From 1950 until 2001, Lovie Beard Shelton practiced midwifery in
eastern North Carolina homes, delivering some 4,000 babies to
black, white, Mennonite, and hippie women; to those too poor to
afford a hospital birth; and to a few rich enough to have any kind
of delivery they pleased. Her life, which was about giving life,
was conspicuously marked by loss, including the untimely death of
her husband and the murder of her son.
is a provocative chronicle of Shelton's life and work,
which spanned enormous changes in midwifery and in the ways women
give birth. In this artful exploration of documentary fieldwork,
Lisa Yarger confronts the choices involved in producing an
authentic portrait of a woman who is at once loner and self-styled
folk hero. Fully embracing the difficulties of telling a
story, Yarger is able to get at the story of telling
the story. As Lovie describes her calling, we meet a woman who sees
herself working in partnership with God and who must wrestle with
the question of what happens when a woman who has devoted her life
to service, to doing God's work, ages out of usefulness. When
I'm no longer a 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.