Truth and Fiction in Writing The Marquess and the Midwife
Researching the Fiction
Just about a year ago I put the final touches on my 2016 Regency Christmas novella, The Marquess and the Midwife. To write that story I did a good deal of research into midwifery practices of the period. Childbirth in that era was a hard, life-threatening process for both mother and baby.
But besides researching medical practices of the time, I wanted to know more about the actual experience of childbirth. I’d never personally had a successful, full-term pregnancy. Both of my children are adopted, and what I knew of the childbirth experience I’d garnered from my mother’s and sister’s descriptions.
Living the Truth
Fast forward a few months and I had a chance to learn more. (Too late for that book, but I’m sure I’ll have more characters giving birth!)
I had a joyful Christmas in 2016–my most successful book release, The Marquess and the Midwife, and news that my daughter was going to have a baby! Best of all, she wanted me to be in the delivery room with her and the baby’s dad.
My girl researched every aspect of her condition and watched her health carefully. But as her due date approached she shared with me how nervous she was. I was confident that all would go well, that her many years of dancing and yoga would make everything go smoothly. And if all that wasn’t enough, good medical care would see her through.
In the weeks before her due date, many women friends and family members I spoke with shared the stories of their own deliveries. And you know what? All those stories and experiences were different! Which tells me, as an author, there’s a great deal of flexibility in the stories I can tell.
Though in the Regency era, I couldn’t have plausibly included a successful birth by caesarian section.
When my daughter’s delivery day came, it wasn’t the normal birth we expected. After many hours of normal labor and augmented labor, our baby went into distress and was delivered by emergency c-section. I didn’t get to be with her for the delivery, but we got to see our new grandson fifteen minutes later, and our daughter as soon as they’d stitched her up. Mother and baby are doing extremely well.
Two hundred years ago, it’s not likely we would have had this happy ending of healthy mother and child, which makes me feel very sad for all the mothers who went before, and very grateful for modern medicine.