The Midwife as Story Teller

January 31, 2017 | By | Reply More

Call the Midwife, the British television series is seen world- wide and has become popular in the United States.  People who’d barely heard of midwives or thought they were old ladies who came to your log cabin back in the 1700s have become interested, even fascinated by the subject. Most people don’t know that the series is loosely based on the memoir titled Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, a real life National Health Service professional, in London during the 1950s.

I began writing ten years ago, recording the stories that women told me when I saw them in the privacy of the exam room.  I was going through menopause and in the night when I couldn’t sleep, I would get up and write about the women I saw and their stories of family and professional stress, of love gone wrong and love gone right. After I while I realized I was writing a book and began to record the drama behind the scenes in the office where I worked with my physician husband as well as the challenges of providing compassionate care in a health care system that was stacked against you.

Those midnight writings became my first book, The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife’s Memoir, which was published in 2009. Three more novels and another memoir followed.

People often ask me, were you always a writer?  I answer no, but I was always a storyteller. Even as a child, I loved dramatizing and would entertain friends and families with colorful tales. Then I realized that story telling went both ways.  I was inspired by stories patients told me, but I also used stories to inspire, educate, warn and comfort those same patients.

Story telling is uniquely human. Anthropologists have argued that story telling is pre-verbal, that pictographs on the inside of caves are in fact stories.  From the earliest days, humankind has used narrative to record history, to entertain, to convey experience and to transfer information. When you think about it, this is something no other species can do.  It’s an evolutionary advantage and allows each individual to harbor more information than personal experience would allow.

We all know that many individuals are non-traditional learners and even those with higher education love a good story.  Research and statistics are boring for most people and easy to forget.  Many patients, if given a handout on birth control drop it in the trash by the elevator as they leave our office. They don’t have time to read the pamphlet or don’t understand why they should.

On the other hand, if I tell a story, in an amusing way, about a young woman who refused to take her birth control pills because she was worried they would make her fat…and now she’s pregnant and has gained 40 pounds, that’s a cautionary tale and brings a smile and a knowing nod from the sixteen-year-old who comes with her mother to discuss birth control.  Now she gets it.  That’s not going to happen to her!  

 Using stories to teach and inform, whether one is a nurse, a teacher, a writer or any other professional can accomplish what no other method of communication can do; they can get to the heart and brain with a message.

Patricia Harman is the author of The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife’s Memoir, Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey, The Midwife of Hope River (historical fiction), The Reluctant Midwife (historical fiction), Lost on Hope Island (juvenile fiction) and coming January 31, 2017, The Runaway Midwife (contemporary fiction.

Her books feature midwives, but also the community around the midwife.  They’re not just about birthing those babies, but also about love, loss, fear, redemption and hope.

Her books are The Blue Cotton Gown, Arms Wide Open, The Midwife of Hope River, The Reluctant Midwife, Lost on Hope Island: The Amazing Tale of the Little Goat Midwives and coming in January 2017 a new contemporary novel, The Runaway Midwife.

Her website is

About The Runaway Midwife:

From the USA Today bestselling author of the Hope River series comes a new contemporary midwife novel.

Say “goodbye” to your old life, and “hello” to the life you’ve been waiting for…

Midwife Clara Perry is accustomed to comforting her pregnant patients…calming fathers-to-be as they anxiously await the birth of their children…ensuring the babies she delivers come safely into the world.

But when Clara’s life takes a nosedive, she realizes she hasn’t been tending to her own needs and does something drastic: she runs away and starts over again in a place where no one knows her or the mess she’s left behind in West Virginia. Heading to Sea Gull Island—a tiny, remote Canadian island—Clara is ready for anything. Well, almost. She left her passport back home, and the only way she can enter Canada is by hitching a ride on a snowmobile and illegally crossing the border.

Deciding to reinvent herself, Clara takes a new identity—Sara Livingston, a writer seeking solitude. But there’s no avoiding the outside world. The residents are friendly, and draw “Sara” into their lives and confidences. She volunteers at the local medical clinic, using her midwifery skills, and forms a tentative relationship with a local police officer.

But what will happen if she lets down her guard and reveals the real reason why she left her old life? One lesson soon becomes clear: no matter how far you run, you can never really hide from your past.


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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

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