- Belling, Catherine
- Date of entry: Jan-24-1998
- Last revised: Sep-01-2006
In March, 1981, in Vermont, Charlotte Bedford goes into labor. She has decided to give birth at home with the help of a midwife, Sybil Danforth, but complications develop. Charlotte has a seizure, her heart stops, and she does not respond to CPR. The fetus is still alive, so Sybil delivers him successfully by Cesarean section, with a kitchen knife. But the bleeding when Sybil makes the incision convinces her assistant that the patient’s heart was still beating. She reports this to the police and Sybil is put on trial for involuntary manslaughter.
The story of the trial is told by Sybil’s daughter, Connie, fourteen years old at the time and now an obstetrician-gynecologist. The acquittal comes at a price: the midwife finds herself no longer capable of delivering babies, and both she and her daughter are given a new insight into the uncertainty which underlies so many of medical decisions. At the end of the novel we are left uncertain whether or not Charlotte was still alive when her baby was delivered.