I was driving in my car and on the way to an interview to promote a kid’s book I’d written. Traffic was chaos and the radio station I was heading to had zero parking so I’d left home particularly early to ensure I arrived and parked in time. Sitting in traffic I skipped onto a radio station and a very well spoken, charming woman spoke about a group she ran for women with infertility issues. I engaged immediately and it wasn’t just because she was a warm, kind woman who spoke well and could tell a story it was because everything she spoke about, I related to. She couldn’t have children and struggled for many years in that pursuit, she set up the group to find a kind of solace in speaking to and with others, in the end she helped not just herself but many women in her position. Another woman came on and spoke about the difficulties she and her husband were experiencing and then another and another. I didn’t want to get out of the car, I was stuck to my seat listening to everyone articulating everything my husband and I had endured and the loss we’d experienced but never felt comfortable talking about. I mean how can you lose something you never had? Eventually when time ran out, I extricated myself out of the car and I did the interview. When I returned the item was over but the idea for Waiting for the Miracle, was born.
I knew a lot about the subject personal to me but I needed to speak to others about their experiences, the fall out on their lives, the loss, love, joy, pain and suffering they’d been through and it was easy to find women willing to talk. Facebook gets a lot of flak and deservedly so but there is nothing quite like it for bringing people together, in researching the book, I found a tribe. Women like me who were open and honest and together we laughed and cried and some had gone on to be mothers, others didn’t and it was good to talk, to grieve and to boost one another and raise each other up. The characters of the four women who meet in an infertility group came from all those woman and conversations I’d had and from me too. They were easy to write, the profound effect they would have on one another reflected the effect those woman who spoke to me had on me. For years I had carried around guilt and it didn’t destroy me or even weigh me down but it was there, chipping away slowly… Did I do enough? Did I accept defeat too early? And the big ‘What if,’ loomed large. Now that guilt has been lifted. I still ask ‘What if,’ every now and then but there’s pain attached to the question. Women, mostly strangers helped me to come to terms with my loss and I hope I helped them to, I wanted to reflect that power, the power of female friendship in the book and it was an easy story to tell.
I knew I needed a counter balance to this story of women struggling with fertility and the tragedy and shame of the sins of the Mother and Baby Institutions were never far from the headlines. The stories of the horror experienced by the young girls and babies whose lives were irrevocably marred and changed by these places seeped into my consciousness. The irony was not lost on me that if the babies of young unmarried girls were still taken from them, sold or handed away to decent married infertile women like myself, I might have the family I’d always dreamed of. I might be made whole at the expense of another woman’s horrific loss. I read everything I could get my hands on and watched interviews with various survivors on Youtube but one particular woman stood out. I contacted her through Facebook and she spoke to me for over three hours, answering every inane question I had from the smell of the institution to the sound of the nuns on the floors. I asked about everything, I could possibly think of and with every answer she gave me I had ten more questions to ask. She was patient and open and all she asked was that I tell the truth. Truth is something that has been denied to her and so many others for so long.
‘Catherine,’ the girl in my story could be any girl that entered one of these institutions. She bears the scars of those places and she is a survivor.
A lot of times, we hear that women can be hardest on other women and sometimes that’s true but my experience is that when we are open and honest with one another, when we reveal our fragility and our frailties and when we reach out, there is no greater, friend, advocate or soldier than one woman in service of another. Waiting for the Miracle isn’t just a story about striving for family; it’s ultimately about the beauty, benefits and endurance of female friendship.
(c) Anna McPartlin
About Waiting for the Miracle:
Anna McPartlin’s new novel is an uplifting and emotional exploration of motherhood, filled with unique and unforgettable characters, as funny as it is moving, and as poignant as it is wise.
Caroline has hit rock bottom. After years of trying, it’s clear she can’t have children, and the pain has driven her and her husband apart. She isn’t pregnant, her husband is gone and her beloved dog is dead.
The other women at her infertility support group have their own problems, too. Natalie’s girlfriend is much less excited about having children than her. Janet’s husband might be having an affair. And then there’s Ronnie, intriguing, mysterious Ronnie, who won’t tell anyone her story.
Catherine is sixteen and pregnant. Her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her, and her parents are ashamed. When she’s sent away to a convent for pregnant girls, she is desperate not to be separated from her child. But she knows she might risk losing the baby forever.
‘An enthralling read with brilliant characterisation, heartbreaking plotting, and so many laughs along the way’ Liz Nugent
‘Beautiful, heart-wrenching and raw. A joy’ Sinéad Moriarty author of the Devlin Sisters novels
Order your copy online here.