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.