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Woman's work


Metella
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September, 77 AD

This morning, Metella had thought she had an upset stomach. The baby had made it uncomfortable to... do most things, really, as the day of birth drew nearer, so she didn't pay much attention to the small waves of discomfort that came and went. But by noon, she had to stop and frown occasionally, rubbing her belly as she went about her business in the household. It only dawned on her in the late afternoon that there might be something more to what was happening. She took a break and sat in the gardens, finally paying attention. The cramps were recognizable now, coming and going. Metella knew enough to know what his meant. She was done with the household chores.

The midwife was sent for in the evening, and Metella had retreated into the slightly larger room she had occupied with Attis since their marriage. The midwife had been carefully selected, with good recommendations - not for her social standing, but for her actual work. Metella was sitting on the bed when she arrived, trying to take slow, calming breaths.

@Liv (and @Sharpie)

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Business had been neither great nor terrible. Babies were born every day, and people needed medicine every day, but there were more than enough people in Rome who shared Melia's profession. For the time being she was doing enough to keep a roof over her head, food in her stomach and her supply of necessary materials well-stocked. Word of mouth did not hurt either, although she was more than a little surprised when a senator's slave came calling on her, requesting she attend to one of  his fellow servants who was with child. She had not realised news of her trade had reached such lofty ears.

As the pair zigzagged through city streets Melia considered the possible consequences of this call. She had more than two reasons not to mess this up - despite mother and child's health being paramount, this was the sort of job that could open a few doors. A wealthy patrician who was sufficiently concerned about his slave's well-being to send for a midwife was bound to have many other slaves, presumably in good health. He would have friends with many slaves of their own too. Perhaps amongst the great servant flock she would one day find her siblings. After countless turns and ups and downs, she found herself being ushered into one of the majestic domi that graced the thirteenth region.

Another solicitous slave led Melia to a more modest room where a young woman with red hair as bright as flame and a bulging belly rested on the bed. If she was still in the 'deep breaths' phase rather than 'scream and moan' it was a good sign. After a whispered requested for the other slave to procure clean cloths, honey, hot water and warm olive oil, Melia turned to her patient in a gentle tone and with what she hoped was a calming smile. "Hello. My name is Melia." A slave would probably feel more comfortable with just the one name; this wasn't a stuck-up Roman to whom she had to prove her status. "Your master sent for me, to help you tonight. Is this your first child?" As her lips moved so did her hands, already extracting a series of small pyxides and leather pouches from the bigger bag she carried and setting them on a small table next to the bed.

@Chevi (and @Sharpie)

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The woman who walked in was... young. Younger than Metella had expected. But she seemed to know what she was doing, and she had a nice presence.

"Hello. My name is Melia." 

"Metella" she nodded.

"Your master sent for me, to help you tonight. Is this your first child?"

Master better know what he was buying.

"Yes" Metella breathed. "First time on this end of the business. So far, I am not very enthusiastic about it." She shifted uncomfortably; she was between pains now, but she had no illusions about how much worse this was going to get.

@Liv

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There was all manner of labouring women: some were terrified. Others could hardly wait to meet the being they had carried for nine months. Others still treated it as a task to get over and done with. Melia got the feeling her patient belonged to the latter group and couldn't help but chuckle at Metella's comment. "It will all be worth it when you have your baby in your arms," Melia smiled, conveniently skipping over any possible difficulties. No need to scare a first-time mother, as pragmatic as the red-haired woman appeared to be. It was hard to predict how quickly things would progress, so it was just as well they had all night.

As if on cue, the slave from before returned with the requested items and mumbled something about being just outside if anything else was required. Knowing how bloody things could get, Melia couldn't blame her. She gave the room a quick sweeping look, concluding there likely wasn't a birthing chair to be had - maybe the household in general didn't have much use for one. In any case, it was up to the mother to decide how she felt most comfortable.

Melia took Metella's hand into her own, trying to inspire confidence in the other woman. "No two births are alike. This is different for every woman and every child. So it's important for me that you are comfortable, so the child will also feel comfortable enough to come out. If you prefer to lie down in bed, that's fine. If you prefer to get down on your hands and knees, that is also fine. If you would rather squat and hold onto something, I will help you through that." 

And when the pain inevitably became more intense, the one thing that was the same for all births, the contents of at least one of the pyxides would have their moment in the sun, she completed the sentence in her head.

@Chevi

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 "It will all be worth it when you have your baby in your arms,"

Metella sure hoped so, but she was smarter than to say that. She was happy as Attis' wife, and looking forward to being mother to their child. She was fond of the little one, but as the pregnancy progressed, it became harder and harder to ignore all the discomfort it came with. Metella was not particularly sensitive; she'd get the job done. She just hoped she'd actually make a good mother in the end.

"No two births are alike. This is different for every woman and every child. So it's important for me that you are comfortable, so the child will also feel comfortable enough to come out. If you prefer to lie down in bed, that's fine. If you prefer to get down on your hands and knees, that is also fine. If you would rather squat and hold onto something, I will help you through that." 

Metella nodded, feeling a little awkward about Melia holding her hand, but a small part of her was grateful for it. Her other hand was stroking her belly; she knew the next pain would come soon enough. "Thank you... Can you... tell if she's alright?" she ventured. "Can you tell how long it will be?" She knew that experienced midwives knew quite a lot; but she was not experienced herself, having only ever just assisted.

@Liv

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