May 5

International Day of the Midwife


“We’re so lucky to have found you.”

Sometime during the last month, Nikki had started talking in plural. Not the “royal we,” but a shortcut to avoid saying “the baby and I” again and again, her palm rubbing over her expanded stomach to emphasize the point.

The midwife smiled, opened a satchel that contained the tools of her trade. She’d set Nikki on an improvised contraption of pillows — at her back, behind her neck, supporting the spread of her legs from beneath. “This is the optimum position for delivery,” the woman had said in her usual soothing tones. She talked to mother and unborn baby at the same time, a personal touch that Nikki appreciated.

There weren’t many personal touches to go around. Not since the horrible events of last month and the aftermath — the fighting, the looting, neighbor baricading against neighbor. In the new normal, human contact was a rarity…and usually unwelcome.

Nikki’s home was well-stocked with provisions, with a secure gate around the property. She had weapons to warn off opportunistic strangers. The security was a legacy from her husband — structures and procedures to keep her safe, as if he’d predicted the day he’d be unable to protect her in person.

Her, and the baby on the way. Trouble was, with all the protection isolation can provide, Nikki didn’t have access to medical care. Although she had books about naming babies, about breastfeeding and diaper changing, she didn’t have an instruction manual to guide her through the actual birth.

She’d tried to convince herself that instinct would kick in. A mother would naturally know what to do.

Honestly, she was scared half to death. Something was bound to go wrong.

The whole world had gone wrong. Why should the birth of her first child be any different?

She’d grown to ignore the occasional clatter of stones against the metal entrance gate at the end of her hilltop. The cries of the desperate, hoping for food that Nikki couldn’t spare. Or begging for her to “let us in,” which always started as a polite request, almost whispered, but soon shifted into frightening, angry shouts.

One day a cry stood out from among the rest. Nikki could hear it even from the back room of the house, even with the doors shut and the gate so far from the entryway. A single word, clear as day. Midwife.

Exactly what she needed. Nikki opened the gate, let the kindly woman into her home. Fed her, gave her her own bed, in return for her services, when the time came.

A few days earlier, she’d discussed possible names with the midwife. “I know it’s foolish,” Nikki said. “But if it’s a girl, I want to name her Hope.”

“Not foolish at all.” The midwife, whose name was Susanna, slurped another spoonful of vegetable soup — one of Nikki’s many canned provisions. “If it’s a boy, I’d suggest Arthur. That means ‘miracle’ in Italian.”

Nikki was pretty sure Arthur didn’t mean miracle, but she didn’t need the woman’s translating skills. As long as her medical knowledge was solid, things would be fine.

The time had arrived. The world had ended, and it was time to deliver a baby.

[…continued tomorrow…]