family and enjoy her grandchildren and she is now looking for her next adventure.
Caroline Lee is a one of my favourite narrators ... brilliant in The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty and The Lake House by Kate Morton. And her narration in Outback Midwife is just as compelling.
This was a wonderful memoir from an Australian nurse. Originally from Victoria, she trained in midwifery and ended up working in other locations, including the remote indigenous community of Manangrida, 500km east of Darwin. Her story is relayed with frankness, humour and pathos. I cried when reading the chapter relating to her first daughter's loss through stillbirth, an experience she kept to herself while assisting other grieving mothers. So too the chapter titled the Cycle of Life, relating the deaths of her parents. This chapter also brought me to tears, Beth's experience almost mirroring my own mother-in-law and husband's death. Her realism and stoic attitude through many different life situations made this an endearing tale to read, and her obvious love of helping people through what was sometimes dramatic shines through. Well recommended for anyone needing a down-to-earth read.
This autobiography has prompted me to think about writing some of my own story. Beth is a contemporary of mine, although we grew up in different parts of Australia, and followed different life paths. However, her experiences of city, rural and remote Australia bring back many good memories. A lovely book.
Jennifer Worth was a British nurse whose trilogy of memoirs, based on her years as a midwife in the poverty-stricken areas of East London in the 1950’s and 1960’s, became the highly acclaimed BBC series Call the Midwife.
Beth McRae is an Australian nurse whose memoir Outback Midwife is based on her 40 years as a midwife, from her first delivery through to the present. Hope springs eternal that Beth’s story will be picked up by television and receive similar acclaim in the Australia and the overseas markets.
This memoir is excellent and tells a story many women will recognise; we will giggle at some stories, grimace at others and wonder at how far giving birth has come in the last few decades.
Beth McRae was born in Corryong and raised on a farm in nearby Cudgewa in Victoria, near the New South Wales border. Hers was a loving, albeit strictly traditional family and Beth and her sister were keen to gain a bit of freedom. In those days nursing required you to live in the nurses’ home while training and this seemed to Beth a good way of "leaving" home. She hadn’t counted on the doors being locked at 10pm!
Reading the memoir it struck me that good nurses are born, not trained as Beth stepped into her career and never for a moment wanted to leave. Although her first experience of “catching the baby” filled her with terror, being a Midwife is the only career she ever wanted.
Young women today will not believe the birthing practices of old; no participation, mother and midwife under the “do as I say” instructions of the doctor. A birth plan was not something that existed when most of us baby boomers became mothers; what we as the mother wanted was not a consideration. Beth considers the empowerment of the mother, involving her in a birth plan, is an important change in the birthing suite, even if there is more change needed when it comes to birthing babies naturally.
As a young woman, Beth lost her first child at 26 weeks and was horrified that her baby was whisked away before she held her. While she was still in hospital, the undertaker delivered his bill. Further, she found her daughter’s birth was not even registered, something she had to fight to have remedied. Beth writes, “It makes you feel as though your baby does not matter. As though your baby never really existed”. She never shared her story with other mothers in a similar position, but she was very conscious of their need to hold their babies and for compassion.
Just at the time when retirement was looming, Beth decided instead to seek a new challenge and after a six-month trial in Derby, Western Australia, she moved to Maningrida, a remote Aboriginal community of about 3,000 people in Arnhem Land. Reading her experiences with this community, the number of languages spoken, the cultural adjustments she made, is fascinating. While there are doctors and other nurses in the community, none of them has experience in midwifery and Beth is seen as the expert, a responsibility she loves.
In the five years she has been in Maningrida, Beth has been accepted by the community. She has gone fishing with the women, learned to hunt mud crabs, collected pandanus for weaving and watched the women find the roots they use as dyes. More importantly, she has been included in “women’s business” which gives her a better understanding of her community and their needs.
The great adventure is almost over. In the epilogue Beth says: “When I came to Maningrida I expected to last twelve months. Yet five years later I am struggling to think how I will tear myself away from the remote life. When my contract ends in June 2015 I know I will find it difficult to bid goodbye to the 36 women under my care and my friends in the community. I know I must because I am missing my own expanding family and the chance to see my grandchildren grow up. But many of the people here have become like a family to me.”
One family will enjoy having their mother and grandmother at home; undoubtedly, her second family in Maningrida will miss the woman they call “Pet”. This review is published on Starts at 60 at this link http://bit.ly/1GMPgvn.
Random House, via NetGalley, provided me with my ARC of Outback Midwife.
I found this purely by chance when browsing on the Audible.co.uk website, and knowing comparatively little about Australia, I decided to give it a go. I am so very glad that I did, as after a bit of a slow start, I found listening to this book to be a thoroughly enjoyable and quite compelling experience.
Beth McRae's story begins with her life as a country girl in Victoria, then moving to train as a nurse and a midwife, falling in love along the way with an Army man to whom her parents did not warm for quite a long time. Much as it broke her heart, Beth made it plain that she intended to marry Ian, with or without her parents' blessing, and they did come round to the idea.
With her husband's postings meaning they had to move quite often, she acquired a lot of hospital experience as she moved jobs too, but eventually they decided to put down some roots and Ian left the army. Life was not plain sailing for them; the extremely premature birth of their first daughter was a tragedy which took much time for them to recover from, but happier times did follow.
After over thirty years as a midwife, in which she saw so many changes, the majority for the better, with her children grown up and leading their own independent lives, Beth plunges headlong into a long-held dream, of working in the outback in a primarily aboriginal community in Arnhem Land in the northernmost part of Australia. Just when many women would be starting to slow down and prepare for retirement, she finds that she has much to learn here, despite all her vast experience as a midwife, and has to draw on her own resources with comparatively little back-up compared to when she was working in more populous urban areas. Being accepted by the community takes time and effort, but she quickly learns to love the area and its people.
I found this a fascinating and absorbing account of midwifery in an environment quite different from what I have been used to; Britain is a small place compared to Australia and the thought of women with complicated pregnancies being separated from their families for many weeks as they have to travel sometimes several hundreds of kilometres to get to and stay at a specialist hospital is quite heartbreaking.
The narrator is enthusiastic and engaging, with a lovely reading voice, though I did feel she struggled a little with reproducing Scottish accents.
If you have an interest in midwifery or Australian life, this is well worth listening to. Apparently a paperback version of the book is due for publication in the UK later this year, but otherwise availability seems to be restricted to the Antipodes unless you purchase the audio book version as I did.
I really hope another volume will be forthcoming in due course :-)
My challenge was to read a book related to a TV show I like. Well, Call the Midwife is one of the best TV series ever so - Outback Midwife it was. I enjoyed the second half of the book far more than the first half. The beginning is all set up for the best part of the book, but I have to say I got a bit impatient reading at length about the author’s training, the outdated obstetric practices of the 70’s, and longed for the “Outback” portion of the story to begin. This impatience set aside I loved so much about this memoir. Anyone interested in birth or public health would also, I expect.
To put my interest in context, I am a volunteer birth doula and have supported over 50 births. One of my “specialties” is working with families with a fetal demise. Sort of stillbirth hospice. As my experience broadens I appreciate how every birth is unique and sh*t happens, more frequently than you would think. My appreciation for midwives has also greatly expanded as I see them in action. Beth McRea covers some essentials for people working with birth - pregnancy loss, prematurity, young mothers, etc. She also describes the transition she went through as she learned from all the mothers and families she worked with, particularly in the Outback. She eloquently describes how she grew to appreciate and honor cultural differences and saw her calling to support and empower women not impose her values and preferences onto others. I very much relate to that aspect of her story as I also am on that journey. Anyone in service to others learns that one’s impact may be short and transitory; it may feel frustratingly ineffective. It is rare though that, by honoring another’s humanity and upholding their dignity, that you don’t make a difference. Beth McRea has provided this care for decades, one woman at a time, and her story has many valuable lessons. If you are interested in birth and/or midwifery I suggest reading this book along with Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali and A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812.
Book 30 of 2018 was Outback Midwife by Beth McRae ✨ I really enjoyed reading this memoir, Beth has been a midwife for forty years. The book starts at her childhood and how she made her dream of becoming a nurse/midwife come true. Her family life with her husband and young daughters in country Victoria to then spending time working around parts of Australia. She then spent 5 years working in a remote Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. A fascinating read that I highly recommend. I raced through this book. 10/10
Beth has had a very interesting life and the ability to pass on her passion of midwifery training other midwives and was available to go where she was needed. Her husband was an amazing support and gave up much for her. She was able to use her own experience along with her vast experience onto others. I'd love to meet this lady and what a person to mentor you ! Written with much love and sensitivity
Well written and as I listened to the audio version, I’ve also got to say that Caroline Lee was excellent. I really enjoyed this book the whole way through and Beth’s method of story telling is uplifting but grounded. So motivated was I that as soon as I finished Outback Midwife, I found a charity working with aboriginal girls and young women and sent a donation.
If you're considering midwifery as a career, or if you're thinking of going to work in the Australian outback, then I think you'll really enjoy this book. But then, it's also a story of how the author tries to balance work and family. Whatever your reason to pick up the book, I think it's a great read.
Fantastic read, I loved hearing all of the stories Beth shared of all her experience working as a midwife around Australia. I learned so much about the way midwifery changed throughout her career and Aboriginal culture that was a delight to read about.