Labor of Love
“C’mon, honey, we’re almost there!” Panic cracked in his voice as he tried to stay calm. “You can do it, Love – just hold on!” Her nails dug into his hand as her fingers curled with pain, but still he held on tight.
An unearthly scream pierced the room, vibrating the thatched roof above their heads.
“It’s okay, Melody,” he lied, brushing back her soaked hair with his other hand. He lied to her, but the lie was more for himself; she needed to be okay. If she wasn’t okay, he wouldn’t be okay, and neither would their unborn child.
“Everything is going to be okay.”
She nodded her head quick, panting with effort. The labor had been hard.
It was nearly sunrise now, but she had been at it for nearly the entire night. Sweat drenched her whole body, as if she had been swimming in the lake, causing her clothes and sheets to stick to her pallid skin. She didn’t look good – not good at all.
The sight terrified him.
She squeezed his hand as she screamed again.
He fought back his own scream – the baby wasn’t supposed to be here this early! There was still a few weeks left in her pregnancy, or at least there was supposed to be; they had only just got to the midwife’s house before the debilitating pain had set in. That was only a few hours ago.
It felt like ages.
Another scream tore him from his thoughts.
“John!” She gasped hurriedly. “John, John, John!” She pulled his hand to her chest, holding it in the cleft between her breasts, clutching it with both hands.
She was shaking.
“John, I can’t, I… I can’t… I can’t do this,” she wept, shaking her head as her tears mingled with sweat, further wetting her ashen face. “I can’t do this, John. I can’t…”
Her words were like a knife through his heart, stabbing at his very core, flooding his mind with doubt and fear. If she couldn’t get through this, how in the world was he?
“Shhh, shhh, shhh,” he whispered, leaning in so close that his nose nuzzled her cheek. “Don’t say such things, Love.” Cradling her face with his free hand, he gazed into her beautiful brown eyes.
“You can do this, Melody – why, you’re the strongest woman I know,” he smiled, hoping to brighten her face.
A faint smile twitched in return. “Oh, John, I –“
Melody wailed with renewed vigor.
Looking desperately to the midwife for answers, John searched the old lady’s face; her frazzled grey hair was just as soaked as Melody’s, it hung limp down to her shoulders, and her face was set with a grim expression.
It wasn’t encouraging.
“Myrtle, will –“
“Don’t talk to me, boy!” she snapped. “Talk to your wife! If something doesn’t change soon, then I fear the worst may happen.”
He gulped back a cry. The old lady had confirmed his fears.
Melody was dying.
What was he going to do? What could he possibly do?! He wished he could make her be okay. He wished he could just fix it and that everyone would be okay, and –
The pained whisper of his name, the yearning cry for help struck him like lightning. In that instant, he knew what he had to do.
Gone were his fears and his doubts.
All that mattered now was Melody.
His wife needed him.
He had to be strong.
He had to be strong for her.
She squeezed his hand in response, the hand she still held so fiercely between hers, hoping against hope that he would never let her go. Words were too tired to form in her mouth.
This was the end.
Summoning up his courage, he gently caressed her face, brushing aside her golden hair as he gazed into her eyes.
Such beautiful eyes.
“Melody, listen to me – I…” but the grief was too much. He bowed his head beside her, unable to look her in the eye. “I am so sorry, Melody. I wasn’t the husband I should have been. I wasn’t what you deserved. You deserved so much more than me, so much more than this. I did this to you, I –“
A small hand reached out and touched his cheek, sliding across his skin, the fingers running into his hair. Looking up slowly, he met her eyes.
They were smiling with life. With the life she and he had shared together.
Her hand deftly touched his lips, and she slowly, deliberately, passionately whispered to him:
“I love you, John.”
It was not a statement, but a promise; a promise, he knew, that was eternal and sacred, and as she whispered those words of her heart, everything else stood still. Time vanished. Nothing else existed. Just she and him, him and her, and for that one moment, all that mattered was their love.
A smile twitched on her lips, spreading with joy as she drank in his deep blue eyes.
“I love you, John,” she whispered.
“I love you, Melody.”
Suddenly, shock flashed on her face and her eyes snapped shut. Back arching with pain, she screamed with such intensity that she thought she would break. She moaned as Myrtle ordered her to push, as John squeezed her hand, telling her it was going to be okay. He was trying so hard to be strong.
Screaming one last time, she clenched her husband’s hand and gripped it as if she’d never have the chance again.
And then it was over.
The screaming stopped.
The crying stopped.
All was silent, waiting to hear…
Giggling laughter bubbled out of John as Myrtle gently laid the newborn babe in his arms.
“Congratulations,” she sighed, “It’s a girl.” She smiled despite her exhaustion.
“A girl!” he exclaimed, checking to see for himself – she was right! It was a healthy, pink, but somewhat small little girl.
“Oh, Melody!” he cried, turning to his wife, “It’s a –“
His words died in his mouth.
She was gone.
Tears rolled down his face as he stared at his beloved, rocking their only daughter, the last bit of love Melody gave to him. But instead of pain and suffering, a smile of purest joy was shining on her face, radiating even in death.
“She’s so beautiful, Melody,” he whispered, playing with the baby’s fingers.
“Our little Joy.”