Chapter Sixty-Four: Victorious


Pain wracked my body. It filled me to overflowing, consumed. I was certain I could not take more and continue living.

But I could.

I would.

I looked around the darkened room. Where was the air? I needed to breathe but I could not find the air.

“Have some laudanum, love.” Rough hands smoothed the sweat matted hair back from my forehead. A spoon hovered at my lips.


“I am not dying yet,” I said through clinched teeth.

Pity in the eyes around me.

Was I dying?

I felt the urge to push. Screams flowed from my mouth involuntarily as I bared down. Again. Again. Again. No end.

And if I never see you again in this life….this, this moment will be enough. Do you even hear me? Do you hear my heart crying out for you in all of this pain and loneliness?

One last sob ripped from my throat.


I could not see. My eyes were burning from the salty sweat that had run into them. I blinked. Once. Twice.

The midwife was smiling.


New cries filled the void left by my own. High pitched and plaintive and never before heard on this earth. Then there, in my arms, was my baby. So light and yet so heavy. Two brown eyes and a perfect little nose peeked out from the swaddling. Suddenly the face scrunched up like a wizened old man. A perfect little pout!

I pulled back the blankets and stared. At first there was relief. Everything was as it should be.

Then it was not.

A girl.

A girl?

Her hair was dark. Brown. She smiled up at me, but I felt nothing for her anymore.

This was not my baby. God owed me a boy. Not a girl. What would I do with a girl?

Levi had had blond hair, bright like the light from angels’ wings. It had been perfect even if the rest of him had not been. This baby I had carried was supposed to be a boy. With blonde hair.

Instead, I have this? Disappointment flooded my heart.

Why couldn’t you give me my angel?

I wrapped her up again and pushed her away. The midwife looked on and shook her head. More pity.

“Take her away!”

The maid scooped her up and stepped back, fear and uncertainty played on her young face.

“Go!” I waved my hand in dismissal.

Then something in my heart snapped. I felt it. Pain of another sort welled up and tears flowed, wracking my body with sobs. My breasts ached.

“My baby girl, give her to me!” The maid nodded, relieved, and passed the little bundle back.

I held her close. Her eyes fluttered closed as a triumphant half smile played on her tiny rosebud lips. A peaceful repose. Her first victory.

I would love her. She was all that I had left of love. She was mine.

Chapter Sixty-Three: A Name


Sleep would not come. Not on the bed. Nor in the chair. Or on the couch. Each night, I lay awake.

Days passed slowly.

I would sit for hours at my writing table, blank sheets of paper laid out before me, pen in hand. No words came.

My body ached after only a few minutes in any position. Comfort could not be found anywhere and the fatigue was overwhelming at times.

Simply breathing was a chore, even when sitting quietly.

I cannot go on another day in this way!

Twinges of pain would pass through my abdomen, the surface becoming rock hard for a few seconds.


Hello, mamma! I am here, still, waiting…

Anxiously I paced. Up and down the dirt road, around the kitchen.

I read the Biblical story of Samuel’s mother over and over, searching for clues in her dedication and making my own bargains with God.

Each passing day made me more frantic. I could not feel contrite. I could not wish away my time with Nathaniel. I cherished every single moment. No shame.

I was all the more damned.

I will attend church with him every Sunday, rain or shine. I give my word. I will encourage him to join the priesthood. Just let me keep him. Please.

At the same time that I made my bargains there was an unspoken sense of the inconvenience that a deity presented.

This God was the reason I had to bargain in the first place. God had made laws. I had broken them. Hence Levi’s death and my own suffering. Now here I stood, swollen and uncomfortable, pleading for mercy. Mercy I would not have to ask for if this God did not exist.

This God who killed my first baby.

My heart wished silently for God to be dead, but I would not allow my mind to complete the thought lest it be heard by eternal ears and ruin my chances at happiness.

At the edge of town I had rented this small cottage. Nondescript, soft gray stone. A modest garden that would be alive with color come spring. It was already furnished with musty linens and worn upholstery. It would make a reasonable home.

There was a midwife. She was a middle aged woman who dressed plainly. Her dark hair was streaked with large swaths of silver and she was missing a fair number of teeth when she grinned. The syncopation of her smile served to undermine confidence on some level but she was well respected by the local villagers and I resolved to trust her.

“This baby is my one tie to my late husband. If I lose the baby, I lose him.” I explained over a cup of tea that I had been recently widowed and had come here searching for a fresh start.

“Bless you, child!” She patted my arm, tears showing on her careworn cheeks. She shook her head. “God will bless you, I know it.”

“Thank you.” I patted her arm back solemnly, nodding, hoping that she was right. The baby shifted. The movement was reassuring.

A maid and a cook were found. Both young. Sisters, in fact. They were silly girls who had not yet been jaded by the realities of their existence. Slim and lithe and full of joy, their mousy brown hair was generally unkempt and their aprons frayed, but they were hard workers and their laughter brought light to an otherwise dismal existence.

The dark wooden crib sat in the floor by the fire. Each night I held the christening gown in my lap that I had bought for Levi those years ago. A blanket I had purchased in London lay folded in the crib, waiting. The silver rattle glowed in the light of the fire in the grate.

A name. I needed a name for him.


The time was coming. Soon.