Trigger warning this story talks about miscarriages.
Once Upon a Time…
There was a good woman. She wasn’t anything like the beauties of her day, she was soft-spoken, she had unremarkable features and she was however quick-witted and strong. She was using that strength and intelligence to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a midwife.
She learned her trade through her mother, who learned it from her mother’s mother and so on. It wasn’t just about herbs, relaxing, water births or dilation; it was also about making your patient trust in you.
Her mother was a well-known midwife and it was looking that she would be just as ordinary until one fateful day.
She had come along with her mother to a particular home within their village, it was the home of one of the more prosperous families. The eldest son had been married to his bride just over a year and they were expecting their first child. Her mother entered into the home and spoke with the family and then followed them back into the young woman’s room.
There, in the bed she sat, propped up on pillows with her hand lightly resting on her abdomen. Laughing she greeted the midwife and the apprentice and explained the babe within her was in such high spirits today.
The midwife smiled and began her work listening to and checking on the mother to be.
Her apprentice tried very hard to pay attention to all that her mother was doing but as she sat and focused on the woman, and more importantly the baby within, she noticed something odd. As she watched she saw within her mind a baby, perfect and small except, in the middle of its breast there was a dark spot. No matter how the baby moved and kicked that dark spot moved too. Alarmed, and a little superstitious, she held her peace until after the appointment until the long walk home.
There on the dusty road she told her mother what she saw. Dismissing this as nothing more than a headache or fatigue the mother discounted her daughter’s story. That is, until the baby did not make it to term.
This while not proof of anything, this caused the mother to pay careful attention to her daughter as the months passed and they visited patients. Sometimes the daughter saw darkness and the child within died. Sometimes she saw a dim light over an effected area and the child was born with difficulties. Whatever she saw it became apparent to her mother she had a gift.
The midwife’s daughter began to be known for her uncanny knowledge of the children she helped birth. During this time period there were no scans that could be done or hospitals to go to, there was just her and other midwives. Birth after birth, miscarriage after miscarriage she accurately predicted and helped each mother when it was time for her to do so.
People came from all around just to see her and find out if their baby was healthy.
As it happened the now fully practicing midwife had a best friend. Her best friend was one from her childhood. They spent many a day helping one another with chores, cleaning, and of course they played together too.
The midwife helped with her friend’s wedding and advised her on fertility matters. Her friend was hoping to have children someday.
The midwife would visit and they would talk and as friends do and they would enjoy each other’s company. However every visit the midwife would take the time to see if she could see a child or not. For many years it was not to be.
Finally, one day as they shared a meal,the midwife saw the tiniest of sparks. Her friend was no more than a couple of weeks along! Knowing it was to early yet to know either way how this pregnancy would go, she made a point to visit often as the child and her friend went through those early changes.
Around two months in, her friend knew something was up with her body and called upon her friend the midwife. The midwife came and confirmed that there was a baby growing within her friend!
There were many tears that day within their household and happily her friend began to prepare the home and her family for a new baby.
It was almost missed the first time, a slight dimness in the child’s chest. It was slight and one would not say it was dark by any means. It was just a different sort of light.
Dismissing this anomaly, the midwife descended her advice as usual. As the pregnancy continued into the second trimester the light grew with the baby and began to dim.
In a panic, the midwife began trying to get her friend to try many treatments: bed rest, eating clean foods (lots of greens etc), staying hydrated, all the while telling her friend that everything was fine. She just wanted to give her extra attention out of love.
But as the week wore on she knew that her friend was going to lose the baby early. The midwife prayed, she fasted, she was positive but finally one night, it happened.
The anguish for both women was extreme. Her friend in a rage looked at the midwife and demanded to know why she hadn’t warned her?! Did she not have these supposed powers? How could she not have seen this coming?
The midwife heartbroken, could not reply and after doing what she could went home her spirit depleted.
From this moment on her friend became her bitterest of enemies. News of the miscarriage circled the village and surrounding areas and the midwife was labeled as cursed, damned, or more kindly labeled as a fraud.
She no longer had any patients, no livelihood. Eventually she packed up and left the village her family had lived in for generations.
It is said that the midwife became a simple herbalist many hundreds of miles away from the village of her birth. Never again did she consult on the birth of children or speak about the light she did or did not see inside.
This tale was told to me by my father a couple of times growing up. His moral was, love can keep you from the truth, and it is always important to tell the truth even if it hurts the ones you love. I couldn’t tell you where he got the story from and of course as usual I extended and embellished the tale a bit. I kept most of it true to form but he never could tell me how she knew the women would miscarry. I suppose that wasn’t the point though.