Friday book review – Catching Babies by Sheena Byrom

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 1st December 2011

When my son was born 17 years ago, we lived in a remote, draughty farmhouse halfway up a Lancashire hillside. The house didn’t have any heating, just a temperamental wood-fuelled Rayburn that was hell to keep alight. We all joke that the reason my son is so tough is because he spent the first two years of his life there. A long, bumpy track led to the house (which we rented from a charming, aristocratic landowner) and I vividly remember the day the community midwife drove up to check that my son was doing fine. In most areas midwives visit new mothers and their babies for the first ten days and in my experience, they are a brilliant source of help and advice. Out of the car stepped Sheena Byrom, the community midwife for the Ribble Valley. Dressed in a navy-blue uniform, she was smiley, ultra-supportive and compassionate. She seemed like a friend from the instant I met her and we stayed in contact for years afterwards. Sadly we eventually lost touch – mainly, I reckon, because of the crazy number of times I’ve moved house. Anyway, idly scrolling through Twitter this week, I suddenly spotted a mention of a new book called Catching Babies: The true story of a dedicated midwife. It was by, yes, Sheena Byrom. I was so thrilled that I dashed out and bought a copy straight away. As I expected, Catching Babies is a cracking read about Sheena’s 35-year career as a midwife, from her close-knit Lancashire upbringing to her nursing training at Blackburn Royal Infirmary. The chapters I enjoyed the most were about Sheena’s decision to move from a hospital-based job to work as a community midwife. I loved her descriptions of driving “through the most fabulous scenery, rippling green hills and groups of ancient, majestic trees” to check on babies and their mums. Just reading it took me back 17 years in a flash. Sheena’s story, which has its share of heartbreak, is a fascinating account of how midwifery has advanced over the years. If you’re interested in babies, children and a woman who’s dedicated her career to helping women in childbirth, then you’ll definitely enjoy this. As Sheena herself says: “Midwives are in a really privileged position and I believe that if a woman’s birth is positive then they will go on to be positive mothers. It helps women to be better mums.” Catching Babies by Sheena Byrom (Headline, £6.49)

11 comments so far

  • Emma it was wonderful to read your blog, reviewing my book. I remember visiting you and your new baby boy so well, and I agree…we did get on like a house on fire! I think of you every time I see the house in Downham, and smile. I also remember you using Brixton or Emma Bridgewater pottery, I think? So lovely to be in touch again, and I am delighted that you like my book. It’s been such an interesting journey! I shall have to read some of your work now….love Sheena x

  • It’s lovely to hear from you, Sheena! I’m so glad you remember us so well. I adore Emma Bridgewater mugs and you always commented on them when you visited. I loved the book and another friend who also lived in Lancashire was thrilled to hear about it too!

  • Emma not sure if you noticed, but my book was #10 in the Sunday Times bestsellers last week, and the publishers are predicting a rise to 6 this week! I am so shocked….

  • I am not a nurse or in that profession but always all my life I wanted yo be a midwife,I am 48 now so not much chance of that,I love one born every minute and I really am enjoying your book I am up to where you have just been accepted for the community midwife job it is so good I can’t put it down I was looking to see if you had any more books published or that you could recomend any to me thank you and good luck x

  • I sent a message to Sheena Byrom about your comment, Yvonne. It’s a great book isn’t it, and Sheena is such an inspiring person.

  • This is a fantastic review and the book sounds very engaging. I have had 4 babies (including twins) and the midwives I met along the way were incredible. Sheena if you are reading this, congratulations on an incredible accomplishment! Both in terms of your career and your book.

  • Thanks so much for your comment, Misha. Sheena is amazing. She was so wonderful as a community midwife and is a real inspiration to women through her book, lecturing and work.

  • Thanks everyone, and Emma….Misha if you ever read Catching Babies I would love to know what you think!

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