Book Review / Outback Midwife by Beth McRae

Outback Midwife is the true story of McRae’s forty-plus years as a midwife…”
Irina Markovsky reviews Outback Midwife by Beth McRae.

Beth McRae began her training as a midwife at Preston and Northcote Community Hospital in  1970s Victoria. Outback Midwife is the true story of McRae’s forty-plus years as a midwife, from her terrifying first day as a student nurse witnessing a birth, to her training as a midwife – back when a ‘birth plan’ was unheard of.

McRae’s dedication to her work sees her get awards as recognition for her efforts by her colleagues. Her career takes her all over Australia, ‘catching babies’ from the city to the bush. As a result, she meets people from all walks of life at one of the most important moments in their lives. Beth makes lasting bonds with all she meets.

After more than thirty years on the job, in her fifties, at an age when most people retire, Beth moves to a remote Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. She embarks on a new adventure to the outback, where she believes her experience is needed most. A crash course in Aboriginal culture ensues, as she midwifes for women not used to giving birth in hospital. They are used to being surrounded by the women of their community, as they welcome the newborn into the world. Many Aboriginal women are not used to being in hospital for the birth of their children and Beth is an immense source of help to them in this transition.

As time goes on, Beth learns more about the many aspects of Aboriginal ceremonies and traditions. She works in the north of Australia where cyclones are frequent. She gets to know women in the Aboriginal communities where she works, their lives and needs. Beth McCrae learns that midwifery is more than delivering babies. It means she gets to know the mother and the mother’s family and friends in the process, their expectations and beliefs.

In the book’s epilogue, the author reveals the worth of this experience, “We can all play our small part toward making major changes by learning to respect and understand each other more. My extended family of mothers and babies across the land are the reason I have loved every moment of my life as an outback midwife.”

The Outback Midwife is an inspirational recount of the author’s personal journey, the experiences of starting and raising her family all while pursuing a career helping other people start theirs.

This book is an honest and enlightening piece of non-fiction, which gives the reader a glimpse into the reality of what it means to be a midwife and help women deliver babies into the world.

Beth McRae’s career choice sees her make a positive, lasting difference to women’s lives all over Australia.

Irina Markovsky is a Sydney based freelance writer with an interest in travel writing and contemporary women’s fiction. You can follow here on twitter: @MomentinArt or contact her by email:

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