Midwife, Sara, arrives at a farmhouse - a make-shift hospital. Shells explode in the distance, and she jumps. She sets her nerves aside as two expectant mothers need her to get them through childbirth. One of them, Anne, is especially anxious and superstitious, regarding everything as a sign that some awful fate will befall her and her child. She believes the guard is a traitor and if you have a boy it dies. She trusts Sara and this is strengthened further when Sara successfully helps deliver a healthy baby girl. Also at the farmhouse is a hard-faced matron who never gives a smile except to the guard. When Anne goes into labour unexpectedly, Sara finds the guard and the matron having sex and delivers the baby boy on her own. The matron insists the baby be brought to her. Anne sleeps. When she awakens, Sara is in floods of tears. Anne screams. Her son is dead. Anne leaves and Sara - no longer jumping at the shells - goes down the back way to the house and sees Anne being shuffled down the side of a hill where the matron secretly gives her the healthy baby boy.
Exodus 1 15-21 – the Pharoah orders midwives to kill Hebrew baby boys. The women ‘fear God’ so they save the babies instead. This story has always stuck in my mind because he was requiring women trained to bring life into the world to destroy it and it was this that I wanted to dwell on. As I thought about the story, I watched scenes in Ukraine where children had been killed in bombings aided by Ukrainians with Russian sympathies who gave information to allow the killing to take place. I thought how a traitor might infiltrate a hospital and threaten the most vulnerable and how the women might act to save the babies. I decided that one of them would have to appear – even to her colleagues – to be a collaborator and the story developed. By having an ’innocent’ midwife arrive at this world she can be our eyes and ears as we fear the traitor and the collaborator before realising the babies are being saved. It means that while some innocents are saved, some innocence is lost as despite the ‘happy’ ending, a girl grows up realising the world is far more complex that she imagined.