The light from the moon shone on the water trickling down her leg. It was time. She'd known yesterday that this baby was ready to enter the world. Gently she pushed down on her belly; a faint movement.
Her head throbbed and stomach growled with emptiness. It had been the same for several weeks. She'd been forced to eat less, some days almost nothing. Her daughter could no longer get enough from her breasts. Cobu's portion of the little they ate each day was given to the three year old who was hungry almost constantly. Now that it was impossible for the child to subsist on the dwindling supply of breast milk, her husband seemed even angrier. He regularly slapped the girl for crying out in hunger. And she couldn't help but notice that he took even more onto his plate each night. She didn't dare protest but she'd begun to boil some of the scrub scattered in the courtyard and feed the girl the broth from the weeds to supplement her meagre diet.
Cobu tried to shield the small girl but a proper Bengali wife never crossed her husband. She fingered the welts from the beatings he gave her in the first few months; they had bled and scarred over. She had shamed him.
This time she was certain it would be a boy. The nausea was faint and her breasts weren't as tender. She prayed every night that god would hear her. Her husband had refused to welcome their daughter with a kiss as was tradition. Refused to mark her tiny forearm with black or light the fire to ward off evil spirits. In fact, Cobu could not recall a time when he had even held the child.
Hope urged her out of bed, quietly. Her mouth watered – she tried to taste the lingering odour of last night's bhaji (fish curry mixed with boiled rice). She'd allowed herself one bite before pushing her share to the hungry child who gobbled it down quick. It was a rare treat when her husband could bring home a bit of meat or fish for their meal.
Now the cramps started coming faster. She knew she would have to wake the old dai (midwife) soon. Shuffling out of the dank mud hut she could feel the monsoons coming. She was grateful that the baby would come before the rains. For this time, she was instructed to do her birthing behind the hut. Shivers traveled her spine at the thought of delivering another girl.
“Dai, it’s time.” She whispered, shaking the old woman gently. It didn’t take much to rouse her. Cobu waited in the courtyard while the midwife gathered a few things. To her delight the woman placed a lump of cold rice in her hands. She shoved it into her mouth savouring the sticky sweetness and swallowed with it the tears that threatened at such a kindness.
A sharp pain doubled her over. She needed to lie down. The two women hurried to the small pond to gather water. Cobu was required to wash the old woman’s feet as a sign of trust and dependence.
And so began the long labour.
I've joined the ladies at the Red Dress Club. This is a fictional piece written using the prompt water. I don't have any details surrounding my birth. But I imagine it might have gone something like this.