Welcome to this week’s read of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Here, we take a look at how a bestseller like this is written.
Chapter 32: Hard Labor
Summary: Just a day or two before Claire and Jamie must leave due to redcoats drawing near, Jenny goes into labor. Claire, who has only seen three births, all of which were performed with modern medicine that’d be of no help to her in this time, insists Jamie get the midwife rather than relying on her. However, she does stay to help Jenny as she can.
The midwife arrives and Jenny’s labor becomes increasingly difficult with little progress. After a while, she grows very exhausted and starts to fear she’ll die. This, of course, gets Claire quite worried. At last, she ventures to the midwife that maybe the baby is “backwards.” The midwife checks and begins trying to turn the baby. Finally, after quite a bit of effort, the child does turn, and things pick up very quickly. Within a few minutes, Jenny’s daughter is born.
Claire goes down to tell Ian that he has a daughter and instead finds the men half drunk. Only then does she realize how frightened Ian was that Jenny wouldn’t make it.
That night as Claire and Jamie get ready for bed, Jamie tells her that he’s actually relieved that she’s barren. Them getting pregnant while they’re on the run would be very difficult. Plus, after hearing his sister scream her way through labor, he never wants to hear Claire suffer like that.
Writer Comments: I always find labor and birth interesting in books, especially when written by a female author. It’s always interesting to see where stereotypes, history, and personal experience collide. Of course, you can never tell for certain which elements an author pulls from each category. For example, if I were to write a birth, since I’ve delivered two children, I could draw on experience to write about pain. On the other hand, as I used hypnosis for the second birth, which worked really well, I also have the experience to know that labor doesn’t have to be all pain. There are tricks. The challenge however would be that most readers probably wouldn’t believe such a depiction. So, as much as we women may rebel against the concept, as authors we are often bound by stereotypes that fuel reader expectations. This is true of birth as well any pretty much every other topic.
However, one thing I do like about Gabaldon as a writer, is how she sprinkles in historical and life details. The midwife does not act like a modern doctor dressed up in homespun. She acts like what I presume Gabaldon discovered midwives acted like during this time. Perhaps even the way they act now to some extent. Such details give the labor and delivery scene much of its unique character.
And, of course, you can’t go wrong with a little cuteness at the end of this event. After his baby sister is born, little Jamie hops up on his mother’s bed and insists that Jenny is his mommy.
The end of this chapter is the important element though. It marks a turning point, however small. Jamie accepts Claire’s barrenness. He even gives praise for it. While it’s clear that her inability to conceive a child bothers her, this is such a supportive thing for a husband to do. Perhaps it will help her come to better terms with it herself. However, knowing books like I do, I wonder if Claire will get pregnant sometime in the not so distant future, just when she and Jamie are least expecting it.