Monday, October 31, 2011

574 - I Wanted to Sing

Laisa and I had only seen the water room as a bathing room before, not a birthing room.  I poked Laisa and nodded toward Kallijas who was uncomfortable being in the same room as Niku while the birth was going on.  He wanted so much to be properly guarding.  Laisa put her fan up over her fond smile. 

Skorsas whispered in his ear and he answered just as quietly.  I didn’t hear what was said but he seemed happier.

It was so strange.  There were evergreen garlands all around. The air was perfumed with lavender flowers and the evergreens, all the different varieties, each with their own sharpness.  The whole family was there.  How could they let all the children in?  They could see their mother or their sibling die during the birth.  I cooled my face with my fan and reminded myself that foreign women didn’t have the same danger that Arkan women had.  

It was the children being there that brought up my fear.  My stomach was clenched, thinking of how many deaths there were in Arkan birthing rooms and I had to calm myself, thinking that was before… before women’s purifications were eased.

We were sitting near the robe racks and closets, on a lovely little bench where we might be out of the way.  Kallijas was by the door, as good a compromise between being in the room and being outside guarding as might be achieved.  

The scented steaminess was welcome after the dry, powdery, snowy cold outside.  It was wonderfully like home, but wetter, heavier, the air full of water like the thickest of summer. The snow was barely visible as washes of colour against the windows, through the inside mist.  I felt like a tea-flower expanding in a glass bowl.

The children were in the cool pool giggling and laughing, and Niku… she was actually sitting on Shefenga… Virani-e I should remember now… in the warm pool.  It was too warm in here for my full gown and Laisa had a dew of perspiration on her face. We both did, despite our fans.  They were all laughing now, over some joke.  It was so strange… so good.

There were tapestries everywhere showing the most shocking things… mother’s legs spread open – was that what an uncut woman really looked like? -- and babies being born… right there in front of everyone.  I almost couldn't look but I also couldn't look away.

“I don’t think anyone would mind if we shed our overdresses,” Laisa said to me, quietly.  I shook my head and then asked Shaina who stood near us.

“No, not at all,” she said to us, in Enchian, then switched to a simple Arkan.  “No one minds.”  I liked Shaina.  Last time we were here she and Shef –Virana-e’s mother Karani went out of their ways to make Laisa and I feel welcome.

One of Niku’s friends… Baska started chanting ‘Vai Vai’ and something else that I didn’t make out, as if to encourage either her friend or the babies.

“Thank you, Shaina.  I’m so glad we could be here.  Everyone is so happy.”  Her smile lit up her whole face.

“Do you need some help?” Her Arkan really was very good.

“Thank you.”

At least our dresses were lighter than full court garb used to be and we no longer needed to be sewn into them.  We were able to unpick a few threads and slide out of the overdresses.  Laisa was used to the less elaborate sola’s dresses and we both were wearing Riala’s.  An enormous relief in the steamy heat.

“This is so wonderful,” I said to Shaina.  “Happy not frightened.”

“Wait…”  The woman with Niku… the midwife I assumed… slid into the water and Kaninjer stood behind as Niku made some astonishing sounds… a lot louder than Inensa had made, but then Niah are more open than Arkans, much less Mahid.

“Oh, are the babies being born?”

Laisa and I clasped our hands together, standing up at the back.  The children were hushed, watching.  People clustered but far enough back to leave the healer and the midwife room.

“IN the water?”  Laisa and I asked each other.  “Why… how? Won’t the child drown?”

“Yes, in the water,” Skorsas said without looking back at us.  “It’s the aNiah way…. well they usually do this in the sea.”

“Oh.  How…”  How nice how interesting how gross, I couldn’t, wouldn’t say any such things, but there was a fighting yell from Niku and the midwife said something I assume was ‘got you!’  I could see between Kaninjer and Tawaen who had come in sometime after we had.

Laisa and I clung to each other with excitement, arms wound together. “Oh Selinae ease her, help her…” “Dimae… hunt her pain down…” The baby had a loud voice, crying strong.  Was it healthy?  Was it a boy? Was it a girl?

“Cut the cord, Tawaen,” the midwife told the boy.  How could they make the boy do that?”  But Kima tied the cut cord off and the Haian healer accepted the baby to do his checks.  Both Niku and Virana-e said some things to the baby, one in Niah, one in Yeoli, but I only understood the Yeoli.

“Strength, my little one –“ but he cut himself off for some reason.

I couldn’t see into the water from the angle we were, but the thought of floating in warm water with my husband’s arms around me… how shocking… how… intriguing.  Would it be easier in water, even eased so I wouldn’t be in danger of bleeding out?

The second birth seemed to be going faster and the children argued over which sex of child they wanted, as if that would change anything.  Niku and Virana-e were laughing between her surges.  The mood in the room was very wild and I found myself wanting to sing it was so exultant.

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