“Phoebe, I’m bleeding.”
I gazed upon Meg’s countenance, which was etched in despair. “Are you certain?”
She placed her hands upon her abdomen. “I’m going to lose it, aren’t I?”
The year afore, my friend had married my brother Charging Bear. When she had discovered she was with child, she had been ecstatic. If the blood loss had come earlier in her pregnancy, there would have been less cause for concern, but as near as we could tell, she had entered her fourth month. Both of us were cunning women, or healers. At this stage, we knew that bleeding was not a good sign. “Have you had any cramping or passed any clots?” I asked.
Meg shook her head.
“Then we wait and see.”
“What should I tell Charging Bear?”
“Naught, ’til we know more.”
Meg gave a weak nod, but fear remained in her eyes.
I squeezed her shoulder in reassurance. “I shall inform the others that we must postpone our return.”
As I helped Meg to the house, my throat pinched, for I had once lost a babe that I carried. I had painted my face black and wailed my sorrow. Whether Meg had lived amongst the Appamattuck long enough to follow tradition, I didn’t know, but she would be surrounded by those who loved her and had knowledge in the ways of wisakon. The art of healing.
The men traded near the barn and failed to notice our approach. Hoping to delay any questions ’til later, I circled round them. We neared the pitched-roof house, and I scrambled along a straight path for the door. Afore I reached it, Wind Talker joined us. “What’s the hurry? Is everything all right?” he asked.
“Meg isn’t feeling well.”
He glanced from me to Meg, then back again. Afore I had wed him, he had been a detective in the twenty-first century and could generally surmise what was left unsaid. Silently telling him that I would inform him later, my gaze rested upon his. With a slight bow, he backed away.
I aided Meg inside where Elenor, my grown daughter from my first marriage, greeted us. “Momma?”
“Meg’s not well.”
“Phoebe, there’s no need to spare my feelings.” Meg looked in Elenor’s direction. “I’m having a miscarriage.”
“I’ll fetch Bess and inform the men of the events.”
Whilst Elenor went after Bess, I helped Meg to the bed. I stripped her down to her shift and gave her a linen pad for the bleeding. Once she was comfortable, I went to Elenor’s herb cabinet. I would wait to give Meg the medicine to aid in birthing ’til we were certain, but all of my instincts warned me of what Meg already knew. I searched through the glass jars, locating blue cohosh, black cohosh, and cotton root bark. I carefully measured the roots and readied them for making tea.
“Phoebe.” I turned to my former servant Bess. She hailed from Africa, and her prominent cheekbones were adorned with tribal scars. “I’ll make the tea, whilst you sit with Meg.”
“Thank you, Bess.” As I sat on the edge of the bed, Meg gave a satiric laugh. “I never thought of the consequences of miscarrying in this time. Where I come from, women get a D&C.”
I’d had enough nursing courses in the twenty-first century to realize that dilation and curettage was a surgical procedure, but I had ne’er understood the concept of rushing into surgery if a body could heal itself. “That shan’t be necessary.”
Meg pressed a hand to her abdomen and groaned. ’Twas the first sign of cramping. I helped her to the pisspot. She squatted and passed a bloody clot. No doubt remained. My friend would lose her babe. When she returned to bed, Bess brought her the cohosh tea to encourage labor pains. O’er the next few hours, her pains got worse. Meg moaned. “This is worse than childbirth.”
More often than not, she sat on the pisspot, bleeding and dropping clot after clot. I remained with her throughout, with Bess or Elenor usually at my side. Once Meg got up and her legs buckled. I caught her afore she fell. “Don’t attempt to get up without one of us helping you,” I said.
“I felt something pop. Something is coming out.”
I helped Meg to the pisspot. She squatted. Out slid a tiny babe that I caught in my hands. A boy—he was perfectly formed, but there was no caul. A navel cord came from his belly, and I could see his backbone and ribs. E’en his fingers and toes were fully formed. So tiny, about the size of a plum, he had died weeks afore.
With the passing of her babe, Meg’s cramping and bleeding halted. Tears streaked her cheeks, and I gently placed the babe in her hands. She cupped him and cried.
We gave her a few minutes to mourn her babe afore Bess offered her more cohosh tea. “You need to pass the caul.”
Whilst Meg drank, I carefully placed the babe in a copper urn.
Her cramping began anew along with more bleeding. I aided her to the pisspot where she passed a clot the size of my fist. ’Twas followed by gushing blood.
“I feel dizzy,” Meg muttered.
She laughed. “What I wouldn’t give for a modern toilet.”
I brushed her black hair away from her face, and she laid her head upon my thigh. She picked up her head, but lowered it again. Whilst she rested, blood dripped into the pisspot. After a while, she breathed deeply. “I’d like to go back to bed now.”
With my aid, she stood. I helped her clean the blood from her legs, and she climbed into bed. Afore long, she was up again, scrambling for the pisspot. I tried to get a grip on her arm to aid her, but she fell straight forward afore I could catch her. Her face thumped the floor with a loud whack.
“Meg …” I dropped to her side and touched her gently. Her arms and legs twitched. Her jerky muscles weren’t as violent as someone who had suffered a fit, but I dared not move her. “I’m here, Meg. I’m sorry. I should have caught you.”
She slowly came round but lay there awhile longer. “My face hurts.” She pressed a hand to her lip. “Ow.”
Beth and Elenor joined us, and we spoke softly to Meg, reassuring her. I pressed cool cloths to her back and neck. When she was strong enough, we rolled her onto her back and placed a pillow neath her head. “I don’t think I can get up without fainting again,” she said.
Her lips had swollen from the fall, but her bleeding had slowed.
Elenor’s six-year-old daughter, Elsa, poked her head in the room. “What’s Miss Meg doing on the floor?”
Elenor hurried o’er to Elsa and escorted her from the room. Bess gave Meg a tincture of yarrow root and Shepherd’s Purse to slow her bleeding. I washed her bruises with Solomon’s Seal and checked her womb by pressing down near her navel. ’Twasn’t firm, so I massaged her abdomen by cupping my hand and moving in a circular motion.
More blood gushed and Bess took o’er. Her fingers reached into Meg’s womb whilst her right hand pressed down on the abdomen. Meg groaned.
“Her womb has contracted,” Bess said, “but she still must pass the caul.”
Meg shivered. “I’m cold.”
Elenor returned with a blanket and drew it o’er Meg, whilst I continued to knead her womb. She relaxed. “I’m feeling better now.”
Meg was too faint to use the birthing stool. “Let’s get her to the bed,” I said.
“I don’t think I can make it.”
“You won’t have to. We’ll carry you.” With Elenor and Bess’s aid, I spread the blanket neath her. Betwixt the three of us, we lifted her and carried her to the bed. “Are you more at ease?”
Meg stretched and laid her head against the pillow. “My feet are cold.”
Elenor got some heavy wool socks, and I kneaded her feet. I washed the blood away, but more gushed. Once again, Bess reached inside Meg’s womb and placed pressure on her abdomen with the other. Another labor pain came forth. “ ’Tis the caul.”
Meg’s bleeding slowed, but weak from blood loss, she slumped. The previous year, using Meg’s knowledge, Elenor and Bess had given a transfusion to Wind Talker’s brother. The action had saved his life. Could they do the same and save Meg’s life too? “Meg, what is your blood type?”
“Blood type?” she asked with her voice barely a whisper. “O … O positive.”
“She needs a transfusion,” I said to the others.
Elenor gasped. “Wind Talker made it very clear that we could not perform such a procedure without knowledge of a donor’s blood type.”
“I was typed in the twenty-first century. Whilst I’m A positive and cannot give, Meg has the same blood type as Wind Talker.”
“How can a man give blood to a woman?”
“I don’t understand it completely myself, but blood type is not based upon the sex of a person. They both have the same type; therefore, Wind Talker can give his blood to Meg.”
“Then we shall. Momma, if you would fetch Wind Talker, Bess and I will prepare in here.”
I hurried outside where the men were gathered. They no longer traded and kept watch o’er the children, whilst waiting for word about Meg. “How is she?” Charging Bear asked.
My brother maintained a solemn countenance, but I was aware he shed his tears inside. He had lost two children during a smallpox outbreak and his first wife after birthing their son Strong Bow. “The babe was born too soon,” I replied. “Meg has lost a lot of blood, but she need not die.” I looked to Wind Talker. “She is O positive.”
He straightened. “I’ll do whatever is necessary.”
“Good.” I grasped his hand and headed to the house.
“Walks Through Mist,” Charging Bear called after me, using my Algonquian name. “May I see her?”
“After the transfusion. There is too little space in the room. We must move quickly for the procedure to be a success.” Charging Bear frowned but remained behind. I showed Wind Talker to the room where Meg lay. Her eyes were glazed but she breathed.
“Momma,” Elenor said, “because Meg hails from the twenty-first century, she understands what we’re about to do.” She motioned for Wind Talker to lie on one of the children’s cots near the bed. “I shall draw Wind Talker’s blood, whilst Bess injects his blood into Meg.”
“Nay, Elenor, you’re trying to spare me, but I shall see to Wind Talker.”
“Very well.” She turned to Bess, who nodded in agreement. “Bess shall flush the syringes.” Elenor stepped aside me and explained how we would carry out the transfusion. Because I’d been a cunning woman and had nursing courses, I had become experienced in drawing blood into a syringe. I needed to adapt my skills to seventeenth-century tools.
Finally, I held the coiled-iron fleam in my hand. Wind Talker lay on the too-small bed below me with his feet hanging o’er the edge. He uttered not a word of discomfort. I glanced o’er at the others, and they nodded that they were ready. I rolled up the wool sleeve of Wind Talker’s shirt. “Are you ready to proceed?”
“I am,” he replied.
With the sharp end of the fleam, I pierced the crook of his arm. I placed a penetrating quill into his vein, then put a brass syringe inside the quill and drew some blood. When the syringe was full, I handed it to Elenor, and Bess gave me a clean syringe. I withdrew more blood. More than anything, I dared not lose count of how many syringes I filled, or I would risk Wind Talker’s life. After I had filled ten syringes, his dark brown eyes showed discomfort. “Shall I continue?”
He nodded. “I’m fine.”
I continued drawing his blood. Upon reaching fifteen syringe fills, I asked him how he fared. Again, he repeated that he was fine. Sixteen, seventeen. The previous time, Elenor had taken thirty-five syringe fills. Meg had estimated the amount as well below two pints. Who would have e’er guessed we would now be using the same method to save her life? I worried about the accuracy of the measurements but kept my concern to myself. Wind Talker had been fine on the previous occasion. I carried on. Twenty, twenty-one. E’ery so often, I asked him how he was. Twenty-nine, thirty. We neared the end.
After I drew the last syringe and handed it to Elenor, I put a clean linen cloth on Wind Talker’s arm and bent it to staunch the blood flow. “How are you feeling?”
“I think I’m okay. And Meg?”
Whilst Bess handed Wind Talker a flagon filled with water, I looked o’er at Meg. Elenor injected the final syringe fill into Meg’s arm. She withdrew the quill and placed the padded cloth on Meg’s arm afore bending it. “How is she?” I asked.
Elenor checked Meg’s pulse. “Already she’s stronger. Her heartbeat is no longer flighty, and her breathing steadies.”
I turned back to Wind Talker and smiled. “You’ve saved her, my love. Now we need to get you something to eat to restore your energy.” But Bess was ahead of me. She handed him a fresh berry mixture laden with cream.
Welcoming the fruit, he eagerly spooned the berry mixture to his mouth. After he finished, he attempted to sit up but swayed. “You would have thought I’d have remembered from the last time.”
Bess and I grasped his arms to help steady him. “Rest now,” I said.
Content to obey my command, he laid back with our help. “Just keep me up to date on how Meg is.”
“I shall,” I vowed and sat on the cot aside him. Meg would grieve for the loss of her babe, but she had been saved. I whispered his Algonquian name, “Kesutanowas Wesin.” Wind Talker. I gripped his hand, and afore my eyes his countenance faded ’til I could no longer see him on the bed.