The Midwife’s Tale Part One
The Midwife’s Tale
Frantic pounding on the door downstairs woke me. In the dim light from the full moon outside, I squinted at my husband. He grunted and turned over, pulling the itchy wool blanket with him.
I sighed. It seemed I would be the one to be roused from my bed to answer the call.
My name is Hannah, and I am a midwife in Bethlehem, I was accustomed to being called out at all hours to help women through their labor, to deliver babies into a world ruled by cruel overseers from Rome. Sometimes it was too late by the time I got there, and all I could do was usher the mother or child, often both, into the hereafter.
No matter how long I do this work, it is never easy to be dragged from my bed in the dark of night. Why does it seem babies always wait until the wee hours to make their appearance? It was almost as if they hold on as long as they could — perhaps these little Jewish babies know where they were best off.
I pulled my day shift on and tied my head wrap around my hair as I trudged down the steps to answer the door. Pausing at the table in the eating area, I lit a small oil lamp that just a few hours before my children had sat around, practicing their letters for school the next day. Grabbing the rough wooden handle of the solid door, I winced at the stab of a splinter in my palm. Pulling my hand to my mouth, I sucked at the spot where the sliver of wood had stuck me. Spitting out the intruding wood, I watched as a drop of blood oozed out, shining nearly black in the dark. Amazing how much that small spike could hurt.
The pounding on the door started again, pulling me from my contemplation of my pain. I wrenched open the door, several sharp words ready on my tongue.
They fell to the ground like dust at the sight of the man on my doorstep.
A hooded figure faced me, clothes dusty, beard slightly unkempt. In the flickering flame of the lamp, I could just barely make out his eyes and mouth. Worry and hard work had lined his face, and the weave of his cloak suggested he was not from Bethlehem.
He clasped his hands together in front of his chest, bowed his head, and fell to one knee. “I most humbly beg your pardon, but are you the midwife?”
Sarcasm and criticism boiled to the top again, threatening to spill over. Anyone who lived in Bethlehem knew I was not only a midwife, but one of the best.
I pointed to the small sign next to the portal. “Can’t you read?” The words “Midwife for hire” had been painstakingly carved into a flat piece of olive wood by my oldest son as a practice piece. The letters may have been crooked, and the last word cramped together as evidence he needed more work on his spacing, but they were clear enough.