Authors: Vannetta Chapman
onday evening—or was it in the wee hours of Tuesday morning?—Leah woke to a room so dark she couldn’t see the opposite wall. She lay there for a few minutes and tried to convince herself she wasn’t completely awake, but it was no use pretending. When her thoughts turned to how Rebekah had helped her with the wash, how nice it had been not to spend the day alone, she knew she was wide awake.
She tried to turn over on her side, but the giant beach ball that had become her stomach wouldn’t allow her to. She lay in the darkness, determined to go back to sleep, but her mind refused to quiet. Instead, she listened to every sound—the branches of the eastern white pine tree against their room, the sound of the wind outside the window, even a night bird calling out to its mate.
Was it still snowing?
How much had accumulated?
What time was it anyway?
If she wiggled and worked at it, she might be able to roll over and see the clock on her nightstand. Adam had bought her the small ivory-colored, battery-operated clock for her birthday. He’d laughed, but he’d bought it. She’d pointed it out to him at the store—a week before she’d turned twenty-two.
“And who needs a clock in the bedroom?” he’d asked. “We’ve never had one before.”
“I know, but it would be nice to know how long the babies have slept or if I should check on them.”
“The babies will be waking you when it’s time to feed them again. You won’t need a clock for that.”
But he’d gone back to the store while she was visiting at the cafe with Rebekah, and later he’d wrapped up the very one she’d shown him. He’d even put a bow on the package and set it on the kitchen table so that it was the first thing she’d seen the morning of her birthday. When she thought of that morning, it seemed like she was remembering something in one of the books Annie liked to read or something that happened to someone else.
Too bad she couldn’t crane her neck around and see the clock. Maybe she could sit up without waking Adam. She’d never get back to sleep now anyway. The pressure in her back felt like the time she’d scrubbed all the floors in a single day. It almost felt as if someone had their hands on her back and was pushing.
Leah pushed the covers off her stomach, careful not to disturb Adam, which was when she realized he wasn’t even in bed. Was it not as late as she thought? Or had he moved to the couch again?
She rotated her legs around to the floor and used her arms to push herself into a sitting position. Reaching for the clock, she tapped the button on top and the light gently glowed, revealing the time—ten minutes after three.
Adam had definitely moved to the couch.
He slept there more than he did in their own bed.
Was it because her tossing kept him awake?
Sleeping with her must be like sleeping in a rocking buggy. She wiggled and turned and couldn’t be still for more than a few moments. Lying in any single position had become too uncomfortable. She’d known pregnancies could be hard, and she’d heard the horror stories about stretch marks and not being able to see one’s feet. Nothing had prepared her for this though. The constant worry, the aches, the not sleeping . . . those were things no one talked about.
And she hadn’t felt her husband’s arms around her in months. Not that his arms would fit around her. Not that he would want to put his arms around her even if he could.
She was whining.
She hadn’t opened her mouth, and Adam was still asleep, but she was whining nonetheless. Watching Annie with Samuel on Sunday had reminded her of how she used to be with Adam—she used to be nicer. Standing, she waited a moment to be sure she was balanced. Wouldn’t do to fall over in her own bedroom. Then she’d be a whining wife and a troublesome one, too.
Waddling to the bathroom, she vowed to stop and change her attitude. Twenty-two was much too young to turn into a whiner, plus she didn’t want to be that kind of wife or mother. Her husband would avoid her, and her children would hide in the barn with their father.
One more thing to worry about.
She shut the door to the bathroom as quietly as possible. Reaching for the small flashlight they kept on the counter near the sink, she flipped it on. It did nothing to alleviate the pain pulsating in her lower back, but at least she could see what she was doing. She took care of her bathroom needs, and glanced into the small mirror while she rinsed her hands at the sink. With her hair down she almost looked like the young woman who had married Adam—the young woman she still felt like sometimes, on the inside.
She combed her fingers through her blonde hair, which reached well past her waist. Adam used to say her hair reminded him of the wheat in the fields—silky, golden, and precious. With a sigh, she pulled her hair behind her shoulders. If she did have a girl, she would brush her hair every night. The thought made her smile; after all, no one carried a baby forever. She was turning to go back into their bedroom when a pain rippled across her stomach. Leah rubbed one hand over the top of her protruding belly and her other hand over the bottom.
“It’s only the false labor,” she murmured, but then another pain claimed her and she sank to the floor. Placing her head against the rug, she focused on breathing in and out and tried to calm her racing heart. She could wake Adam, but probably it was the practice pains, same as two nights ago.
He needed his rest. He worked so hard that he’d fallen asleep reading the paper on Sunday.
Suddenly she needed to go to the bathroom again, needed to go badly, but she didn’t think she could stand. Reaching for the cabinet, she tried to pull herself up and that was when the pressure from the babies increased. That was when she knew this was nothing like two nights ago.
Adam had wakened when Leah turned the small flashlight on in the bathroom. He had wanted to go to her immediately, but it was probably better if he didn’t. These days she seemed to prefer her privacy.
He lay in the sitting room, and stared up at the ceiling. When he’d built the small, snug house, he had never dreamed he’d be spending so many nights sleeping on the couch! He rolled to his side and punched his pillow. If he was uncomfortable, how did Leah feel? How did she even manage to stand or sit?
He didn’t understand how anyone could abide changing their shape so much. His mother had her last baby when he was six, his youngest sister, Reba. He could barely remember, but he’d seen plenty of pregnant women in his life. When Annie had come home from the city, that first winter, he’d driven her to more than one birthing in the middle of the night. Most of the time, he’d been able to hide out in the barn while the women endured their labor, but occasionally he’d had to stay in the house. He would never forget those nights.
But this wasn’t like those nights.
It wasn’t time for his children to be born.
And Leah was nothing like those women. Leah was so large that when they stood together, they were still a foot apart! It would be funny if he didn’t miss her so much.
Flipping over onto his back, he wondered again if he should go and check on her. She’d been in the bathroom for a good five minutes. He’d wait a little while longer and then he’d go and knock. When they’d first married, she’d never shut the door, but now shut doors were standard procedure.
He thought back on what Samuel had said on Saturday. “Leah needs to know you love her.”
Of course, he loved her! Didn’t he work all the time? When he wasn’t tending to their animals or working on the barn, he was preparing the fields and reading up on ways to produce more crops on their small amount of land. Then there was the work on the engines.
Adam tossed over to his side, staring into the darkness at the back of the couch.
The engines were the answer. His land could only produce so much, but people always needed their small engines repaired. If he could build up a good client base, then he’d have steady income all year long. Then his wife and children would have no need to worry.
“Leah needs to know you love her.”
He wanted to go to her. Why was she still in the bathroom? He sat up and stared at the closed door. One more minute. It was all he was waiting.
He’d been short-tempered lately and he felt bad about that. His father was right—it wasn’t respectful. He’d spoken to Leah harshly on the way to the luncheon Sunday and he should apologize. Middle of the night might not be the best time, but then again neither of them were sleeping.
In the old days, before the twins, they’d occasionally wake in the middle of the night and talk. Of course, sometimes they’d do more than talk.
He missed his wife!
Standing up, he walked to the bathroom door and tapped on it lightly.
“Leah, are you all right?”
There was no answer. Maybe she’d fallen asleep in there. He tapped again.
“Leah? Honey? I’m coming in.” Pushing the door open, he poked his head through. The flashlight she’d been using was on the floor. It had fallen out of her hand but was still on, and its beam provided enough light for him to see her. Leah lay huddled on the bathroom floor.
She gave no indication she’d heard him enter the room.
He dropped to the floor beside her, pushed her hair—her beautiful blonde hair—back out of her face. He needed to see her. He needed to speak with her.
“Honey. What is it? Talk to me, Leah.”
“Adam . . .”
His name on her lips caused his heart to leap. What had he thought? That she’d died there while he’d been tossing on the couch?
Was iss letz?
” he whispered, pressing his forehead to hers.
“The babies, Adam.”
When he stroked her cheek her eyes fluttered open, but then a shriek clawed its way up and out of her throat. She pulled herself back into a ball, as if she were protecting the children in her womb.
For the first time that night, maybe for the first time in his life, Adam felt terror snake down his spine and take root in his heart.
“I’ll move you to the bed.”
“You can’t stay here . . .”
Again the scream and he couldn’t make out her words if there were any. Her hair cascaded down and she was a ball, a world curled in on herself. The floor was cold, but Adam had begun sweating like his workhorses.
For Leah, the pain must have passed because she began to shiver as she reached for his hand and clutched it.
“I’ll fetch you a quilt.”
“The old one,” she murmured.
Her request pushed the fear back. Surely if she could worry about such a thing there was hope. Surely they would see their way through this night. But he had to go for help. He had to put out the call for Belinda and Samuel and Annie.
He was back with the old quilt she kept in the blanket chest, the one that was tattered. He’d heard her say she was going to cut it up for a rag quilt, as soon as the babies arrived and she was able to reach her treadle machine again.
Covering her as another spasm rocked her body, he realized she might be thirsty. He jumped back up, filled the cup they kept near the sink and offered it to her. She raised her head enough to sip a little before cowering back into a ball.
“I’m going to ring the bell, Leah.”
“Don’t go,” she begged.
“To ring the bell. David will hear and come.”
“Stay with me.” Her voice was broken, pleading.
“Two minutes. It will take me two minutes.” He didn’t wait. Instead, he kissed her softly on the cheek. How long had it been since he’d done that? Why had he been so remiss?
Then he ran out the door. Forgetting his shoes, forgetting his coat, not pausing to consider he still wore his nightclothes. Forgetting everything but the three lives behind him.
nnie woke to the sound of ringing on their baby monitor.
Samuel was already pulling on his clothes. “Try to go back to sleep,” he whispered, stopping long enough to brush a kiss on her forehead before heading down the stairs.
Sleeping was impossible though. Instead, she counted the rings on the telephone in their barn. It was a cell phone, and they could have brought it in the house. They’d both met with the bishop and discussed this at length. The reason Bishop Levi had allowed the phone was because she and Samuel were often called upon to help families within their community. The new process seemed to be working well. When someone was sick, a family member would run down to the nearest phone shack, where they would put in a call to Samuel.
Three years ago, they would bypass the phone shack and drive their buggy out to Samuel’s home. But too often his answer had been that they should have stopped and placed the 9-1-1 emergency call. Precious moments were lost.
Their people were not slow in understanding what constituted an emergency. They certainly were intelligent enough to know the difference in most cases—to know what Samuel, as an herbalist, could help with, and what required a hospital. Annie had taken a class on homeopathic medicine while earning her nursing certification. She’d been surprised to learn that there was a growing interest among
regarding the benefit of natural substances for certain ailments. Of course, others thought it was so much mumbo-jumbo. She wondered what her old co-workers would think, seeing her now.
As Annie stood and began dressing, her mind turned back to the phone and the families in her community. She was certain the majority of those men and women were actually quite intelligent—smart enough to know when to call an ambulance rather than Samuel.
No, the problem seemed to be twofold. First of all, they were slow to change. They based their entire way of life on things staying the way things had always been. Because of that, they were hesitant to call on the
for medical assistance, though they would when Samuel told them it was best.
The second problem was less noble in her mind, and caused her to think of the donkeys in their neighbor’s pasture. Many of the families in their part of Pennsylvania were stubborn, plain and simple. These families would often argue with Samuel when he told them to call for help. She couldn’t begin to imagine what it must be like to live in an old order Amish community. Long before she was born, her community had accepted the use of gas stoves, gas refrigerators, even triangles on the buggies. But going directly to the
hospital? That was something few would do.
And so they had sat with Bishop Levi before they’d married and discussed the wisdom of installing a phone. Both she and Samuel had agreed they didn’t want it in their home, didn’t want it disrupting their lives. Whether it was a cell phone or a landline didn’t seem to make much difference. It would be a distraction. In the end, they’d decided on a cell phone, which
amuel could carry with him when he was on a call. Annie had taken it with her occasionally when she’d had a birthing Belinda couldn’t attend. She hadn’t had cause to use it, but both she and Samuel remembered the first birth they had assisted together. God had provided direction that night, and it seemed He was providing direction with the bishop’s allowance.
So the phone sat in the barn on a special battery charger. Doc Stoltzfus had suggested the baby monitor—also battery-operated, which allowed them to hear it from the house if it rang. Still a distraction, but at least a distant one.
What time was it?
As she started downstairs, the light from the flashlight she was carrying fell on her quilting bag. She was ready to begin work on the quilt in earnest.
If she needed to leave with Samuel on a home visit, it would be good to take the bag with her. She’d finished her sample square the day before and had even found enough time to recalculate the amount of fabric of each color she would need. Her plan was to use a white for the background of each block, and border them with a nice green. She’d determined the colors for each boy and girl she would appliqué as well as the nine-patch block to separate each square. And she’d written it all down, measured twice, and checked her calculations.
Picking up the bag, she continued to the first floor. She peered out the window and saw a light piercing the darkness. Samuel had opened the barn doors and hitched the buggy. Hurrying, she gathered together what supplies they might need, including both their medical bags and her coat. More snow had fallen while they’d slept.
Shining her flashlight in the direction of the kitchen clock, she was surprised to see it was nearly four. They’d had almost a full night’s sleep. That was good. Annie ran her hand over her stomach. It seemed every day now the baby felt bigger and stronger.
She was at the front door holding all of their things when Samuel pulled the buggy alongside the porch. Not waiting for him to exit the buggy, she stepped out into the cold predawn, pulled the door shut behind her, and hurried down their front porch steps.
Slipping into the buggy, she accepted the blanket he handed her. “I brought your medical bag as well as mine, some food you might want to eat on the way, and a little of the milk we had left, though I didn’t have time to heat any
She was so busy settling into the seat, placing the bags at her feet, and tucking the blanket around her lap she hadn’t stopped to study him. In fact, she’d turned off the flashlight as soon as she’d climbed into the buggy. But something in his voice caused her to stop, to hold perfectly still, to steel herself against his next words.
Samuel murmured to Beni, who started off down the lane at a fast clip, as if the mare understood their urgency.
?” Her voice shook slightly and she cleared her throat, then tried again. “They’re coming?”
She couldn’t make out his expression, but she could see his profile as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.
“I don’t think so. David called and he couldn’t give me many details, but it doesn’t sound as if her water had broken yet.”
“Adam had rung the bell. David hurried over to their place.”
he lives close.”
Samuel nodded, reached over, and squeezed her hand. As they approached the two-lane blacktop, he pulled his hand away and focused on directing her mare.
“I told him to call Belinda as soon as he hung up. He rang back before I’d finished hitching up Beni. She’s going to meet us there.”
Annie nodded, even as she closed her eyes and began to pray.
They travelled another five minutes, the horse’s steady gait and Samuel’s strong presence calming the panic trying to claim hold. The prayers in her heart soothed the ache for her brother’s children.
“Should we call the ambulance, Samuel? Did you bring the phone?”
, I have it, though perhaps it is only false labor—”
“David didn’t have many details. He knew her pains were close, but Adam wouldn’t come outside to speak to him.”
“Where was he?”
“In the bathroom with her. David went into the house and stood speaking to them through the door. Adam said he found her that way, collapsed on the floor.”
“Six weeks early. They won’t weigh much.”
knows what they weigh, Annie. And he knows the day they’re appointed to make their appearance.” He reached over and claimed her hand. “We’ll go to her and assess her condition.”
“And convince her to go to the
“If she’s still having contractions, yes.”
Annie stared out the buggy window. The sky still showed no signs of dawn. As her mind went over all that could go wrong, the view outside remained pitch black.
Though the pains hadn’t lessened, it helped that Adam was still with her. Leah was ashamed she had ever doubted her husband’s feelings. Seeing him now, feeling his arms around her as they knelt on the cold floor, she realized how foolish, how childish she had been.
How long had it been since David had gone for help?
How long would this night last?
Another pain rippled across her stomach and she felt Adam’s hand on her face, combing her hair away. His voice was a whisper in her ear. It didn’t matter what words he was praying, only that he was so close. She fell into a light sleep as soon as the muscles surrounding the babies relaxed. Her last thoughts were of the comfort of the old quilt warming her and the calm assurance she felt wrapped in Adam’s strong arms. He’d succeeded in moving her so that his back was to the wall and she lay with her back to him, lay in the circle of his arms.
His voice in her ear.
His lips on her hair.
His arms holding the quilt around her, touching her stomach each time the wave of agony hit again.
It was an intimacy beyond anything they’d ever shared, and it was almost worth her fear she might not survive it.
But women did survive such hours.
She closed her eyes and fell asleep again. When she opened them, Adam was gone. Someone had slipped a pillow beneath her head. Annie knelt beside her, wiping her brow with a cool cloth.
“Annie, when did you—”
“We’ve been here a few minutes.”
“He’s in the next room, with Samuel. We’re going to move you to the bedroom, Leah. Samuel needs to examine you, and it would be difficult here. Your contractions are coming every eight minutes. You should have another soon, then Samuel and Adam will carry you to your bed.”
Leah nodded though fear flooded every space of her heart. The tiny bathroom had become her world in the last few hours. Somehow she had reasoned if she could stay here, stay with Adam, everything would turn out all right.
She glanced around and noticed there was more light. A battery-powered lantern sat on the counter, and the beam from two flashlights shone on the ceiling.
“One more minute, dear. It’s important you don’t push. Hold my hand.”
“It’s time?” Samuel’s voice was calm, low, and she caught a glimpse of him before the wall of pain slammed into her and she squeezed her eyes shut.
“Count, Leah. One, two, three . . .” Samuel’s hands were on her stomach, and somehow she heard Adam behind her. Annie continued holding her hand and sponging her forehead with the cool cloth.
They’d barely stopped counting when Adam and Samuel were helping her to her feet.
“I’m not sure that I can—”
“Already done,” Annie chirped.
Leah was sure her legs would give away, but she hardly had to use them at all. Samuel and Adam were on either side of her, steadying her and supporting all of her weight between them. As they guided her from the bathroom to her bed, she saw that Annie had pulled back the covers and brought in more lanterns, though now there was a touch of morning light through the windows.
,” Samuel declared. “Now Adam, if you’ll go out and see to our horse.”
“But surely David can do that.”
, probably you’re right. I think he’d like some of the
Annie started when we arrived though. He’s had a long night, too.”
Leah thought she saw Samuel wink at Annie. What secret joke had passed between them? If they could banter back and forth, her condition must not be as serious as she feared. Some of the worry constricting her heart backed away.
Annie had settled her into the bed, tied back her hair, and given her a drink of water.
“Can you take Leah’s vitals again?” Samuel asked.
“Sure thing.” Annie fastened the black material over Leah’s left arm and pumped up the blood pressure cuff. “Long night?”
At first I thought it was the practice labor.”
“Maybe it is.” Annie noted her blood pressure on a pad of paper, then relayed the numbers to Samuel, who was prepping to examine her.
“Let’s see how close these
are to coming.”
The exam was quick. Samuel was done well before the next contraction hit. Leah could tell by the look on Samuel’s face this was not another case of pre-labor, but then she’d known that the moment she collapsed on the bathroom floor.
Annie covered her with the quilt, offered her another drink of water, and they prepared for the next contraction. It was ending as Adam entered the room.
Samuel wasted no time getting to the point. “I’d like to use the phone I carry to call an ambulance.”
“But Annie said Belinda is coming—” Leah ran her hand over the stitching of her quilt, the wedding quilt she’d made for her and Adam. She remembered working on it at her mother’s house.
“She’ll be here soon, but she will say the same thing.” Samuel moved from the foot of the bed to stand next to her. “Every moment we wait is a moment lost. Your vitals are good and the heartbeats of your
are strong, but you’ve begun to dilate. We need to stop your labor before it progresses any further. Contractions are stressful on the
, and we don’t want them to enter the birth canal.”