Sunday, July 24, 2011

524 - Odd, Weird or Disgusting?

“Breathe, Sera Mahid, breathe.”

“I am going to scream at the top of my lungs if you tell me to breathe one more time, Akminchaer!”

“Sera… Inensa… it is all right.  Your baby is coming.  It is all right.”

Inensa began panting and he just wouldn’t stop bothering her.  “Sera, I suggest you walk a bit more.” For all that Akminchaer meant well, he was sincerely annoying her.  

"Let me offer you my arm, Inensa," Kyriala said.  She and Riala and Skala... they are Arko's future.  Part of Minis's future.  She straightened slowly and braced herself on the proffered support.  Kyriala smiled at her and slowly they paced the room.

 She wanted to concentrate.  It was more intense somehow, this time, her second labour.  Of course there had been so many more witnesses for Minis’s birth.  She took a deep breath and that devolved into a heavy pant.  She could feel the urge to push coming.  Something she hadn’t known to expect before.

This time Kurkas wasn’t going to come barging in.

“The… Mahid…midwife didn’t have me promenading around so much.”  She could say what she wished.  She could say what was on her mind, she could say anything, and no one would take exception.  It was peculiar.  The Mahid midwife was not there.  Instead there was a Masker and a Haian and the girls.  “Is Minis outside?  He is not to come in.  A son should not see his mother in this state.”

“Sera Inensa,” the Masker was on her other side, one hand held, hovering over her abdomen.  Inensa straightened against the next contraction, fighting the urge to hold her breath.  I will not bend before this pain.  It is merely pain.  Her hand tightened on Kyriala's arm and the Masker, named Tesha, looped an arm around her back.

It was a warmth across her back and she leaned into it and suddenly it was all right that she was being supported.  “Your son knows you are doing well, Inensa.  I did tell him.”



I paced up and down the men’s hallway, with my hands clasped behind my back.  Ailadas would release Ili to stand birthguard with me.

This was my mother, not Ili’s but there were so few Mahid left, mother was his nominal mama.  She was the closest related woman to him left alive.  And Amitzas was his nominal grandfather, who was standing watch at the first door.

I was standing in what should be 2nd Amitzas’s place.  So many in Arko would be shuffling the birthguards and doing without.  Aitzas had the luxury of different hallways before the birthing room; most Solas as well.  Fessas, okas and now free daifikas made due with chalk marks delineating the separate males’ watcher positions.  I’d blithely skated around groups of birthguarding men in the street without even taking note of them when I’d been a messenger.

I paced.  I couldn’t hear anything.  There were musicians playing and the fountains splashing and chiming and ringing in this whole set of rooms.  Ili skidded to a stop in the spot that would have been immediately behind me, just as I turned around so I ended up with Jiaklem reaching up to smack two of his tentacles on my chest.

“Is the baby here yet?  Can we see?  Is it a boy or a girl?  Are we going to do the rejoicing thing or the almost but not quite rejoicing thing? Or do we have to do something odd, weird or disgusting because we’re Aans or Mahids?”

I couldn’t help but smile while I stood still and waited for Jia to remove his damp suckers off my tunic, and counting up his questions off my knuckles, answered him. “No the baby is not here yet. No we cannot see.  I don’t know.  We will be rejoicing in having another family member whether male or female and no, nothing odd, weird or disgusting.”  He looked both relieved and a little disappointed.

“Oh.  Well that’s good.” He was getting very good on his skates and skated circles around me as I paced back.  “How long will it take?”

“It’s up to the mother and the baby.”


Inensa was in the undignified position.  She raised her head and looked from the floor between her hands up into Akminchaer’s calm face.  It didn’t hurt quite so much as when she’d been cut to let Minis out, but the convulsions were different, rolling over her like waves in the sea instead of clenching her body like a fist.

“That’s good, Inensa.”  The Masker’s voice was soothing, encouraging.  What was her name again? But the thought was overwhelmed by the next spasm.  “Perhaps two more good pushes and the baby will be here.”

Tesha… that’s her name. Oh butterfly you have turned into an enormous caterpillar. Come out… Come out… it has only been nine beads and I have strength to spare.  Come out, child, relieve us both.  Her flesh and skin and scars burned as they struggled to stretch, to give way, to open. The girls were a silent presence, out of the way. The baby crowned, she pushed and it was as though she birthed fire.

She set her teeth and pushed, even without the help of the spasm.  “SELINAE!”  It was less a scream and more a long, sustained groan of effort. And the caterpillar became a fish floundering into Tesha’s hands, flapping.

Akminchaer slid a firm pillow under her front, so she could sink from her hands and knees without pressuring her newly emptied self.  Was that the afterbirth?  I should see it safely buried.  It was strangely gentle now, them touching her with hands that knew exactly how to cradle.  Drops on the tongue.  Rolling over to settle against the other cushions.  Thankfully in a bed, not on a floor or in the woods like an animal.

The Fenjitza came in to help Tesha with the ritual examination and cleansing and there was a squall as the cool water hit its head.  “You are to be congratulated, Inensa,” the Fenjitza said. “You have a healthy baby girl.” Inensa gazed down at the baby placed in her arms.

“Birth Mother of Arko be praised.  Bless the life made in Thy image, able to birth.”  Inensa intoned the words with no irony. “It is an enormous blessing that she is a girl.  A male I would see the father in too much.”

No one answered her, except to say ‘Take the drops, under the tongue,” and “You did not tear, your easement helped considerably, but I will still need to stitch you.”  

Akminchaer was actually using something that made her able to ignore him doing just that.

I went from completely focused on my body from the waist down.  Now it might as well not be there for the attention I am paying to it.  My new daughter.  Bald.  Red. Squashed looking with the misty blue gaze of eyes first open to outside me. She is lipping my nipple, puzzled, curious, driven by the instant need.  She is not quite perfect.  I have been running my bare hands over her body.  She has all fingers and all toes, but two of her toes, on the left foot, are fused together.  She has the crane-bill bite-mark in a slender arrowhead down her forehead.  That will go.  There.  She has discovered that she can suck. My beautiful daughter.

Her name is already chosen. Tesha Riala Filira Skala Mahid.


  1. Yay! A girl! I'm so glad that she did not have a son that might make some idiot say something stupid about about her ex-husband. Also so very very glad her ex is so very ex, he'd have killed a girl out of spite (or made Inensa do it as punishment for her deformity).

  2. Ahhhhh, this is so beautiful! It's reminding me of my best friend and her daughter and I think I may cry. ;.;