Friday, August 19, 2005

The Birth

“Why did you choose tonight, of all nights, to come into the world,” She said as she smoothed her hands over her heavily pregnant belly. She moved slowly from the kitchen with a stub of a candle lighting her way.

Outside it was still raining heavily and the wind was howling. It had already brought down trees and power lines in the area. Her husband was out in the weather, trying to get the local midwife. The power had gone out just as they sat down to dinner. They sat down to a candle lit dinner, probably the last for sometime, with the baby on its way. She had had niggling pains all day; this hadn’t been a concern to her as the baby was not due for another three weeks.

The pains had become contractions during dinner; she knew that this wasn’t a false alarm. She got her husband to run her a bath thinking it might help. The contractions became stronger and more frequent. She asked him to call the midwife; the baby would be born tonight. He picked up the phone, there was no dial tone. There was no way of contacting the midwife. He started to panic, what did he know about delivering a baby? What if something happened? She was calm, she told him he had to get help, the doctor or the midwife, but he would have to go.

She watched him leave, a bolt of lightning turning the night into day as he drove the car down the drive. She locked the door behind her and walked back to the kitchen, to get a candle, feeling her way along the wall. She had to stop a few times, clutching her belly as the contractions shuddered through her. She was standing at the sink when another contraction gripped her. She held tight to the counter until it passed. It was then that her waters broke.

She knew that it would not be long now. But would her husband and the midwife get back on time. She knew that it was unlikely. She carefully made her way to the bedroom, her path lit only by the stump of candle that she carried and the occasional lightning bolt.

She lay on the bed and talked to the baby between contractions. “Please wait … just a little … longer … your daddy … will … be back … soon … with help.” She was feeling ill; she didn’t know what to do. She began to cry.

“Shush, my child, do not fear, all will be well.” She looked up to see an old woman with haggard features coming toward her with a lantern. “Where is my husband?” she asked of the woman. Her question went unanswered, as the old woman examined her. “Now my dear this child is ready to greet the world, push.” She was feeling weak but she gritted her teeth and pushed. The baby slithered free and let out a healthy cry. The old woman wrapped the child in a shirt and placed him in his mothers’ arms.

Her husband drove into the driveway just as the power was restored. He unlocked the front door and ushered the midwife in. He looked around; the dinner plates were still on the table. He called out to his wife but there was no response. It was then that he noticed a pool of blood on the kitchen floor and bloody footprints that led towards the back of the house. The midwife had noticed them too and was following their grisly path.

They found her on the bed, cradling the baby in her arms. The midwife set about examining the mother and child. The husband clearly upset by the scene that he had witnessed held tight to her hand and brushed the hair from her brow.

She tells him it is okay, the midwife came and delivered the child. He tries to explain to her that he has just returned with the midwife. “No” she tells him “an old woman is here.” There was no sign of anyone in the room or the house, and no sign of anyone else having attended the birth.

The midwife catches the husbands’ attention and speaks to him out of earshot of his wife. She explains that she is concerned about infection; his wife is clearly feverish and delirious. “We need to get her to the hospital.” She then returned to her examination of the child. She gasped, tied around the stump of the umbilical cord was a single strand of silver hair.

© Megan Warren, August 2005


Anita Marie Moscoso said...

My Great Grandmother was a midwife and she in turn taught the skill to my Grandfather and his siblings.

What always struck me as strange was that along with the attention they paid to keeping things clean they were always very concerned with guarding the Mother and Child from Evil Spirits.

In fact, that skill was taught along side the medical skill and they practiced both together.

Anita Marie

Gail Kavanagh said...

A lovely story, Megan - thank you foir posting it.

Heather Blakey said...

This is fabulously crafted Megan and reaches a sensational climax. Bravo.