The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Birthing

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1985

Issue: May, 1985

"Where's Sally? With it gettin' so close to her time, she shouldn' t be gettin' to far from the house."

"Now, Granny-Moma, Sally's a healthy, level headed girl in her prime. No need to worry about that one. Besides, we have a midwife living just over the ridge now who'll get here in just a few minutes if we need her."

Old Granny-Moma brushed back the window curtain and scanned the yard for a sight of her grand-daughter. There were three generations of Murphy women in this house now. Granny-Moma and Grand-Papa had built this house and were the ones who originally cleared the land. Grand-Papa died many years ago and their oldest daughter Ellen and her family had moved back home to run the farm for her. Now, Ellen's oldest daughter, Sally, was back home, staying long enough for the baby to be born and she could get back on her feet; Granny-Moma had insisted on it. This was Sally's first baby and she and her husband, Tom, lived too far away from neighbors to take any chances with the birthing.

Ellen walked over and touched her mother on the shoulder. "Walking will be good for Sally. it'll make her strong for the birthing."

"A girl in my day wouldn't have thought about it!" Granny-Moma countered, "and in those days a woman laid abed for a full nine days afterward."

"Now, Moma, how many times have I heard you tell about havin' Sister Kate and gettin' up and cookin' supper?"

"Well, that was because I had to. There weren't nobody else to do for me. It's a might different with Sally."

"Granny-Moma," Ellen laughed, "you're worrying more than if it was you that was havin' this baby!"

Just then the door opened and Sally stepped inside, white faced as anything. "I think it's time. I just had this awful pain in my belly that spread all the way around to my back."

Ellen and Granny-Moma looked at each other and back at Sally. "I'll go get the mid-wife," said Ellen. "The men folks won't be back from the fields for hours. Sally, you just lay down and do what Granny-Moma says til I get back. Granny-Moma ain't no midwife, but she had nine of her own, so I guess that qualifies her better than most."

Sally sat down on the edge of the old bedstead and eased back into the gully of a mattress. Sally's face was pinched and scared. It was the time every woman faces before the birth of her first child. It was a fear of the unknown - the pain, a fear that the baby would be alright. "Will it hurt much, Granny-Moma? Will it take a long time?"

Granny-Moma now became calm and assumed a strength Sally could feed on. She pulled her rocking chair up close to the bed and reached out and held Sally's hand. "Did I ever tell you that your Mama was born in that very bed? As you know, Ellen was my first born. I was about your age and I was thinkin' them very same thoughts. Oh, before this baby's born, you'll feel pain, for sure. There's not much way of tellin' how much or how long, though. I figured out, about my third baby, that if I could try to relax and breath normal that it helped a lot."

Sally's eyes showed that the soothing sound of Granny-Moma's voice was relaxing her, helping her be less tense. Then, Sally took a short breath, bit into the pillow and grabbed her stomach.

This pain lasted a minute or more and when it was over, Granny-Moma got a wet cloth and washed Sally's face and neck. "I always thought it refreshed me, thought it might help you, Sally." Sally was grateful for the loving hands more than anything else.

The next hour was a rough one for Sally. The baby seemed determined to come in a hurry. Ellen still wasn't back yet and Granny-Moma started getting ready for the delivery. She piled layers and layers of bed clothing under Sally for when her water broke, couldn't be long now. Granny-Moma got out the sharpest knife to cut the cord, and put it in a pan of water to boil it clean of any germs.

By now Sally was having pushing pains and Granny-Mona told her to grab hold of the headboard and put a chair at the bottom of the bed so Sally could put her feet against it to push harder.

"I see its head, Sally. You're doing a good job, but you're going to have to push with all your might." About 15 minutes later, Granny-Moma was holding a beautiful, dark haired little girl baby. Granny-Moma cleaned it up a bit, wrapped it in a fresh warmed towel and held it over where Sally could see it. Sally felt too worn out to lift her head, but turned to see it. Her own personal miracle of life. "Oh, Granny-Moma, she has chestnut eyes - just like you."

"It's in the family. All us Murphy women got 'em and this little birthmark too." Granny-Moma was showing Sally a little red freckle on one of the baby's toes.

Sally sighed long and hard and closed her eyes to rest for a while, but a thought struck her.

"Granny-Moma. why on earth does any woman who goes through this once ever have another one!" Granny-Moma smiled, then chuckled, then laughed right out loud. "Just wait. In less time than you think, you'll forget all about any pain and just think about how much pleasure this child's love gives you. Before you know it, this child won't be a babe any more and your arms will ache to hold just one more. It's a feeling female arms never forget.”

The door flew open and in ran Ellen, panting and out of breath. "I got to the mid-wife's but she was gone to deliver another baby. I waited for her for a while, but finally left word and came on home. I thought you might be needin' me here." Ellen stopped talking for a second and realized, hearing the baby cry. "Oh, Law, looked what I missed!"