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Bestselling author Patricia Harman to visit Shaler North Hills Library

| Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, 3:36 p.m.
Bestselling author Patricia Harman will be visiting Shaler North Hills Library on Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m.
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Bestselling author Patricia Harman will be visiting Shaler North Hills Library on Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m.

Have you ever fantasized about running away and starting over elsewhere?

Author Patricia Harman, of Morgantown, W. Va., said that after experiencing a difficult year she found herself longing to do so. So she spent a winter alone at her Pelee Island, Ontario, cottage writing a novel about a midwife escaping her West Virginia life to reinvent herself on a remote Canadian island.

The USA Today bestselling author will read from “The Runaway Midwife” (William Morrow, 2017) at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Shaler North Hills Library.

Harman's books feature midwives because she spent more than 30 years working as one prior to retiring two years ago to focus on writing.

“Every single day you get to help somebody or make them feel better,” Harman, 73, said of the midwifery field. “You give comfort to people. You make them feel safe. You educate them. All those things are just really fun and worthwhile things to do.”

Born in California, Harman attended Oregon's Lewis & Clark College. She spent part of the ‘60s and ‘70s living on Washington, Connecticut and Minnesota communes. She and her husband, Tom, who would become an OB-GYN, traveled the country, sometimes hitchhiking, as detailed in her memoir “Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey” (Beacon Press, 2012).

A life-changing experience occurred when she was visiting her friend on another commune and the friend went into labor. Harman, who had previously taught childbirth classes but had never considered a midwifery career, delivered the baby.

“After that, I wanted to help other people have gentle, respectful births,” she said.

“To me, those first moments of coming into this world are very important. I just felt like the baby should be handled very gently and given to its mom ... and the women, in terms of respect. I just feel that they need to be honored and informed of everything that is going on.”

Harman trained with a collective of homebirth midwives in Austin, Texas. Later, she studied at Ohio's Hocking College to become a registered nurse and earned a master's in nurse-midwifery from the University of Minnesota.

In addition to delivering babies, Harman said midwives may treat other gynecological and primary care issues. She said most midwives have collaborative relationships with physicians, such as the one she shared when working in private practice with her husband from 1998 through 2003.

In addition to keeping journals, Harman started writing down her patients' stories. Her first book “The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir” (Beacon Press, 2009) contains Harman's personal experiences interwoven with those of her former patients.'

“If I had not written “The Blue Cotton Gown” as my first book, I might have stopped writing. I wrote that book to honor all women that have had some difficulties in their lives and have overcome and I was determined to get that book published.”

Representatives from The Midwife Center for Birth & Women's Health in the Strip District will answer questions during the event.

The center's clinical director, Ann McCarthy, has read Harman's book “The Midwife of Hope River (William Morrow, 2012).

“It was an excellent novel and representation of community midwives attending women for pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum (treatment) but also their central role as a healer and caretaker.”

Harman will sell and sign books during her appearance. Guests may bring previously purchased books for her to sign, as well.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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