The first chapter of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards sets the stage for a moving story. I condensed the chapter in my own words; it is southern author, Edwards, who makes the story soar. Be aware, while reading this summary three character-voices alternate.
The year is 1964, when a rogue snow storm hits the Lexington night. The same night my wife, a delicate, green-eyed Kentucky flower, decides to go into labor. I am not so sure I’m ready for this. Yes, I’m a doctor, but my calling is bones not babies.
For all my nervousness, this being my first pregnancy, David is solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. He takes my announcement, “the baby is coming,” all in stride. Matter of fact he’s rather slow during my urgency. This man I love, must stop at all red lights; although, we are the only ones in this blanket of snow. “Did you call Bentley?”
There is a lone car in the parking lot when they pull into the clinic. Dr. Bentley is unable to make it; David’s trusted nurse informs him. She being tall and thin with the prettiest pale-blue eyes; eyes that admire David, many say too much. She must be hiding a crush.
Fear eases from the room as the newborn exits his mother’s warm womb. It isn’t an easy delivery, but David’s confidence is ready for future encounters. The baby boy, comfortably clean and bundled, is oblivious to his mother’s shrieks in the next room. It’s not over.
I held my breath with this second birth. The baby, a little girl, was different. She was like the training movies we saw in medical school. She carries an extra chromosome, it is obvious, and heart defects are sure to be her lot. I call out for the nurse.
How can he ask me to do this? Doesn’t the mother have a say? Shouldn’t they think about this for a couple of days before sending the baby to the state hospital? He hands me a piece of paper with a name and address. He gazes into my eyes and I give the slightest okay as my one protest exits, “the snow.”
Now, he must face his wife and tell her the news. He takes her hand of delicate white and feels her fragile state. How does he explain their daughter’s birth defect? “Oh, my love,” he says. “I am so sorry. Our little daughter died as she was born.”