Amanda Harries was the series producer for The Country Midwives, a new series that follows community midwives on the road in Carmarthenshire.
It’s been a real pleasure to be in the lives of ‘The Country Midwives’ of Carmarthenshire over the past 12 months. Being a mum myself in west Wales I know all too well how the midwives’ care and advice are invaluable, and how they make you feel like you’re the only mum they’re caring for. In reality they can see up to ten mums a day. So having this behind-the-scenes glimpse into the community midwives’ work has been amazing. I am in awe of the work they do and the compassion and care they show.
The Country Midwives
We wanted to show the community element to the midwives’ work and long-term relationships. Midwives are in parents’ lives for several months. This meant the crew would be too. With the backing of our BBC executive producer Christina Macaulay and the Hywel Dda University Health Board we aimed to show different sides to the midwives’ work and how cultural, health and technological changes means the job is constantly developing.
Cheryl Jones, who is our sound operator (with Janette Jones) introduced us to midwife Anwen Evans when we filmed our pilot back in 2012. Cheryl and Anwen had been friends for years, which helped break the ice and helped Anwen relax on screen. A big thank you to our cast of dedicated midwives: Anwen, Sian Maynard, Nan Duncan, Lyn Smith and Caren Thomas. Our initial contact with mums was made through the midwives themselves. So, without their commitment to the project, we wouldn’t have had a series.
Before we could start the filming we needed to have detailed negotiations with the Health Board regarding access. This was a long process that meant that I got to know the Health Board’s staff well and got a chance to build up good working relationships. Then the filming began!
Geraint Rhys Jones was both director and cameraman. Geraint had the hands-on experience of waiting for homebirths with the midwives too - which meant weeks at a time on standby. The families were kind enough to agree to let us be a part of the homebirths. And, as all parents know, babies come when they’re ready. This meant that the births could come at almost any time, weeks before or after the due date.
Not all mums who agreed to be filmed for a homebirth actually had one! Some mums were over-due and therefore - for medical reasons - ended up giving birth in hospital. But four of the mums we followed did have homebirths, with each one of them being completely different, all at different times of the day and night! What was fascinating was to watch the concentration on the midwives’ faces during the birth, as they watched the mum so closely, picking up on everything, like detectives.
We’ve been very privileged to have families let us into their homes and hearts - letting us be part of some of the happiest and saddest moments of their lives. Thank you to all those families. Without their cooperation, the series wouldn’t have been possible.
One mum I got to know over the series, whose story particularly touched all the crew, was Dwynwen Davies. She was brave enough to share her story with the audience. Dwynwen was carrying twins, and had picked up the Pavo virus (known colloquially as ‘slap cheek’). Before covering this story I had little understanding of the severity of the virus. Along with Dwynwen’s campaign to gain awareness of the Pavo virus, we hope our series might help raise awareness of its dangers.
Thank you to everyone who features in the programme. We set out to show audiences the behind-the-scenes real-life drama and, particularly, the integrity and full value of the community midwives’ work. We hope we’ve captured this and that the audience, as well as everyone involved in the series, will enjoy it.
The Country Midwives is on Thursday 6 March at 8pm on BBC One Wales.