This is the first installment of a fiction serial about Anna, a midwife’s apprentice in a closed community with strong religious beliefs. You can read the intro here.
The next day as Anna worked in her herb garden she thought about her trepidation the night before during Mary’s labor. The truth was, birth scared Anna. The pain and the risk and even the sense of the supernatural hanging in the air as a new life entered the world. This fear made her ideally suited to one aspect of the midwife’s role and terribly unsuited for another. Anna had been chosen to be Joanna’s apprentice in part because at nineteen she was unmarried and had not known a man. Midwives were celibate and they were not mothers. After all, who would deliver their babies? How could they be good mothers while working all hours of the day and night? It was a tradition going back to the 1800s when the town was first settled by their ancestors. The apprentice midwife’s cabin did not come with a nursery, after all.
Dusting the soil off her hands, Anna remained kneeling a minute longer to offer up a short prayer. “Father God, provider, thank you for all you have given me – my community, my home, my books. I ask that you lift my fear so I may better serve you as I serve the least among us.”
Cradling the warm mug of tea in her left hand, Anna turned the diary page with her right. Today she was reading from the diary of the midwife before Joanna, Mercy. She was reading the details of Luke Archer’s birth. Luke was about ten years older than Anna, but he had a young heart and a boyish smile. He was “touched by God” as they said, and had been painfully slow growing up. Schooling him had been trying for his mother, but he was employed now as a farm hand working for Caleb, and he seemed content.
Anna’s brows bunched together as she read. Waters spilled while contractions far apart. Prolonged labor. Slow progress. A stuck shoulder. Time-consuming manipulation and movement. A baby born blue and listless, who Mercy had to breathe life into. In a hastily added scribble beneath her entry, Mercy had written “One year birthday of Luke. God watches over this one.”