Historical setting: 589 C.E. Pagan Village near the Loire
Thankfully, the assignment we are given is hard work and takes us until nightfall. Whenever we are near the cottage we hear sounds through the thatch, sometimes, murmurs and conversation, sometimes the cry of a woman in birth. Yet there is never that terrible empty silence of death. Even Thole can accept the possibility that everything will be alright. Please Dear God, see us all through this.
By dusk now, this outdoor fire is raging. We’ve filled six large barrels emptied of ale, clear to the brims with this strained and boiled purifying water. And here we have gathered plenty of extra wood to keep the fires burning. Two of the women, Ana calls students, bring us out a pot of broth and cups for our supper. How could they think of us at a time like this? We hear a loud howling cry from Tilp, and Thole pushes passed to go in. The women instruct him to be very quiet and gentle.
Largin and I follow and are told we must wash our hands in the trinity of bowls by the door. Thole goes immediately to Tilp, and Ana asks him to wash his wife’s face with a clean linen cloth. Now he has a more significant task than preparing six large barrels of bath water for a yet imagined baby.
Is there ever such a thing as a normal birth? I can’t imagine that, but it is what Colleen says, as she gathers the tiny infant from the billows of wormwood prepared for just this moment. It is indeed a baby boy, slippery and red, but with all the baby parts amazingly tiny and perfect. He cries. She wraps him in a blanket and Thole is immediately a new man — a father he is now — no longer a crazed uncontrolled youth. He is the father of a son. Tilp is glad to take the baby from his arms, and put him to her breast. How can “normal” be so amazing?
Dear God, thank you for this beautiful thing — gnarly, slimy, bloody, messy, howling, sweating, crying – the way of entrance into life, big and grand, overwhelming and intimate. — Crinkly eyes fixed on the mother’s face. Thank you for this strange design of passage. Amen.
Only Colleen, straight and slender at the washbasins can speak this unbelievable thing in her simple, unfettered style.
“It were a normal birth, after all.”