Chapter Fifty-Seven – Torn Between Fear and Joy
Near the half of June 1853, Margaret found herself growing more and more restless every day.
She was now huge and experienced great discomfort from her pregnancy, although the babies seemed healthy enough. They were very active, especially when she tried to rest or sleep. Even John marvelled about the force of his unborn children when he laid his hand on Margaret’s stomach.
“My poor darling,” he said, one night when he helped Margaret to go to the bathroom for the fourth time that night, “how I wish I could relieve your suffering! I cannot imagine how the weight of the children must burden you.”
He plumped up her pillows and helped her back into bed. “Now, how many weeks to go?”
Margaret gave a deep, heartfelt sigh. “Theoretically three and a half weeks. But I fervently wish it to be less!”
“You know what the doctor said, darling. The longer you carry them, the stronger they will be.”
“Yes, you are right, John. It was very selfish of me to wish for the birth to begin.”
“Come, my love. Close your eyes and sleep now. You need to rest.”
Her head resting upon John’s breast, while lying on her side with one leg drawn up and the other stretched out – a position she found very comfortable – Margaret soon found sleep.
John, on the other hand, worried, as usual. He watched Margaret grow more tired every day and of lower spirits. Lord, but to have to carry two babies, large, heavy babies, for that matter, must be torture for his fragile, slender wife.
John Thornton had always been a fighter. Problems might arouse but they had to be dealt with. He was going to make absolutely sure Margaret was being taken care of as completely as could be.
Therefore he wrote a letter to Dr Mortimer Chelmsford, obstetrician in London, and invited him to come and live at the Thornton home so as to be ready at hand when Margaret would go into labour.
Dr Chelmsford , who was a busy man with a blooming practice, promised to come to Milton during the last week of June or, should labour start sooner, travel post haste to be with her. For now, he sent his most skilled midwife to cover for him until he would arrive.
Mrs Eliza Goodyear arrived duly on the 20th of June from London. She was a widow whose husband died of pneumonia ten years ago, leaving her without money. Dr Chelmsford, who was looking for a housekeeper took her on and discovered very soon that Mrs Goodyear was better suited to care for the sick than for sweeping and cooking. He provided her with the money to take a proper training so that she could go and offer her services wherever they were needed.
Margaret was immediately drawn to the lively and cheerful woman of thirty-five.
Eliza Goodyear had soon organized Margaret’s days into long periods of rest and short intervals of sitting up on the parlour couch. C & J, Margaret’s faithful chair bearers were banned from the house, at least as far the wheelchair was concerned. No more outings, Eliza said, no more tiring distractions.
That was a good thing for one night at the dinner table where she was taking her evening meal in the company of John, Margaret suddenly felt a gnawing pain in her lower back. She gasped, startling John into action.
“Love, what is the matter? Are you unwell? Talk to me, Margaret, please?”
At that moment the pain was expanding, circling her waist like a belt and growing stronger by the second. Margaret clasped John’s hand with closed eyes, unable to breathe.
“Dixon! Mrs Goodyear! Somebody, help!,” John bellowed in helpless rage.
It was Dixon who was first on the spot but this was so clearly beyond her usual skills that John was relieved when Eliza Goodyear entered the room. She took matters in hand with a comforting confidence.
“Mr Thornton, sir, help her up. Come on, Mrs Thornton, we must get you to your bed.”
John, in his usual brisk manner, shoved her aside and scooped up his wife as if she weighed nothing. Eliza Goodyear’s eyes widened in admiring surprise seeing how strong he was. Between the two of them, they soon had Margaret in bed.
“Mrs Thornton, I want you to lie on your side in, as I told you, was the position of relax. Very well, that is it. Now, breathe, exactly the way I taught you to, deep long intakes that go all the way down to your stomach. Then, hold your breath for ten seconds and release it very slowly. Yes, that is good.”
She turned towards John. “Mr Thornton, you must see that she does this every time the pain starts. It is her body preparing for birth. The womb, which is in fact no more than a very strong muscle, is in great need of oxygen. That is the reason for the elaborated breathing process. You, sir, must help her to breathe instead of clamping up, like she did just now. Can I trust you with this? Can you do this?”
John shot the nurse a very grim but determined look. “Of course I can! Do you think me a weakling?” He turned to Margaret, kneeled by the bed and started working on her breathing along with her.
Eliza Goodyear smiled in satisfaction and left the room, feeling reassured about John Thornton’s utter commitment and cooperation.