When the waves began she didn’t notice. The waves had come before, in a different manner, true, and a different place, but still. She knew the waves were nothing to concern herself with and so she didn’t. Until they began coming closer together. Coming more often. Coming stronger. The waves began coming in a pattern, she could guess when the current one would end, the next one begin, she began to notice a feeling she could call pain but was more like discomfort, not pain. Not yet.
It would be time soon, she’d need the midwife, she’d need hot water. She’d need towels. She finished the row and stopped seeding the field. She marked with a stick where she left off; she’d need to finish the seeding quickly or it would be a difficult winter. She went to the barn, ensuring the animals had enough feed and water, a habit she’d gotten into every evening for the past month. A caution. A responsibility.
Closing up the barn she stopped to breath. The discomfort was coming closer to pain with every passing wave. She closed up the barn and went for the house. She’d need to phone the midwife before doing anything more, give her time to collect her things and get to the farm. Give her time to put her own animals away. For the first time she considered that perhaps she had already waited too long to make the call.
Shaking her head to clear the thought she entered her home, stripping off her mucky boots at the entrance, her hat, the small pistol she always kept when working outside alone. She sat on the bench for a moment longer letting another wave peak and begin it’s slow recession. She reached up to brush a stray hair from her head and noticed she was sweating. Already.
She made the call, the midwife easy to hand and quick to reassure her she was on the way. The waves were coming much faster now and though she’d always been a quiet woman, stoic even, she realized she was beginning to get quite loud. She was surprised by the sound, and listened to herself for a moment. Was she speaking? No. These were just sounds, not animal, she’d seen and heard her own animals give birth. The sounds she was making were not animal.
Her vocalizations were primal, loud, and sounded like a dull roar. Perhaps animal after all. Not a farm animal though. Or at least not one she’d ever encountered. Still, it was familiar. A sort of chuffing, like a cougar. Yes. That was it. She smiled a bit as she chuffed, smiled and grimaced, and opened her mouth wide to roar.
She realized she was pacing, hadn’t remembered getting up or walking, but she was. Big round circles around the room with an occasional short streak from one side to the other and many stops to squat a bit and roar. And then the roaring stopped. The waves were different now. They were no longer fast, no longer peaking.
The new waves were longer with no clear middle. She rode the waves no longer roaring. She smiled, grabbing the counter in the kitchen, the perfect height. When had the midwife arrived? She hadn’t noticed. Still, there she was. Knitting in a corner. She looked up from her project, must have felt the eyes upon her or the change in the room from effort to surprise.
They smiled at one another. The midwife went back to her knitting. She went back to her laboring.
The baby was born shortly after, the sound of first crying the sweetest sounds to a mother’s ears. The baby was put immediately to the breast, and suckled with gusto.
“Mind the teeth,” the midwife warned.
Releasing her nipple from the babe’s mouth the new mother looked with awe into the gaping, crying mouth and saw teeth. Not a complete set mind you, but teeth. She’d never seen such a thing, never heard of it. She must have made a face because the midwife felt the need to intervene.
“First I’ve ever seen,” she said, “though I’ve heard of it. Doesn’t happen often, see? From what I know, they are sometimes loose enough to pull right out, and other times stay in just fine. Did you want me to try and pull them out then?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“The babe will work around them to feed, won’t be a problem for long. We can leave em in and see,” the midwife suggested.
“Yes. No. I…let’s see if they’re loose.”
The midwife left the infant in his mothers arms and reached over with one hand to open his mouth, using the forefinger of her other hand to reach in and test the teeth.
“Nope, not loose,” she stated, “they won’t interfere, I’m sure of it. Just make you more nervous than anything. I’ll be back in the morning to check on you.”
With that she packed up her bag of things, double checked that she’d set out a bowl of soup and some water for the mother, and eager to let the mom get some sleep and bond with the baby, she took her leave.
The babe had quieted and fallen asleep after the indignity of a finger in his mouth. The mother looked upon him in wonder. So perfect. So big. He was a huge baby, the largest she’d ever seen. She felt sure she could put him down and he’d begin crawling he was just so large. Her arms ached not only from the strain of holding his weight but from the sheer exhaustion of the birth.
Laying him down gently in her bed she went to the bowl of soup, famished. Rather than scoop the contents into her mouth she simply picked up the bowl and drank, pausing occasionally as a large morsel fell from the bowl into her mouth and required chewing. She sucked down the remains of the soup, using a finger to slide the last little bits into her mouth. She drank down the glass of water and poured another, drinking it too, this time slower.
She went to the bathroom, her body unsure exactly how to perform this act under the new conditions but eventually catching on to what was being asked of it and complying. She let out a sharp but brief cry before relaxing and cleaning up. Realizing just how bone deep her fatigue was she limped back to the bed, sliding in between the sheets, her quilt tucked up over her chest, the enormous new body instinctively wiggling closer to her. Her scent? Her heat? Something drew the new creature closer and she draped an arm around him.
~~~That’s one hour~~~