No Ordinary Miracle
Nettie Mae tossed her handmade shawl over the small ram horn, she used as a hook in her mud room. Stripping down completely before entering the kitchen she tossed her blood stained garments in the basin to soak. This was her routine since becoming an assistant to Laura, a midwife.
Unaffected by the coldness of the early hour she put wood in the cook stove and drew water from the kitchen pump, to warm for her bath. After making a pot of coffee she pulled her favorite stool closer to the warmth of the fire and sat waiting in the solitude, completely exhausted. Vivid memories of a crisis earlier that day flashed before her....
"Thirty six hours is a long time to be in labor isn't it?" whispered
The room was silent except for Rosalie's moaning. A sense of powerlessness enveloped everyone as she lay there exhausted, unable to work with her contractions any longer.
Laura turned to Nettie Mae, "She's too weak. I want you to get behind Rosalie on the bed and hold her against you. You’re going to have to be her strength."
Nettie Mae moved into position placing Rosalie between her legs, her hands firmly on Rosalie's stomach, enabling her to feel the contractions. Bringing her own body in sync with Rosalie's she whispered, "Rosie, breath with me. Relax and let your body become one with mine. We'll get through this together."
Rosalie struggling to cooperate, moaned, "Can't go on... too tired."
Nettie Mae thought of the foul weather outside as she heard Laura's cool insistence, "Work with her Rosalie."
Rosalie made a feeble attempt, for the sake of her baby. After a few more contractions, she was able to draw energy from Nettie Mae as the two women worked together as one. Laura was relieved "Good girl Rosalie, you're doing fine."
Laura continued to sooth her, wiping her sweaty brow, speaking more for the sake of
"Help her to lean back Nettie," directed Laura as she examined the woman more closely with the lantern.
Struggling to repress a look of horror on her face once she saw the dangling umbilical cord ... Laura's voice could not hide her intense fear, "We need to get her into a crouching position Nettie. We've got to get this baby out now. We have a prolapsed cord!"
Death was inevitable. Friends praying silent heartfelt prayers in the back of the room pressed in more intently daring to believe God for a miracle.
With an unnatural strength, Nettie Mae flipped the heavy woman over as if she were a lifeless rag doll. She positioned Rosalie so her arms were draping over her shoulders enabling her to squat. Nettie Mae felt another contraction as their stomachs met.
Swiftly, Laura's hands were inside pulling the baby out. Rosalie slumped forward in relief... unaware of the present crisis. She moaned in anticipation begging for the removal of the placenta, as her contractions continued. After 5 daughters... they hoped for a son.
The baby was gray, his body drained of color. He was limp… there was no evidence of life. It was explained later, that as the baby came down the birth canal, it had swallowed embryonic fluid and his head had pressed against the dangling umbilical cord while passing through, cutting off his oxygen supply.
A resolve to fight for the life of this little one, defying logic overcame Nettie Mae. It was as if she too had carried this baby. With words she'll always remember, she heard herself urging the parents to speak to the spirit of their child and to call him back from the realm of death.
"Speak to your son! Call him by name, tell him you love him. Tell him how long you have waited for a son. Tell him how much you want him to live." she persevered.
With one final plea, Rosalie unconscious of the battle with death around her, finally collapsed in complete exhaustion.
No one seemed to hear her, so Nettie Mae commanded, "Speak to your baby, urge him to choose life."
Speaking from a place of bewilderment,
An unexplainable peace had come over Nettie Mae, which energized everyone as she continued urging with great faith. It was as if God was challenging each of them through her, "Don't let death have this little one... only believe."
"Julian..." Rosalie's voice broke through, bringing with it the love she and Logan shared for their lifeless child, "our precious son."
She spoke with an unwavering calm, which soothed the atmosphere. Upon hearing his Mother’s voice, their son responded by vomiting out the fluid he had swallowed. Without delay, Laura cleared Julian's throat and nose and began to gently breathe into his mouth as if she were breathing in the very breath of God. Gradually Julian started breathing on his own. Although he quietly whimpered for hours, he was going to be fine.
Nettie Mae was brought back to the present by the echo of a whistling train rushing through the hills beyond her sheep pasture. The savory aroma of coffee was calling her, but she did not move. She longed to scrub every inch of her weary body, but something kept her seated, staring unfocused.
She was overcome with gratitude for the gift of life she had witnessed once again. This was a sacred moment and she started to sing a song of thankfulness and adoration to her God, as was her habit, but she soon discovered, today mere words would never be enough. They were replaced by a tear which teetered on the rim of her eye, as she understood today they had experienced no ordinary miracle.
~ Upon seeing a statue of a naked woman described in the end of the short story, at an Art Museum in the mid 90's, I was moved by her demeanor. The tear which teetered on the rim of her left eye, told me she had a story she wanted to tell.... immediately I sensed her story brewing deep within. When I got home, the story above seemed to write itself.
I soon realized... the story which unfolded before me was similar to an experience of faith I had a few years earlier. This experience happened as an answer to a prayer... I hoped to see the raising of the dead someday... the reality was nothing like I imagined.
Although the time, place and names are fictional... the actual birth experience which is described in part above is true... as experienced and remembered from my own perspective. My role in the Story is that of Nettie Mae. ~
The next Blog will describe some of the details of the event which inspired the above short Short Story... and some insights and other miracles which have come since.