(Gram’ma Josie at work, Anxiety all around, Good signs, and An important miscommunication)
Josie let the father and his inventions swarm for all of fifteen minutes. Plenty enough time for a first mother to get well over the idea of watching her go through the entire procedure. Nothing wearied a mother more than having the entire family fuss over her when she was busy doing the hardest work of her life.
The one called Hatchworth kept rummaging inside his chest for useful things, and coming out with things that perplexed him and the other machines a great deal. Ether and mask. A harness that would allow Miss Tonia to crouch whilst on a bed. Some alarming medical equipment, one of which caused the anxious father to nearly faint.
The one called Three was almost completely useless. He spent a majority of his time wailing that things were going bad and nothing was working. Poor creature had no idea how much working was going to be involved. Or for how long.
The Spine overheated and filled the air with his steam. He alternated between incoherently begging the universe to ‘keep Ma okay’ and worried chirps that only alarmed the others more.
Rabbit trembled at Miss Tonia’s other elbow. It was clearly worried, upset, and terrified, but also clearly determine to remain exactly where it was.
“There’s hours and hours to go, yet. Please stop panicking,” said Miss Tonia.
And that was her cue. “All right. You know it’s happening, and you won’t be much for help while it’s happening. Colonel Walter!”
He saluted. “AYE!”
“Find yourself a place that’s the furthest point in this mansion from Miss Tonia’s bedchamber and go do your inventing there. Take your machines with you.”
Rabbit lingered, still shaking and afraid. “L-l-li’l g-girls stay an help-p-p their m-m-ma… r-r-r-right?” Their stutter got worse when they were anxious.
One-year olds or younger tended to stay with a nurse, but that didn’t help with a months-old machine capable of communicating and moving like a child. “Very young girls are allowed to go with their Pappy and help him in his inventing,” Josie said, inspired by desperation. “Especially if they’re scared.”
And still, Rabbit wavered on the cusp of leaving.
“Go on,” cooed Miss Tonia. “Gram’ma Jossie will…” she puffed a little. “...will look after me.”
She rang for the maids and got them to roll up the carpets and hang sheets across one end of the hall. And set some of them to guard that end against errant men.
She’d done a lot of walking. Which was good. The father had maintained a certain level of intimacy, which should also hurry things along. And the entire house had seen to it that she was well fed. Even better.
They’d done everything they could for her. Now it was Josie’s turn.
Lots of it was walking the hall and counting the minutes between contractions. Some of it was peeling off layers until she was in just one shift. Thank the lord that she was a practical woman and not insisting on giving birth through layers of petticoats and split drawers. Those things caused more infections than doctors.
The father, being an excellent example of a first father, sent the elevator boy up with enquiries about progress. At least the kid was not inclined to barge in, thank goodness, and only asked the guarding maids at the sheet.
He gave up on the venture when he heard Miss Tonia crying out at one contraction. And devised a system of dropped cards down the stairwell so he would not have to listen any more.
Smart boy. He would go far.
The water broke and Josie moved Miss Tonia up onto the bed. She would be allowed to kneel, or crouch, or even lie down if she so pleased. And clever hands had installed the harness that would help her do so. Iris was clearly afraid, too. She knew well what twins meant. Yet she faced her labor as if determined to do the best she could at it.
One last job, and then see what happened because of it.
Josie had warned her, as she warned all first mothers, that there would be mess. or, as she put it, “There will be blood, piss, and shit aplenty ere there’s a baby coming out of it all.” Clean water and lots of clean cloth and at least one mother who’d been through it all before to see to it that the water and the cloths stayed clean.
According to all reports, the Admiral Walter was a-pacing in the foyer and peering up the stairwell with the elevator boy. Just as anxious as a first-time father. And, according to all reports, the actual father was off with the fairies and putting together some enormous babbage engine near one of the cellars.
Good for them. It left both Josie and Iris to deal with the important stuff.
Twin One crowned, cause for a card to go fluttering down to floor level with that news. Josie just shouted and relied on others to do the writing and card dropping.
She was more concerned with umbilicals around the neck, and turning the little body so that the shoulders could ease out with ‘just one more push’. And then squeezing out the mucous from his nose and slapping it out of his throat so he could take a good first breath of air.
Good lungs. Good voice. And a good grip on the teat. All good signs.
Iris held on to him with one arm and the harness with the other. Panting and sweaty and victorious. Watching her son turn slowly pink as he suckled. “Healthy weight,” she panted.
The street priest, a Father Kerning, knocked politely on the wall. “I’ve been told to baptise the son Peter Alexander Walter,” he said.
“He’s healthy,” called Josie. “You can wait until the mess is cleaned.” She tied and cut the umbilical cord, handing Peter Walter Junior off to an experienced mother for his first bath and swaddling. Josie washed her hands in clean water and made certain Twin Two was around the right way before things got interesting.
The little darling took his time. Giving Peter Walter Junior a full fifteen minutes to brag about being older. Twenty minutes. Twenty five. Another son slithered safely into Josie’s hands with very little mess, and paid his mother back by immediately pissing and crapping on her belly. Which she found oddly funny.
Josie was busy with the afterbirth when the confused priest knocked again. “Colonel Walter insists that his son is named after him, mesdames.”
It was four hours and some extremely eager paperwork from the Admiral before anyone realised that they hadn’t made it clear to Colonel Walter that he had, in fact, become father to two sons. By then, it was firmly and irrevocably clear that the twins were now Peter A. Walter II and Peter A. Walter III.
And Iris, poor Iris, had fallen into unconsciousness begging, “Please don’t let him call them Secundus and Tertius...?”
Josie bundled her up and moved the crib next to the bed. All three sleeping off a very big day. A job well done. She left instructions for Iris’ rags to be changed every two hours until the bleeding dwindled, and for her to be fed and to sleep at the same time as her infants. No scorching hot food or beverages. And, yes, those horrendous sandwiches the Colonel seemed to enjoy would, indeed, help fortify her and her milk. As long as they accompanied a more normal meal.
She would stay the night, check the next morning, and follow up on visits for a fortnight. They should all be out of danger by then.
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