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An Irish Birth

The midwife watched the clock. It must have been a relic from better times. This family of potato farmers lived in a small house. Only the radio had power, and like so many others, this one was lit by candles and kerosene lamps. A peat fire glimmered in the hearth, warming the room as the mother struggled to give birth.

The father sat on a neatly covered sofa. Someone had a fine hand with a sewing needle, and she spotted the treadle machine with its bobbin of thread in the corner of the parlor when she had arrived. The house was spotlessly clean even if the furniture was worn. Their older child, a girl with dark silky curls, lay under a quilt, her chubby cheek cradled on a tiny hand, her pillow flat from long use.

“Will this child ever be born?” Sorcha O’Connor grunted as another contraction rippled over her abdomen.

“There’s no rushing a birth. The child will be born in its own time.”

“Erin was so quick,” Sorcha’s wry complaint fell on deaf ears.

“I’ll take another look. I suspect you’re getting closer to needing to push.”

She flipped the damp sheet back, nudging her patient’s legs apart to examine her progress.

“Aye, it shouldn’t be much longer. This one is stubborn.”

“My water hasn’t broken yet either. With Erin it broke early.” Sorcha gasped and panted trying to catch her breath as a fiery pain caught her by surprise.

“Good, this one was quicker in coming. I told you, not much longer before you’ll need to push.”

From the other room, they heard the radio as Ronan paced impatiently awaiting the birth of his second child.

“Hitler is planning an invasion of Austria.” The announcer’s voice held gravity and dread. “This power hungry monster must be stopped. I urge the government to take note before he gains foothold in another innocent country.”

“Dear God, this means war,” Sorcha cried out as a wicked pain raced through her body.

“And it’s nigh on to midnight. Yule dawns on the morrow. This child will be born as we celebrate the return of life.” The midwife helped Sorcha prop herself up to better push.

Sorcha’s back arched with next spasm. Her thin scream carried the age old travail of labor.

“You’re almost there dear, the head is crowning.”

Ronan burst through the door, “Are you alright?”

“Go sit behind her, support her back as she pushes. Your son is almost here.”

She pulled the umbilical cord out from under his chin. She was guessing but this was a boy, and not even a normal one. He was small, but already twisting with life as his head and shoulders lay delivered on the old sheet, in the puddle water as it gushed forth easing his passage.

“One more push, Sorcha and he’ll be here,”

Ronan kissed his wife’s wet brow. “I’m here, mo anam cara,”

With her next contraction Sorcha pushed until her face turned red, and the babe slipped free already crying, his voice strangely raucous. The clock striking the quarter hour after midnight. The midwife cradled the tiny head and gestured for Ronan to come to her.

“Take him, hold him while I cut the cord and help Sorcha with the afterbirth. If you’d like, you can clean him the water is warm and the cloth there is soft.”

She kept an eye on him, but he’d performed well with Erin, and she had no doubt he’d do well this time. Turning to Sorcha she pressed her palm into her flaccid stomach forcing another cramping pain and the placenta delivered. She wrapped everything into the sheet and pulled the rubber sheet out from under the second time mother. She didn’t envy her. She’d be alone raising her children. Her husband would be a soldier before the next year ended.

Ronan spoke, “His name is Harold, for the last true Viking king. He will need the strength of his namesake. Harold Niall O’Connor. He’s a dwarf, we have more than one in our family. And he will be more than any before him. His destiny is assured by the Gods who bless the birth.”

The man’s eyes had gone a strange shade of shamrock green as he spoke the the midwife shivered. This family was of the old line. She had no doubt Ronan’s words were prophetic.

She filled out the government form quickly. Writing the names of the parents and the child’s names in the proper spots, she filled in the time of birth.

12:15 AM December 25th, 1937

“I’ll take the forms to the registry tomorrow. Get him nursing. Other than his small size, he seems healthy enough.”

She busied herself cleaning Sorcha as Ronan handed his wife her tiny son, already wrapped in a soft blanket his first nappy bulky on the miniature body.

“He’s got your eye’s, mo gra,” Sorcha said. “Will he survive, he’s so small.”

“Aye, a stor. He’s a strong old soul.”

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