“I'ma need ya to push now, Dow.” said Miss Bates as she guided Dow along in her first birthing.
“I can't!” cried Dow, tears streaming down her cheeks, she knew she was not going to make it, the pain was more that she could bear and there was hardly any blood.
“Dow, I can't get that baby outta ya if ya don't gone and push!” snapped Miss Bates. She pressed down gently on Dow's stomach to help her but that only seemed to cause her more pain.
“I can't, I can't do it, Bee.” Dow sobbed. She had broken into a frightening sweat and she was ice cold even though it was a hot and humid night, the wind was uncooperative tonight and did not blow in single gust of wind since she went into labor. Her skin had gone pale and her rags were so heavily soaked they were nearly lucid.
“Oh lord, help her.” whispered Miss Bates her worry clear in her short prayer.
Miss Bates was surprised that Dow had not started to curse, she thought she was too exhausted to speak. And although that was partly the case, she did not know that Dow did not want to bring her baby into the world with a curse on her spirit and a dead momma. She could feel her heart struggling to pump and her sight was narrowing.
“DOW! You stay with me now, ya hear?” said Miss Bates. Her palms were shaking and fear had risen to her eyes, she didn't know what to do, and she was scared.
“Fetch a doctor, Bee.” breathed Dow calmly.
“I ain't leaven ya here by yerself, I ain'ts that crazy.” Miss Bates muttered.
“Myra!” called Miss Bates.
A petite plump woman with dark plaited hair and panic in her big brown eyes came rushing into the stuffy little cabin bedroom, sweat dripped off her chin from what must have been a fairly tough run for her.
“Yes ma'am?” said Myra.
“Go get master, and be quick about it.” she ordered, for a moment her fear had diminished into a mere little scare, but then the woman left and the fear revived in her face and eyes. “You gone be okay, Dow, you ain't gone leave me here with yer youngin' you know I ain't a fit momma.”
Dow smiled a tired smile, and held Miss Bates' hand sweat and all.
“You gone be a wonderful momma, Bee.” she laughed pitifully. A small tear escaping from her overflowing eye. Dow had never let a tear fall from her chin, and she promised herself she never would. She felt as if nothing and no one deserved her tears, the very fluid her body produced , but she knew that if she were to die she would die for her own children and fight for her life until she had to die for her child.
Only for her child would she let her tears drip off from under her narrow chin onto her best friend's hand. She shed the tear of joy for their friendship, for her baby, for Bo, and her herself.
'This baby is gonna do something with herself.' thought Dow.
The door swung open and in came master Cooley all sweaty and red from exertion and humidity. His suntanned skinned instantly paled when his eyes found Dow.
“What is going on here!” he hissed. Miss Bates cringed knowing his tone was directed at her.
“She done gone into labor, Suh, she can't push no harder and I cants just puts my hands in there and yank it out-”
He struck her across the cheek.
“YES YOU CAN! That's what the damn doctors do!” he bellowed spit flying from his lips and steam rising from his ears. He started rolling up his sleeves and placing himself in between Dow's legs.
“Get me some water, NOW! I need to wash my hands.” he barked.
Miss Bates rushed outside to the well and grabbed a pale full of water and rushed back in. She sat next to him and he dunked his large calloused hands into the cool spring water and rubbed them together as if they had soap on them.
“Get out.” he said in a surprisingly gentle tone.
She hesitated for a short second and flinched when he barked the order again. She left.
He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his index finger and his thumb.
Dow could see that he was clearly tired and must have been roused from a drifting sleep, but she felt very little pity for him knowing that he felt just as little pity for her. He wanted a son from her that was the only reason he stayed and took matters into his own hands. A son. A son they both knew just might very well be a daughter, and something deep in her stomach seemed to know that her master was going to be disappointed.
“Push now, Dow, hard as you can.” he said as he pushed down on her belly with one hand and searched her womb with the other.
“I think I got the head, come on keep going. PUSH!” he shouted harshly.
She let one small cry slip from her lips and her vision had gone completely black, her heart began to slow, slow, slow...
Her breathing came out in short gaps and her beautiful baby girl was there in his hands. He looked at her as if she were a dirty rat missing its tail and not his own daughter. He practically tossed the infant to her before he washed his hands in the pale and left her, dying with a baby squealing in her arms, and kicking her little legs in protest to her papa's disturbing her sleep in her cozy little cave.
“Bee...” she said, so quietly she was surprised Miss Bates answered her call.
“Dow?” she said in a quiet whinny voice.
“Take..ma baby...” she held the baby up as high as she could and felt the weight of the infant vanish from her shaking arms. Shh now baby, Miss Bates got you, she heard her friend say. She could no longer see and her heart had slipped into a slow 'pat...pat...pat' rhythm.
“Bee? I'ma need ya to...take care a that baby,” she whispered in weak breaths, “ keep her away...from...Suh.”
“I'ma try my best, Dow.”
She felt her friends cool hand on her forehead and felt as sense of ease wash over her, anointing her spirit with woman's touch.
“Nia...that her name...Nia.”
Miss Bates shook her head.
“No, Dow, you know I cants name her that.” She said in a shaky voice. “I cants do that, I cants, Suh gone lash me good if he sees I done named a baby.”
“You ain't named nunin', girl, I did...Nia gone be her name.”
Miss Bates couldn't hide the shock on her face and was about to ask for more details when she heard her friend's breath catch, and then she heard her suck in a shallow breath and breathe out a long quiet sigh.
She had cried most of the time that night and she felt that now was the time to let them shed again. For her friend. For her baby girl, Nia. For the man that knew he was not going to do right by this child.
“Nia, you gone 'come somethin' in yur later days...” she whispered to the infant drifting off the end sentence. Observing the little bundle of wrinkly flesh and spirit.
The baby let out a long loud wail- turning her fat little cheeks red- and kicked excessively with anger. Her hands were balled up in little wrinkly fist so tight they turned blue. Miss Bates poked her pinky through the infant's little fist to loosen her fist so her blood could flow properly.
She kissed the Nia's red forehead and that seemed to calm her little. She hiccuped and squirmed as if she was determined to jump out of Miss Bates's arms and run away. Miss Bates held fast to the baby and walked out the room and out of the cabin to tell the women that Dow had been sent to be with her Father.
“Ya ain't gone have no choice.” she finished.
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