When babies are ready to enter the world, they wait for no one.
Remember had been working on her Blackwork---endlessly, it seemed--- and, restless, walked to the diamond pane window for the fourth time now…snowflakes, thick ones, still falling fast and yet faster. Wasn't it just last week that she and Goody Prymm flew their handmade kite into the blue spring-promising sky? Sighing deeply, she started back to her handwork when she saw a figure taking shape through the flurries, followed by a loud and insistent knock. Imagination, settled comfortably with her stitching in front of the fire, started but allowed Remember to answer. Opening the door ushered in a gale of icy winds and snow, Remember quickly bringing in the visitor and leading her to the fireplace. Clearly, their visitor was chilled to the bone. Removing her head shawl revealed that she was a helpmeet at the Allerton house, and she burst out with the news that Goody Constance Allerton was about to give birth, and could Goody Prymm please come immediately! Without a moment's hesitation, Goody Prymm rose keeping an alarmed expression under wraps that only Remember could detect, and quickly set about gathering what may be needed. Later Remember would learn that this was to be an early birth, as Mistress Allerton was not expected to deliver for at least another month or more.
It seemed that it took longer than usual for Goody Prymm to prepare…but when she emerged from the lean-to, she obviously had more to bear for this journey. Bundled for the cold and opening the door, the three put their heads down to the blasts of wind and made their way, leaving Smoke behind, mewing insistently.
Making their way was a trial indeed, winds whipping and snow freeze-burning their barely covered faces. Finally, though, they made their destination and, upon entering the Allerton house, Goody Prymm, uncharacteristically stern, handed over juniper berries along with lavender and dried roses to those around, instructing them to burn them on the hearth to purify the room. Boiling water was thankfully already under way for the ergot tea which Goody Prymm intended to hasten labor and aid in the mother's recovery after childbirth.
Imagination liked Goody Allerton. To her thinking, the young woman was a true person with great strength, despite her small size and outwardly gentle spirit. When Constance had first come to Imagination about her condition, Goody Prymm knew she would need a little extra help and had made a special lavender and rose oil to alleviate the inevitable backache, along with a regular tea of chamomile, valerian and St. Johnswort to ease her anxiety. Also, having a good relationship with the Indians, Imagination knew, too, that beth root (or birth root) often helped to reduce the pain of labor and lessen the loss of blood, and so had given Constance an internal tea during her pregnancy to prepare her. All was set in motion, and she had intended to give Constance small doses of blue cohash a week before, as the Indians do, to prepare the womb for the inevitable trial…but…now the labor had started far too soon.
Now the contractions were coming hard and fast, Constance no longer groaning but screeching, not the pitch of the travails of childbearing…but rather, a blood-curdling cry of something not right. After examining Constance, Goody Prymm took Remember firmly by her side and looked pointedly into her eyes, entreating Remember to be strong for what she had to do. Remember was strong and lean in her features, the only one who could do what had to be done. Braced for Goody Prymm's every instruction, Remember steeled herself and reached inside. After a moment, she turned with horror to Goody Prymm, exhaling that there was not just one baby…there were two! Goody Prymm then instructed Remember to determine their positions in the womb. After tense moments, Remember relayed that one was head position down…the other, not so. Within moments, the first emerged…a beautiful baby girl! She was so tiny, so very tiny…but her delicate skin nevertheless had a healthy, rosy glow. Quickly the other women set about washing the babe in fresh-fallen snow, which they had melted and heated over the fire.
For whatever reason, the second baby was reluctant to come into this world. As old age and experience can often do, it impressed upon Imagination a fleeting feeling of kinship there…but only momentarily. The cries and screams of Constance brought Goody Prymm instantly back to the moment. To induce stronger contractions, Goody Prymm gave her a small dose of squaw vine and sat beside the young mother, patting her hand and caressing her forehead, encouraging her to breathe deeply and regularly. Thankfully, the second baby turned correctly, coming into the world kicking and screaming with all her might! Like her sister, the wee one was whisked away to be cleansed in the heated fresh-fallen snow, the very snow which earlier had brought such a dismal feeling…but which now served a most beautiful and uplifting purpose.
After all was settled, the sweet ones were brought into the arms of Goody Prymm and Remember, their deliverers. Remember held little Primrose, named for being the "first rose" of the two, while Goody Prymm nestled tiny Patience, a name which smacked of irony and brought smiles to all around.
After all the euphoria, there came the exhaustion, though there was still much to attend to. The young mother would need help to revitalize after such a difficult birth. There was lemon balm, rose hips, and other tonic herbs to help her to regain her strength. An internal astringent of beth root, yarrow, and oak bark would help check the loss of blood, if necessary. And then, for nursing, there was marigold oil to give the mother some relief.
When Goody Prymm knew that things were well in hand, she and Remember prepared for the journey home, pausing only to gaze on the blissful young mother, healthy babes in arms, resting peacefully. Stepping outside, Imagination and Remember saw that the snow and wind had ceased.
Exhausted from the day, they reached their home and prepared for bed, neither speaking a word.
Goody Prymm and Remember lay in their beds that night, thankful for the healthy births. But while the ancient Crone Moon rocked in her bed of twinkling stars in the vast heavens, each of them inside cradled her own secret sorrow---Goody Prymm, for the child she never had…and Remember, for the one she let go.
***With a nod to Kat Morganstern's "Herbs for Pregnancy and Childbirth," from her blog Sacred Earth (September 2002).
© 2017 Nancy Duncan