it caught me and transported me to the scene, was sorry it ended so soon:( Would like to read more
The woman was not going to live much longer. There was no hope for her; too much blood flowed from her torn flesh. Her body had been straining to bear down on this babe for far longer than normal. Exhaustion made her too weak to even raise her head anymore, too feeble to scream out her pain. Soon now, her organs would begin to shut down, one by one, and the life would slowly seep out of her.
Millia was surprised by the sting of sympathy that made her heart heavy. She did not know this young, would-be mother, nor did she have any reason to care whether she or the babe lived. But even as Millia realized that the chances of the mother passing on with the babe half born were very real, she marveled at her flagging bravery. The woman had such strength about her that it would be a shame to the world when she was gone.
Millia had abandoned her post at the mother’s feet several hours ago and now sat holding her. The contractions knotted her body, but the baby did not move. Millia spooned bits of water into her mouth, brushed her hair away from her face and hummed something she hoped sounded like a lullaby. She knew nothing of midwifery.
Perhaps if she had been earlier in her labor, there would have been time. There was a village not far, further down the mountain, which Millia had just passed through. Surely there was a woman there who knew something of birthing and had the traditional stash of herbs and tricks to ease the pain.
But the gods did not smile on this young woman. She was young indeed, maybe seventeen if Millia was to guess; pretty, but in an awkward way. She had not yet come into the features that would have aged well. Millia hoped whatever life she had lived had been passable to her, for this was the end of it. She would die here, perhaps in vain. Millia knew little of birthing, but what she did know was blood loss.
The woman tried to speak, strangled into silence, and then tried again. “Can you save my baby?” she chocked.
It was pointless to tell her that she knew nothing of babies. Instead, Millia was silent a moment as she debated providing the woman with the only option she could think of.
Finally, she decided, it did not matter either way. The mother was to die in less than an hour. Whether the child lived at this point, she could not say. But Millia thought then that she could at least give the mother the knowledge that she had given her life to bring forth the child, that life had been found in her death.
“I can cut open your womb and pull the child out,” Millia replied softly.
Fear flashed through her eyes, tears running anew. If she had doubted her death, she could no longer. She mastered her fear, and gave Millia a firm nod.
“If it is a boy,” she said, “name him Aaron, after his father. But if it is a girl, she will bear your name, for she would not have life if it were not for you.”
Millia was humbled. And with that emotion, the wall she had built around herself, cracked with sympathy, gave way. She felt fear. She felt dread. She felt grief. But she knew what she must do.
Feeding the would-be mother another spoonful of water, she laid her gently against the smooth side of the rock, and took her hand.
“Where I come from, we honor those who give their life in childbirth in a way no one else may claim. I do not know how it is with your people… But know that my gods will welcome you into the next life.”
Her strength was failing at length, for she only nodded a little, and waited for Millia to do what needed to be done.
Millia offered her no more comfort, only the blade, that, once piercing the skin, brought sweet oblivion that would last many moons until rebirth. Carefully, she sliced through the warm layers, more blood coating her hands, until she found the womb and the child within. She pulled the bloody, wrinkled thing from the mother’s distended belly, seeing that it was a girl around the cord that kept her tied to her now dead mother. For a moment, the girlchild did not make a sound, and Millia’s heart sank in defeat and regret.
But then the little one twitched into life, gurgled up snot-colored mucus and made a feeble cry. Millia cut her free and cleaned her while she tested her lungs more thoroughly. She was indeed a large child, this little thing that had brought about an end to one life that she may have her own chance.
It unsettled Millia that the girlchild bore her name.
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