The baby died.
The one my fellow nurses and I rocked and held and sang to, the one we fed and nurtured as best we could through her withdrawal from the constant stream of opioids that had been coursing through her mother’s blood stream and ultimately into hers.
Other babies died, too, and continue to die every day. Some in the hospital. Some in foster care. Some neglected by their parents shooting up in the room next to theirs.
As a nurse, I’ve cared for these babies.
I care for these addicts.
And the whole mess of it breaks my heart.
If you’re already a reader of my novels, then you know they are inspired by things in this world which break my heart. In How Sweet the Sound, it was sexual abuse. In Then Sings My Soul, it was the plight of the unseen elderly in our society. In Lead Me Home, it was the plight of small churches and family farms closing all around us.
My newest novel, Before I Saw You, is no exception.
Before I Saw You is inspired by the despair of the opioid crisis, as well as the silent journeys and shame of birth mothers, too often courageous but forgotten people among us.
To say that the opioid crisis is an epidemic full of despair is an understatement. Today’s opioid crisis is killing not only adults, but too often innocent children. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.1 The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare…The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.10Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.10This issue has become a public health crisis with devastating consequences including increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy.
Where can people find hope?
That was–and is–the question my heart is asking.
That’s the question that drove me to write a story with characters like Jaycee Givens who are asking the same thing, searching for the same answers, seeking the same hope in the midst of so much hard.
At the same time I was researching the opioid crisis, I was researching the journey of birth mothers. I read websites and books and visited adoption agencies and spoke with birth mothers, and soon realized so many of them face a lifetime of silence and shame. While our society is quick to celebrate adoption–and rightly so–the journey of the birthmother as they carry the baby inside them and wrestle with the heart-wrenching decision to place their child is too often forgotten.
In tandem, I discovered the opioid crisis and birth mothers were the perfect contemporary parallel to the story of Jochebed, Moses’ birth mother whose story is told in Exodus 1-2. As such, Before I Saw You was born.
As with all my novels, I hope readers will discover hope in the midst of these excruciating times. The more I speak about the themes of Before I Saw You, the more I’m amazed that few, if any of us, are immune to the devastation of the opioid crisis.
It seems like everyone has a loved one or a friend who has struggled with addiction, had their family torn apart by, or tragically lost a loved one to the opioid epidemic.
Also, I pray that birth mothers who read Before I Saw You will find hope through protagonist Jaycee’s journey, in the midst of their silence, and what is often a lifetime, low grade fever of grief and shame.
All in all, Before I Saw You is a story of a small town in dire straits, and full of big-hearted people struggling to find hope in the midst.
Just like you and me.
About Before I Saw You:
Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.
Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has. Eventually, she realizes she can’t hide her pregnancy any longer—not even from the baby’s abusive father, who is furious when he finds out. The choices she must make for the safety of her unborn child threaten to derail any chance she ever had for hope and redemption. Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.