This book is the outpouring of many families sharing their realities – past and present, positive and negative. It is the result of a participatory project that involved hundreds of people over several years. Those who participated did so not as writers or analysts, but simply as family members: mothers and fathers, children and grandparents.

Interestingly, the initiative to publish stories by and about families came from two families living on the Quebec-Ontario border, one French, one English. Following interviews with women on the subject of childbirth, Jean-Emmanuel Allard (the illustrator) was touched by the richness of their stories and proposed that we share them by publishing their experiences in their own words. Convinced that reading and writing their sotries could be inspirational to other families, we began by inviting our own families to write and send photographs to the project we called Birth Without Boundaries. We received an enthusiastic response – from cousins and aunts, friends’ neighbours and neighbours’ friends. Soon we couldn’t trace all those who sent us material. (Keep in mind this was pre-Internet era – everything was done by snail mail).

Invitations were distributed locally and by project correspondents in other regions of Canada. Several family-oriented organizations offered to distribute material. Reaction was very positive: the number of people who expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a book written by the family, for the family was huge compared to the actual number of participants.

Of the thousands of photos received, the best were reproduced as watercolour drawings. Most original drawings were given to families to thank them for participating. A concentrated effort was made to answer each letter personally and return all material (texts, cassettes and photographs).

It was a real privilege to be on the receiving end of this correspondence. The confidence shown by complete strangers was very touching; we were allowed a glimpse into family lives at their most intimate moments. This is what gives this collection such realism and feeling.

We would like to thank all who participated by writing, by sending photographs, by passing their enthusiasm on to friends, family and colleagues, and by encouraging us to carry on. The fact that this book made it into print is something of a victory for the family.

Fortunately, many people believed in the project and kept it going, in particular Family: Horizon 1994, and Honorary President Solange Chaput Roland. The determination of Médiapaul’s team and support of religious communities enabled publication during the International Year of the Family.

We would especially like to thank several individuals whose participation greatly improved the quality and quantity of material received: Julie Herr of Acton Vale, Quebec, Joan Doiron of Darmouth, Nova Scotia and Charlene-Marie Wheatley of Courtenay, British Columbia (English edition); Denise-Drouin-Lebrun of Montreal, Quebec, Murielle Beaudoin of St-Lambert, Quebec, and Renée Delarosbil of Sorel-Tracy, Quebec (French edition).

This project has been a wonderful experience in understanding the family, the joys and difficulties, the many forms and essential role in human development. We sincerely hope readers will find in these writings the comfort, amusement, inspiration and reflection the writers intended to share.

Colette Coughlin


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