Published by The University of North Carolina Press in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
2017 Media Award Winner, American College of Nurse Midwives
Longlist finalist, 2017 Chautauqua Prize
"All this business today of 25 percent of the patients in the United States having cesarean sections? That’s not God’s plan. He put the baby in there, and I fully believe he’s capable of getting it out. And here menfolks who’ll never have a baby have taken all the rightness out of it. They took all the naturalness out of it and turned it over to men and insurance companies, and what they want is to have this fast technological stuff more than the humane human side. But what starts the human heart? Is it technology?“
- Lovie Shelton
Lovie is the true story of Lovie Beard Shelton, an elderly white midwife who delivered some 4000 babies in more than fifty years of practice in rural eastern North Carolina. A local celebrity and self-invented folk hero, Lovie is a staunch defender of home birth, natural birth and a no-nonsense approach to labor and delivery. (“I told one woman, ‘Don't pull that waterbed stuff on me, because I don't want no waterbed babies.’”)
Over the years Lovie delivered black, white, Mennonite and hippy women, women too poor to afford a hospital birth or a doctor and women rich enough to have any kind of delivery they pleased. Now at the end of her career, she considers her outsider status in the medical world, the unsolved murder of her son, and the deterioration of her body and memory that leave her wondering: When I’m no longer the midwife, who am I? Facing retirement and a host of health issues, Lovie attempts to fit together the jagged pieces of her life as she prepares for one final home birth.
Lovie is a provocative chronicle of one midwife's life and work, which spanned enormous changes in midwifery and in the ways women give birth. It is also the story of Lisa and Lovie's affectionate and sometimes fraught relationship. Finally, this is the story of telling the story: what are the choices involved in producing an authentic portrait of a woman who is at once loner and self-styled folk hero?
Throughout the manuscript resounds the voice of Lovie herself, especially her self-deprecating humor and her emotional attempts to make sense of the blend of grief and joy, success and isolation that has marked her life. Lovie is a book about one of the world’s oldest female professions and one of its skilled, charismatic, contemporary practitioners. Not only a record of an elderly woman’s struggle to cope with aging, grief and loss, it is also an examination of the crisis of a hyper-directed person facing mortality.
What others are saying about Lovie:
"A beautifully told story that transitions seamlessly from the strictly informational to the amusingly anecdotal."
- Washington Daily Times
"Yarger's prose is sharp and the story is captivating."
"This book has such an authentic character that I felt transported to her time and place. I felt Lovie's pain, joy and weariness -- the writing is that powerful."
- Reviewers' comments, 2017 Chautauqua Prize
“I had a hard time putting down this documentary portrait of a pioneering U.S. nurse-midwife who assisted the births of more than 4,000 home-born babies over her half-century career in a medically underserved rural area of eastern North Carolina. Folklorist Lisa Yarger’s first meeting with Lovie Shelton sparked the beginning of a long friendship that grew in spite of religious, cultural, and generational differences. Whether you are a prospective parent, medical or midwifery student or practitioner, sociologist, anthropologist, historian, or someone who enjoys well-told stories, this is a book you’ll treasure.”
- Ina May Gaskin, author of Spiritual Midwifery and Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesto
"Lisa Yarger wants readers to know Lovie as a whole person and presents the values, cultural influences, and experiences that shaped her subject’s life. In doing so, she challenges prevalent medical views that fail to see the influence of culture and personal belief systems on the behaviors, attitudes, and other skills of health care practitioners."
- Linda Janet Holmes, author of Listen to Me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife
"A compelling read, this page-turner is a lovely and instructive account of midwifery and the complex relationships that develop during documentary fieldwork. Lovie is beautifully written, largely because Lisa Yarger is an extraordinary observer who has a keen eye for details, the discipline to record what she sees, and the talent to turn her observations into well-crafted narrative nonfiction."
- Lu Ann Jones, author of Mama Learned Us to Work: Farm Women in the New South
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