Published by Wild Pressed Books
Available in Paperback (1 April 2020)
ABOUT THE BOOK
“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century”.
Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.
The year draws to a close with the first-ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face ex-communication.
Welcome to the start of the tour for The Gossips’ Choice. My thanks to Kelly of Love Books Group for the place on the tour and the publisher for providing the extract.
Having cut the cord, Lucie applied a few ashes from a burned linen rag to the open end and sealed it with a fresh piece of linen.
‘We don’t want the cold getting into your belly, do we, young man?’ she cooed to the baby, as she went through the necessary processes.
In the corner of the room the Jones’s dog had recently whelped and was busily licking her pups to toilet them.
‘’T’would be much simpler if we could bring forth our babes as easily as the beasts do,’ Jane said ruefully.
Lucie looked up.
‘That’s very true,’ she said, ‘but as we know, the curse from our first mother’s sin means the burden of childbirth falls much more heavily on us.’
Her next task was to bathe the infant gently in warm wine, and then she stroked down his belly to encourage him to pass his first water, and examined his fundament before wrapping him in soft clothes. In swaddling him, Lucie made sure all his limbs were straight and in the right places. Having had the filth picked from his nose, the infant was deemed ready to be placed in his cradle.
Mary had also finished attending to Anne, who was quietly jubilant, looking forward to telling her husband he had another son. Due to Mary’s fine care she had not torn or injured herself, so was likely to recover quickly.
‘Who will suckle the baby while your good milk comes, Anne?’ Mary asked.
‘I will,’ replied Jane Croft. ‘My boy is four months old and I can easily nurse this new lad alongside my own for a couple of days. Anne will return the favour next time, I’m sure.’
Living hard-by one another in the weavers’ cottages, the women of Warley Lane rarely had to resort to feeding water or asses’ milk to their newborns while they waited for their good milk to come in.
‘Ah yes, Jane, how does little Matthew do?’ asked Lucie. ‘He was a fine boy when we birthed him and I thought he was like to do well.’
‘Oh, he is strong and very contented, Mistress Smith. Last month he was troubled with some sores on his breech. But Mister Smith sold me some unguent for sixpence for them, and now he’s as happy as a king.’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.
She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.
She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.
She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).
Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.
Follow Sara on Twitter @saralread