Title: Mother's Day
Word Count 740
It crested and it was the worst one yet. Every one was the worst yet.
The pain in her back didn't stop now, but tore at her like a terrible claw. She had been so sure she would not scream. Now she was too tired to hear herself, too tired for tears. Her throat was raw.
They had asked, at the beginning the midwife, and Annet, her 'prentise. Janie had lifted her chin, proud. Well, she wasn't proud now. Not at all. She pushed her hair back, panting.
“I said you are almost there. Time to move to the stool.”
Her voice was a whisper, a rasp. There was a moment or two before it came back. If she held very still maybe it would not find her.
“You cannot labor on the bed-- you will want it for later--”
“Help me lift her.”
The voice was merciless. Two hands under her arms, other hands, four hands, six, on her naked shaking flesh. They lifted her, made her walk, and it came. It found her and she screamed.
The sun had moved by the end. She would remember always, how it shone in her eyes.
“Just breathe now, little breaths, like blowing out a candle.”
The voice was merciless and stupid too. Who could think about candles when-- she had been right. The claw was going to tear her to pieces.
“Here we are, that's the shoulders now. Hand me the towel there, Annet.”
The voice went on, talking softly now, and there was a rush of some sliding thing. Something was making kitten sounds.
Janie could see now, the towel, and a tiny hand, extended, fingers out wide, reaching for her, looking for her.
“There. A fine boy.”
They brought a clean shift to clothe her. It was over. She should be covered. The shift was one she had worn at the end. It was huge, but so was she still. She had thought she would be smaller again right away. Looking down, she could see the belly still there, but soft and saggy and empty. They eased her back on the bed, cool and clean. That was good at least.
The pain was still there too. It much less now, but not gone, as she had dared to hope. Annet came kneaded her belly, like a woman making bread. That made it worse.
“Hurts. Do you have to?”
“Where did she take him?”
“Oh, just to get him cleaned up a little. Don't you worry.”
“I want him.”
Annet seemed amused. It wasn't funny.
“Here we are.”
The midwife was back, they had him all wrapped up, only his little head sticking out, he was a person, with a face, yowling in fury.
“There now. Put him to the tit, like this-- see he knows what to do. Get her a cold ale, Annet, from the summerhouse.”
The door shut. The midwife sat down on the chair by the bed.
“I must ask you again. Who is the father? It is better to know, child. You can force him to--”
“I don't know!”
Well that shut the old biddy up.
“Is he supposed to have have hair on his back?” She could not help the quaver in her voice. He he a lot of it, black whorls, like a man.
“Oh yes. Many do. It will fall out by next week. Now wrap him up, it keeps 'em warmer so.”
So she wrapped the cloth around him, held him close. He smelled so good. She rested her nose on his head so she could get the good smell of him deep into her. He smelled like something she had known once, so well and forgotten, forgotten or dreamed.
“Why not let me put him in the cradle? You should sleep.”
“No, not yet.”
She wanted to smell him, to open his little hands, to rub his miniscule feet. How could anything be so small, and entire?
“He will have your name then-- since you will not name the father. But what will you call him?”
“All right. I'll put it down so, in my book. John Simpson.”