The wind whipped her faded dress around her thin legs as she stood in front of her cabin, cradling her swollen belly in her hands. She stood with a broad stance as if to keep from being blown over. There was a nip in the air. Falling leaves flew horizontal across the sky and skittered down the street. I wanted to put a sweater on her. Give her some socks.
I had come with fresh baked bread and homemade soup. She wasn’t gaining weight. “Sometimes I just get low on food, and I’m too tired to get to the store. It’s more‘n a mile to walk. We don’t got a car, and my man works in the woods most of the week,” she explained.
Her husband was an enigma to me – a dark and brooding man. When I saw him in the waiting room occasionally, he seemed cold and distant and would not speak to me or make eye contact. There was no evidence of abuse, but I worried. I watched and I worried.
I was drawn into her innocent but troubled world. From humble origins, her curiosity about the world was insatiable. “That music stirs my blood so,” she’d say, leaning back and closing her eyes while listening to the Beethoven concertos playing in my office, especially his Ninth, Ode To Joy. “I like how it makes me feel deep inside.”
She shared her longings—her loneliness—her desire to have pretty things, and to be a good mother. She loved gentle poetry that was soft and made her cry. She found her way into my heart. I continued to bring her food, and she began to gain weight.
She went into labor one frosty evening. Her husband was sitting in the hall outside the birth room. Said it wasn’t a man’s business to be in there. When I entered the room she was alone. Relief flooded her face when I walked in. “I need you real bad,” she whispered, tears pouring down her face. “I’m here. I’m here,” I assured her. “We will do this together.”
I became whatever she needed – her midwife, her mother, her sister, her friend, her intimate. As she bent over the chest of drawers, I stood behind her, my arms wrapped around her arms. Her legs were wide apart and her head leaned back against my chest as she rocked her hips from side to side. I fell into her rhythm and we moved as one breath.
The hours blurred, one into the other. Her strength never faltered. At dawn in the hush of the morning, she pushed out a little boy. He was quiet and looked at her with big eyes right away. “Hello, my son. I am your mommy. I am so glad to meet you,” she whispered.
I went out to get her husband. He came into the room and stood by the bedside, holding his hat in his hands. I could see that he was pleased, as he gently reached down and stroked his son’s little head. I quietly slipped out of the room.
She moved away a year later, but I heard that she had three more children, all of them boys, and when they were still young, this beautiful young woman, who had such hopes for a better way, took her own life. I can never listen to Beethoven’s Choral to this day without thinking about her with wrenching sadness.