It’s my stop today on the blog tour for Frontline Midwife by Anna Kent. I was blown away by this book. It is so raw and honest, and I couldn’t put it down. Should they choose to have children, childbirth should be one of the most liberating and empowering moments of a woman’s life. Yet Anna shows us a darker side. Her accounts are not for the faint hearted, and there are very graphic descriptions of what happens when things go wrong. All because Anna is nursing in war-torn and poor countries where resources are minimal and what we might see as simple complications in the UK can be fatal in those conditions. We hear about women in South Sudan, Haiti and the Rohingya in Bangladesh. These terrible tales are not easy to shake off, and I am acutely aware that I am only reading about them. For Anna, these experiences stay with her, haunt her and colour her life choices.
For Anna’s tale is a very personal one, and I don’t want to share too much here in case you want to read it. I recognised parallels with Life & Death Decisions by Dr Lachlan McIver, a doctor who like Anna finds himself working in medicine in countries with huge issues. Like Anna he had a personal reason for being drawn to, and finding solace in, emergency care and alcohol. Anna and Lachlan both write very honestly, even brutally at times.
Anna’s enduring connections with James and Anita are touching. Compare this with the fleeting connections she has with the women she treats, trying to cut through politics, patriarchal society and personal doubt to help the women and their babies. It doesn’t always work out but her care and determination in such circumstances shines through. It is inspiring to hear how Anna and the women she cares for move forward in the most desperate of situations. Anna’s life is a rollercoaster, and I hope the book was a cathartic process for her. She says in her acknowledgements she has started to heal some very old wounds. I don’t think I am spoiling anything by saying I was relieved to find her in a better place at the end of the book.
This is a great book for anyone embarking in medical studies or a career in aid. It’s also a great read for anyone who, like me, enjoys making sense of the world. Comparing my safe, secure world to the brutal world many others face every day is helpful to me. It helps me to face my own challenges with a sense of perspective.
Be aware the book does come with trigger warnings around baby loss, gender-based violence, birth-related injuries and maternal death. Reading it won’t be right for everyone.
Hannah is the author of The Cactus Surgeon, a nature & health memoir. Living in London, Hannah suffered burnout and was diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder. With no information available to help her, she found her own way to get better.
Growing up in a garden centre, her childhood was full of nature and plants. This was in stark contrast to the concrete of the capital, where she became unwell. In searching for the answers to her illness, she wonders whether being torn from her pot and replanted in a more hostile environment was the reason her body started to malfunction.
After seeking out alternative therapies, and moving to the countryside of North Essex, her ‘green recovery’ continued. It’s a book of mindful moments, savouring the small wonders of nature.