|The Major, accompanied by a priest, speaks quietly. He tells of her husband's courage, paying the ultimate price for his country’s freedom, and how the nation will always owe him a debt of thanks and honor.
Sickness gorges into her mouth.
It is ridiculous to think of him dead, never to return to a home smelling of pastry, of furniture polish, and freshly laundered clothes. For two long months after hearing the news she has lay in a maternity bed, receiving full time care. Not a day passes without family at her bedside. The priest came each morning till she could no longer face him, or believe in his voice. She does not concern herself with thoughts about her deceased husband’s courage, or his bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, her thoughts are much simpler: who will tend the brambles overgrowing the garden, strangling the daffodils; what will replace the loss of his affection, guard their child’s future, be the strength and protection of his love for their soon to be born child?
Her body has served as accommodation for seven months; a secure world of vernix coated warmth, of life and hope. Suddenly, and without warning, this safe place becomes one of turmoil, of immediacy, some premature, instinctive need to survive teeters, fighting through stomach cramps, grasping hold of destiny–-wanting to live and breathe in another world. The uterus continues to cause discomfort, ligaments are loosened and the pelvis begins to relax. It is time. Pain relief is shunned. The midwife alerts the team for a possible emergency caesarean section. She does not want to push, she wants to die. No pain can possibly match the needlepoint of her grief.
The midwife knows, that want it or not, this baby is going to fight for its destiny. There is nothing a mother, even one sick with grief, can do to prevent this miracle happening. It is the incarnate miracle of all things that abide. The pain comes like madness, gone, then returning. Her body absorbs it somehow without dying. She simply cannot face the terror of yielding to childbirth alone, and when the storm fills her stomach she remembers the sounds of their first summer together, the fecundity of love's spirit, and gradually the pain subsides to weariness. But pain, this ancient pain, with all its genuflection survives grief, caring nothing for the ghastly gaiety of death and in one surge of immense, yet unseen splendor, a child asks to be born; carried through a canal under the banner of fearful ecstasy. Legs shake, features contort like grotesque sculptures of agony, sinews strain, urine flows, faeces bulge, blood congeals on sheets till it looks like a scene of slaughter.
In all the turmoil a boy is born between her legs. Energy drains into a well of sleepy satisfaction and contentment. It is him, a very special boy, lying there between her trembling thighs, and the room is overwhelmed with relief. She holds him, his slippery little body, tight, tight to her breast. Oh the smell of sweet vanilla. Her eyes, tired, heavy but adoring the moment.
The child is removed, cleaned, wrapped and given back to her. But there is another concern. The placenta is still fast in her uterus. The midwife tugs on the cord, gently, over and over, pressing her fist down on the abdomen in a last-gasp effort to pressure its removal. The bleeding is excessive... she can feel the blood sieving out between her legs. In sudden and torturous pain her flailing arm strikes the mid-wife as the pressure of her hand violates what she can stand.
The placenta has to be removed if she is not to bleed to death. Finally, hopelessly, she breaks down, tears running down her face, mucus running into her mouth, bodily functions running unchecked. It is the final degradation.
Though numb, exhausted and confused, fear strikes at her once again; this time the fear of never waking up to be with her son. She cries her heartbreak. “My boy...” and then, in a moment of descending calm she asks that someone protect him, keeps him from evil, loves him always. In this moment of perfect love, begins the walk of Via Dolorosa.