A Difficult Birth
Oddbjorn had only been gone for two days when the contracting pains of labor began shortly after Hildigunnr finished her morning breakfast. This being her first pregnancy, she was unsure what the pains really meant, and began to panic over their significance. Mabil, however, assured her mistress that the pains were natural, and did not indicate that she, or her baby, were in any danger.
As Sunna rose high in the sky over Viborg, Hildigunnr could no longer sit, and had to be helped to bed by Mabil, who began to boil water and make sure that clean cloths were ready for the newborn. Feeling in her heart that something was not quite right about this birth Mabil sent one of the field hands to bring Kolfinna, an older midwife who lived on the next farm down the road, to take a look at her mistress.
Kolfinna arrived just in time ! Hildigunnr was struggling mightily with the birth, and had begun to sweat profusely as though she had developed a fever. With her mistress becoming physically and mentally exhausted, Mabil was unsure of just what she should do to help. Kolfinna, an elderly Norwegian woman, who had taken a hand in many births over the years, thought she recognized the problem immediately. After a short, but thorough examination, she realized that her suspicions were right. The child was obviously not positioned correctly in the birth canal, and would have to be gently turned so the head would be the first to emerge.
Before attempting this procedure Kolfinna made Hildigunnr drink a little of an elixir she had brought with her. This potion, made from a special mushroom, tended to relieve pain and anxiety, but kept the mother awake and alert enough to push when the time was right. The elder midwife waited a few moments for the potion to take effect before beginning to move the child. With the practiced hands of a skilled midwife Kolfinna carefully moved the child's head inch by inch until she felt it was in the right position. Then with a grim smile she asked Hildigunnr to push as hard as she could.
The exhausted mother's grunts and screams were so loud that they were heard by the slaves in the fields. Kolfinna, who was worried about being blamed if the birth did not turn out well, breathed a sigh of relief when the baby's head crowned. Gently she helped the child, with it's wet soft pink skin, into the world with her dry wrinkled gnarly fingers. Mabil, however, who had not seen nearly as many births as the older midwife, gave Kolfinna a look of deep concern when the child remained silent.
Kolfinna had the confidence of experience, and smiled at Mabil as she gently turned the child upside down to allow the fluid to be expelled from it's mouth. The midwife then gave the newborn a little smack on the ass. To Mabil's great relief the baby wailed out it's protest over such treatment.
" Give me that knife on the table. " Kolfinna shouted to Mabil.
Mabil, caught up in the excitement of the moment, stumbled over to the table. With shaking hands she brought the knife to Kolfinna.
" Hold the child while I cut the cord that attaches it to it's mother ! " Kolfinna told Mabil as she held out the child to her.
Mabil picked up a cloth and wrapped it around the child before taking it from the older midwife. She then cradled the child in her arms and looked away as Kolfinna cut the life cord.
Kolfinna smiled as the mother and child became separated.
" Now they will only be connected by a bond of love. " she announced to Mabil, who was still avoiding seeing what had taken place.
" Alright ! You can look now, its done ! Clean the child up, while I finish with the mother ! " the elder midwife instructed Mabil.
As Kolfinna went to work on the mother she immediately realized something was not quite right ! Despite their being very little bleeding the mother was still in a lot of pain. After further examination the old midwife soon understand what was causing her discomfort.
" Hildigunnr ! " the midwife yelled at the spent mother.
" I need you to push again ! Do you understand me !? There is a second child ! You must push again !! " she told the mother as though her life depended on it.
Hildigunnr reached deep within herself to find the strength to go on. She pushed time and time again, but the baby did not come. Her screams, which once echoed across the fields in a high pitched shout, were now more of a low whine that barely left the house. With what seemed to be the last strength left in her body and soul the baby emerged, and was pulled out by the elder midwife. Hildigunnr could take no more ! She fell back in a semi - conscious state and became oblivious to her surroundings.
Kolfinna gasped in horror when she saw the second child emerge ! The baby was blue and had it's life cord wrapped tightly around it's neck. As quickly as possible she loosened the cord and held the baby upside down. One, twice, three times, she smacked the baby on the ass, each time harder than the last. There was no response ! Kolfinna reached down and grabbed the knife that still lay on the edge of the bed. This time she was not as careful as she cut the cord that separated the child from it's mother.
Mabil, who had just finished cleaning up the first child, and was wrapping it in a blanket, spun quickly around when she heard the sorrowful tone of the old midwife's voice.
" Mabil ! Take this child outside before the mother awakens ! " she ordered in a hoarse whispered tone.
Mabil gently put down the first child and slowly walked over and took hold of the second, which Kolfinna was still holding by it's feet as though it were a piece of meat. She looked at the child, studying it for a moment. It was not the usual pink color of a healthy baby, but was instead a purplish blue tone. Although the child was dead Mabil wrapped it in a cloth before taking it outside. Mabil, who feared that as a slave she would never be able to marry and have children of her own cried when she saw the pitiful little baby's face in the light of day.
" Oh my ! What a pity ! You would have been such a beautiful child ! " she said to the baby as if it could hear her.
Mabil looked up at the sky, and lifted the baby to the heavens.
" Frigga ! How can you let something this precious die ? " she asked of the All - Mother.
As Mabil lowered the dead child she lost control of the baby's head, and it began to slip from her grip. At the last moment she reached out and grabbed hold of one of it's legs before the child could hit the ground. Despite the child being lifeless Mabil was glad that she did not further dishonor it by dropping it.
As she breathed a sigh of relief, Mabil heard what sounded like a tiny cough. With eyes wide open she slowly raised the child up to her face. To her stunned amazement the baby moved ! It was then that she noticed the baby's color had transformed from purple to pink. Mabil cradled the baby in her arms once again, and whispered to it as she gently stroked it's now rosy cheeks.
" With Frigga's help I gave you life ! You are mine ! " she told the child.
- End Chapter 2
- Next : Chapter 3 : Mabil Disappears
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.