Pain lanced through my back like a spear. Not that I had ever been lanced before, but I have seen it. I saw the look of surprise and then the anguish of pain on the man’s face; it was not pleasant. I have been hit in the lower back before and that was most excruciating. It was a bar brawl. I was waiting tables and serving the drunks because by then there wasn’t a sober mind in the place. But, the pain of that elbow jab into my back must have been the cousin to what it feels like to be speared.
Now this pain was worse that than one. There were numerous spears within shouting distance, but none had found its way into my back. All I had done was bend over to pick up the basket. I sat down on the floor and leaned on the basket instead of picking it up; bearing the pain that nearly cut me in half. This one lasted longer than the last and reached around my large belly. I was terrified.
I confess, I am a large woman. I love to eat and I serve a grand table, which is why so many travelers stay at my inn located close to the barracks. The soldiers often wander over when I’m taking the bread out of the oven so I have always baked more than necessary for the week. It is how I make a living while my husband serves in the King’s army. As I was saying, I am a large woman, but my large belly had little to do with being wantonly fat. My husband loves my softness and my large curves. He says that me being well-fed reflects well on his provision. He had been gone a very long time when he returned from his regular furlough; he closed the inn for a week and we got to know each other again in a most pleasing and satisfying way. That was nine months ago and I was soon going to see a tiny copy of my husband, Adonai willing that all goes well.
This would be our first child. We had tried for years to have a child. We had both prayed and sacrificed to Adonai, but the Lord had not granted our hearts desire until now. I wrote my husband, but he was on duty along the border and not able to return home. However, he assured me that he would be home within the year and because of the child, he would request a home guard position. We prayed the Lord would answer this prayer, for I sorely missed him.
“What are you doing on the floor, Dinah?” Agatha waddled into the hall, her expression cantankerous as usual. “If you expect me to help you, forget it. I can’t bend over to see my sandals, much less pick you up or carry that basket. I am so heavy and the heat is unbearable. When are you going to buy that fan I asked for last week? I am suffocating.” She grumbled and complained every time she opened her mouth. I was sorry that I had ever allowed her to live with me. She had been a constant sore tooth since the day she walked into the inn, except she did help with the chores. Her pregnancy did not affect her as mine did me. She did not get sick, so she had been a blessing for me as she took over the duties of innkeeper as I lay close to the waste bowl all morning long. I was so sick, I did not care if she dipped her hand into the money box. Business was good enough this time of year that I had no worry about money.
The nausea was almost unbearable, but I didn’t care. I looked past that to the joy of holding my first child. I yearned for the smell of him. I longed to put him to my breast and to watch him grow fat from my well-stocked milk, for by then I would have regained my appetite. Oh, that day would be so joyous. I would hold my little one close and would breathe in his scent. I would look at his tiny face and it would look so much like my beloved husband. He would grow up into a stocky and sturdy little boy full of all good mischief. What songs we would sing and what stories I would tell him. If I had a little girl, I would love her no less. I would feel the same because it wasn’t the fact of boy or girl. It was my child of my womb a delightful gift from Adonai and for that it was glorious for not many more years and I would be beyond the age to conceive a child. So I savored the delight of my little family growing in my womb. Little did I know as I hummed about the house during the times I wasn’t sick, of the tragedy soon to raze all my peace and delight.
This morning, an army captain knocked on my door. At that precise moment my world shifted and I was suddenly bereft of any foundation. He handed me a packet on top of which was scrawled a note. Brief… to a knife-edged point. I had never known words to slice into my chest and remove my heart until I looked at those words.
If you have never loved someone with the depth and breadth of your soul and then lost that special someone you could never understand how the world dropped out from under my feet at that moment. My mother lost her second husband to an ox goring him. She had mourned for years, often crying into the night and there were days when she did not eat a morsel. She would often breathe erratically as if her grief had taken her breath and she must suck it back or die. When I would sit by her side to comfort her, she would talk of the good times and the bad. She mentioned then that the only thing she had ever felt that came close to it was when her first husband rejected her; sending her off with a writ of divorcement.
Rejection… abandonment… loss… instill grief so deep and so finely etched into each fiber of the soul that there is no relief from any quarter. It scrapes at the insides leaving lacerations that bleed into the pit of despair which is never filled up.
I clutched at my womb, holding on to the only sweet and wonderful thing I had left. It was then I felt the first twinges of muscle contraction. I knew that the babe was stretching to enter a cold, harsh world. It would be hours yet, before I would see the precious, tiny face screw up and hear that sweet little voice cry, to see that tiny chin quiver in shock at the cold world. It would be hours of pain. I actually welcomed the pain. It was fitting for my body to hurt like my heart was hurting.
I leaned heavily on the basket to get up after the pain left me panting on the floor. Agatha just laughed at me. Soon she would be feeling this same pain and I had to fight off the desire to wish her agony.
“Dinah, here is a stick to help you up. You should consider losing some of that fat.” Agatha held a walking stick toward me just out of my reach. I grunted with the effort to grab the stick. “That’s it, stretch. Come on, now, stretch a bit more.” She giggled at my efforts and I gave up reaching for the stick. “Oh, all right! Here!” She tossed it my way and I grabbed it before it sailed over my head and into one of my cooking pots over the fire.
My labor was two days and a night. I was singing David’s song about joy coming in the morning when my little man entered the world. He was tiny and he was loud. His little face was an exact of my late husband. I rejoiced. I did not have my husband anymore but I would have his last gift to me, our son. I cleaned him up and put him to my breast. He was lusty in his eating and gusty in his cries. While he ate, I contemplated the perfect name for him. We both drifted off to sleep.
Three days later, I screamed a scream of anguish and outrage. So loud and so long that the neighbors began banging on my door.