She had rarely been more uncomfortable which was saying a lot considering the type of life she had lived in the place she had lived it in. but this day was definitely one of the worst she had experienced. The pregnancy had ballooned her to epic proportions and she was always tired, she always needed to pee and she was often in pain. Vanity was not one of her weaknesses she did not spend a lot of time worrying about how she looked and as a result she had that elusive kind of beauty, the one where the owner has no idea what she possesses and to make up for this everyone else seemed to. Pregnancy had given her that inner glow that came of happiness and peace. She wasn’t just beautiful anymore, she was beauty. Maybe this was what they meant when they said beauty came from the inside.
But she had been traveling for hours. The sun had been unrelenting and punishing like a blanket of heat pulled over the earth, sweltering did not even begin to describe how it burnt. Her husband had done all he could to keep her comfortable but chivalry can only go so far and even a white knight without a horse can only carry his wife so far especially a pregnant one. She had sweated through her clothes and there was that feeling at the end of the day that cried for a bath. Even cried for tears cos they would at least take away the dirt from the cheeks. Another problem with undeveloped countries was the roads, dust and grime stuck to the air as every wheel threw up more and more of it. Being driven along it was painful as every jolt reminded her that her body was not her’s alone and that the new occupant demanded recognition.
All she had wanted to do was bathe but even that one comfort was denied her. She was so tired she collapsed on the bed whose mattress was like straw. She nearly stifled a cry as she looked at her surroundings. This time of the year usually meant that you put up with whatever you got, but this was horrible. The room was tiny as big as a coffin for two people side by side. The bed actually looked like a coffin she was sure something had died there. The last time this room was cleaned was probably closer to when it was first built than when it was last lived in.
On a roof corner there was a cobweb, not just any cobweb this spider had ambition and had set to work building the most beautiful set piece ever. For a few minutes she was distracted by its beauty. The silk of the web intersected with each other in such intricate and playful detail every line exactly where it should be like the most beautiful snowflake ever imagined and then there was the spider, the queen of her domain a dark queen beautiful and terrible as the dawn . Holding forth over her territories patient as a rock and in that patience could be seen some horrible secret as if she knew when we would all die or perharps something worse.
She shook these thoughts from her head with some effort, stink assailed her nose and the one thing she kept rejoicing over was her insistence to carry her own sheets. The ones in here were probably infested with disease and memories of lust. Her husband had gone in before her, ever the gentleman and had put on a brave face when asked about the condition of the room. He had grimaced and hid something behind his back. She didn’t let him know but she had seen what it was and it brought a wry smile to her face as she thought about all the people who had remarked cruelly that if she had only used one of those se wouldn’t find herself in that situation. Her beautiful husband, he had a soul to be remembered, not many men would have agreed to be in this situation. Pledging to raise a child that they knew wasn’t their’s. And yet he still treated like her like a delicate flower set atop a precious pearl. Getting angry on her behalf and traveling with her to this place forever fretting about whether or not she was happy. Yes a soul like that was hard to find maybe that was what they meant when they said beauty comes from the inside.
Death is known as the great equalizer and the rest is left to sleep and how lucky it was that she needed rest in that moment. She closed her eyes to everything but herself and her child. If she concentrated hard enough or let loose just enough it was as if this child made her feel better, holier and more hopeful. She liked to listen to her womb she found comfort in it the way people found it in the words of great teachers or in their teachings when words were too little to express emotions. Closing her eyes to the world she could be carried away from the grime and grim to fairy tale stories of a place of bliss. This pregnancy did that.
Sleep was cruelly robbed of her sleep by bursts of excruciating pain. She opened her eyes and screamed. She was going to give birth in this place? The thought of something so pure being brought here opened her eyes again to the place she was in. to the smells that assaulted her nose. To the sights that were an affront to the vision, to the sounds that surrounded her(somewhere far away the strains of we were four could be heard) to the fact that this room had more occupants than she had time to count to a million other details that right now made the moment that much harder to live through.
Labour pains are the stuff of legend. As her’s began she remembered this incident from her childhood, she was maybe four or five years old. She couldn’t remember what she had eaten or what originated it but she had a stomach upset. A low rumbling upset at first and with that childlike need to protect she hadn’t told her parents about it but gone to bed. Tossed and turned and finally slept then she was woken up by the ache. It was the kind of ache that flips you over and over as you look for the best position in which to confront it. There was a war going in her stomach and the only casualty was the battlefield she had felt like chunks of it were being burn away by acid leaving gaping holes where all that existed was pain, that horribly dark, twisty lonely pain that threatened to take over your whole body. This night reminded her of that night except worse, so much worse. The darkness in this instant began fully fledged, the pain was like a black night with no sounds and she was both blind and deaf. All that existed for her was the pain. The pain was everything, complete and total. This pain did not make idle threats about bodily coups but went ahead bloody and determined and took over. She turned around and around and from the foggy recesses of her brain she remembered that she had to push. To pus through the pain, to push with all her might to the other side where all that was waiting was… she wasn’t even sure what was waiting but this was the kind of pain that killed the fear of the unknown. So she pushed.
As glorious a thing as birth is it is also messy. There is blood everywhere and a million small details. From the cutting of the umbilical chord to the sterilizing of instruments. One of the advantages of a husband who was such a good midwife (mid husband?) that he was referred to as the carpenter(because he handled the results of so much wood). Was that even in this place fears of disease were immediately allayed and all those details were taken care of all she had to do was push. When she was done the first thing she asked for was to hold her son.
The baby was put in her hands. He was still bloody and had all types of fluids stuck to his skin but she didn’t see any of this. Instead when she looked at him and he smiled and all she felt was joy. He smiled that hesitant half-smile children first smile and she was sure she had never before felt such love. It wiped away the memories of everything. She smiled back and in that moment an eternity passed. She wasn’t sure whether she held him for one minute or one hour or even one day for that moment time ceased to matter. Ceased to make sense nothing else existed but this baby which had always existed. For that moment the world stopped and all considerations became small she looked at her son and smiled for in that moment all that mattered was the moment. Looking at her son Mary was sure that that was what they meant when they said beauty came from the inside.