Midwives have been around to assist birthing mothers for millenia, but their calling has come into the crossfire more than once during that time. Even now they’re not licensed to practice in many parts of North America.
The Midwife’s Legacy is the June release in the Romancing America novella collections released by Barbour, and follows a family tradition of midwifery through a handwritten journal handed down from one generation to the next. Not every generation is included in this anthology, as it begins in Wisconsin in ** then follows the Oregon Trail to the Portland area, where the final story is a contemporary romance.
The journal is a wonderful motif that ties the stories together through interesting eras of American history. Each woman records not only the details of the births she’s assisted, but tips and hints on how best to ease the mother’s worries and labor. The journal takes on another dimension as the women record their personal feelings and introspection regarding what they feel is their personal and hereditary calling.
The first novella is called “A Mother’s Cry” and is written by Jane Kirkpatrick. It takes place in Wisconsin in ** and is the story of farmer and midwife Adele Marley. Though once married and now widowed, Adele herself never gave birth but has raised Polly, the daughter of her best friend who died in childbirth. As the story opens the new banker in town asks Adele to aid his sister when she gives birth, but Adele is afraid because this woman, like Polly’s mother, is a bleeder. Jerome is determined not only to gain Adele’s assistance but her love.
The second novella in the book is “The Midwife’s Apprentice” by Rhonda Gibson. This follows the first novella directly, carrying on with Adele’s foster daughter, Polly Schultz, as she makes her way west along the Oregon Trail. She’s been Adele’s apprentice for several years (at the ripe old age of seventeen) and signs on with a family expecting a baby along the journey. She doesn’t intend to fall in love with minister Gordon Baker, but when both are captured by a roving Indian band, marriage to him seems her only option. If only he loved her as well, but it seems he doesn’t. Or does he?
“Birth of a Dream” is the third novella, this one by Pamela Griffin. Christiana is Polly’s granddaughter and learning to be a midwife from her own mother during a time when many were beginning to look down on midwifery for various reasons. Christiana’s father has helped set up the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon, in 1905. He’s a forward thinking man in some ways, but isn’t ready to let his daughter grow up, especially if it means allowing reporter Noah Cafferty anywhere near. Christiana isn’t certain what she thinks of Noah, either. She’s attracted to him, sure, but he feels a woman’s place is in the home, and Christiana is certain she’s called to be a midwife. That’s definitely not a calling she can pursue from the comfort of her own home. What will it take to get Christiana and Noah on the same page?
The final novella, “Labor of Love” by Trish Perry is set in current times, also in Portland area, but a few generations further than Christiana. Kendra Silverstone is in the process of starting a clinic with a couple of other midwives. A friend of hers introduces her to genius carpenter Steven Nichols, who in turn introduces her to his sister, who’s pregnant and just become separated from her doctor husband due to his affair. Does Kendra dare take on the local medical community by offering Steven’s sister what she wants most, when she will likely be blackballed at the hospital for her efforts? But how can she say no to the carpenter, especially when he’s willing to restore the old desk that belonged to her ancestors?
What did I particularly like about this collection? Where I live, midwives are not only legal but fully funded by our medical system. They have hospital privileges or, in some cases, offer the option of home births. Both of my granddaughters have been born in a hospital under the care of a midwife. Rather than seeing a doctor who has some birthing courses in the line of a full education, my daughter was happy to visit a midwife who has four years education dealing strictly with pregnancy, birth, and newborn care. Here’s her post early in her first pregnancy that tells about it.
I enjoyed all the novellas but must say, partly because of my daughter, I really loved the contemporary one best. This isn’t the first story by Trish Perry I’ve read, and it won’t be last!
I received an e-copy of this collection for review from NetGalley. Opinions, as always, are mine alone.