One week before THE MIDWIFE‘s book launch, I received an email from a woman who had been given up for adoption by a Mennonite with a last name that is found in my own family tree.
The woman wanted to establish a connection with her biological mother, but her mother was unwilling to meet her. It even seemed that her mother’s family was trying to prevent the meeting taking place.
At my book launch, I met this woman who had emailed, but the crowd prevented us from speaking until after the event. Pulling me aside, the woman softly told me more about her story.
She told me her friend had tracked down a high school picture of her biological mother—to see if she had red hair like she had growing up—but the picture was in black and white.
She told me that she’d found the medical records regarding her birth, and that each page instructed the doctor and nurses not to allow the Mennonite woman to see her own child.
The biological mother still lived in the same town where she had given birth; she even had the same last name. Nothing had apparently changed in all those years—and yet it seemed, to me, that the stagnation of the biological mother’s life showed that she was unable to move on.
“The part that got me in THE MIDWIFE—” the woman paused to wipe tears beneath her glasses “—was when Rhoda said that one child cannot replace another.”
I then began to understand why THE MIDWIFE, my sophomore novel, had touched this woman’s heart to such an extent, she had reached out to me with her heartrending story.
Beth Winslow, in THE MIDWIFE, loses one child, a son, to adoption when she’s in college. Later, in graduate school, she becomes a gestational surrogate for her research professor and his wife to pay for graduate school and because she believes this sacrificial act will capture her professor’s love.
When it’s believed the child will be abnormal and the parents want to abort it, Beth risks everything to save her by fleeing to a home for unwed mothers called Hopen Haus, which is overseen by a Mennonite midwife who becomes the mother to Beth that she never had.
However, when the biological parents are alerted to the fact that their child is healthy and whole, they come and take her back. From there, THE MIDWIFE expounds on the heights and depths a mother will go to protect her child, and what is the definition of true motherhood: genetics or love.
“I’m sorry to pour this all out on you,” the woman said, drawing me back to the present. “I’m just trying to understand more of that Mennonite culture . . . to understand more where my biological mother’s coming from.”
My eyes welling with compassion, I reached out and took the woman’s hand. The two of us were strangers one week ago, but I felt such kinship with her that it did not feel strange to stand on that polished wood floor as the book launch crowd continued to disperse around us.
“Don’t be sorry,” I said, gripping her fingers. “This is the reason I write. This right here.”
For the woman thought that I had given something to her by sharing THE MIDWIFE‘s story that ministered to her heart, but after listening to her own story, she was the one who had ministered to mine.
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