“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 63 (PG-13, D): The Pain of Giving Life, June 06, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #578)
(An original fan fiction copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace; All rights reserved; Based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel, North & South and its 2004 BBC adaptation; No copyright infringement intended)
[I will illustrate my story using my dream cast from the 2004 BBC production of “North & South” and other actors for additional characters: Richard Armitage for John Thornton, Daniela Denby-Ashe for Margaret Hale, Lesley Manville for Mrs. Maria Hale, Tim Pigott-Smith for Mr. Richard Hale, Sinead Cusack for Mrs. Hannah Thornton Ogilvy, Jo Joyner for Fiona/Fanny Thornton Ogilvy, Brendan Coyle for Nicholas Higgins, Graham McTavish as Dr. Cameron Ogilvy, Holliday Grainger for Angharad Ogilvy MacIntosh, Simon Woods for Baird Ogilvy, and Emma Ashton as Mrs. Dillard, John Light as Henry Lennox, Tim Faraday as Watson, Gillian Anderson at Carlotta Quint Watson, Jeremy Northam as Dr. Miles Houghton, Gerard Butler as Lord Jamie Ogilvy, and Juliette Lewis as Lady Thistle Ogilvy, etc.] [(1) story logo]
Author’s Mature Content Note: “N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons” is a story with mature themes of love and relationships set within a period drama of the 1850’s. As such there will be heartfelt moments of love and sensuality (S)–as well as other dramatic emotions (D), including some violence (V)–and I will rate those chapters accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.
Author’s Recap from the previous chapter: After the very amusing Highland Games Husband Calling contest entries, Margaret goes into labor and John whisks her back to Airlie Castle to give birth
“N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons”, Ch. 63 (PG-13, D): The Pain of Giving Life
The coming joy of their first born child cannot provide any measure of peace to John with his beloved wife Margaret suffering the agonies of childbirth. And he is not permitted to be with her.
Margaret: “Aghghghghghghgh!” Margaret cries out as she writhes in excruciating pain with her birthing contractions in her sixth hour of active labor. Though with Margaret revealing to Cameron that she had felt back pain since the early morning, she has probably been in labor for ten hours.
Dr. Cameron Ogilvy is Margaret Thornton’s attending physician–along with a local midwife being present in Margaret’s and John’s guest bed chamber at Airlie Castle in Scotland. And Margaret’s mother-in-law Hannah and her sisters-in-law Fiona Thornton Ogilvy and Angharad Ogilvy MacIntosh are also present in the birthing room to lend moral support–and to act as a go between to John pacing the hallway where he is banished.
John rushes back to the closed doorway to his and Margaret’s guest bed chamber and leans his forehead against the door, wishing that he could be of comfort to his wife.
John: “Oh Margaret.” He whispers to none but himself in the otherwise empty hallway.
The other Ogilvy and MacIntosh husbands and children are at the Highland Games in the middle of the adult male Tug of War. John had been exempt from participating it as soon as it was clear that Margaret was in labor. There was some discussion about Airlie Team SCOT defaulting in the Tug of War so they could await the birth with John. However John had urged them to continue with the competition when they had first followed him carrying Margaret to Airlie Castle after her water broke during the Husband Calling Contest. Now John is regretting that suggestion, for he has none to console him. But more importantly, he is not allowed to support and console Margaret.
John curses silently to himself, Damn convention that keeps husbands away from their wives at the moment of their child’s birth. John knows that some husbands are callous and go to their club to jovially wager with their friends as to the likelihood of their wives producing their much needed heir. But John cannot fathom their indifference to their wives’ suffering–especially after hearing Lord Jamie Ogilvy’s tale about he and his wife Lady Thistle losing their middle child, a daughter they named Mairi, in childbirth. And Jamie had almost lost Thistle, too.
John can only faintly hear the commotion within the birthing room–beyond the piercing screams of his beloved wife Margaret. But he cannot hear what they are saying. And the terror of what could be happening to Margaret and to their child causes John’s fears to grow with each passing hour, his face etched with grave concern [(2) right].
Cameron: “Ye must push, Marrrgarrret! I can almost see the head now. It will na be long.”
Margaret: “Aghghghghgh!” Margaret cries out again as she pushes. But the baby doesn’t budge. “Is the baby alright? Help me! Make this pain stop!” Margaret pleads in anguished cries as another contraction contorts her body. “Arghghghghgh!” The pains are coming closer together now–every few minutes.
John: “Margaret!” John calls to her through the closed door, but she can not hear him.
Hannah: “Cameron, Is there nothing you can give Margaret to ease her pain?” Hannah asks in grave concern. She had forgotten how painful and long giving birth is. And Hannah sees how difficult childbirth is for the young Margaret to endure, and Hannah worries for her own birthing trials six months hence.
Cameron: “All I have is laudanaum” [(3)]. Shaking his head, Cameron sighs heavily. “But I do na know how the medicine will affect Marrrgarrret orrr the baby. If Marrrgarrret can just perrrsevere a little longerrr. ”
Midwife: “Nay!” She pats Margaret’s face with a cool compress. “I will give herrr a posset to drrrink.”[(4)] The small and stout Scotswoman Midwife says with firm conviction.
Fiona: “What is a posset?” Asks the up to now quiet and chastened Fiona. Fiona is not quite two months pregnant, and this will be her fate in seven months time.
Midwife: “It is hot milk and rum with spices to help replenish her strength as well as dull the pain.” [(4)] I’ll go and fetch it.” She leaves through the bathing chamber’s side door used by servants.
Margaret: “John! I want John!” Margaret whimpers.
Hannah: Leaning over Margaret, Hannah pats her shoulder. “Margaret, Wait until your baby is born and we have bathed you and made you comfortable. Then you can see John.”
Margaret: “Please! Arghghghghghgh!” Another contraction pain hits her and tears fall down her face.
Angharad: “I’ll go tell John that the bairrrn will be coming soon now.” She smiles at Margaret encouragingly. All Margaret can do is faintly nod as she awaits another contraction to assail her.
Angharad opens the bed chamber door and John nearly falls flat on his face because he had been leaning on the door–him trying to be as close to Margaret as he could get. But Angharad catches his fall and John rights himself.
John: Looking feverishly around the room at his mother and sister and Cameron clustered around the large bed. “Sorry!” He says hastily to Angharad–without waiting for her update–and John rushes to Margaret at the bed, leaning over her and touching her face in concern. “Margaret! Margaret! My Love.” John peppers Margaret’s perspiration soaked face with kisses as he holds her near hand in his.
Margaret: “John.” She sighs faintly and sobs.
Horrified at the state Margaret is in, John turns to Cameron.
John: “Margaret being in so much pain and suffering can’t be right, Cameron.”
Cameron: “Sadly it is.” Cameron winces.
Hannah: “All women have this trial in child birth. But the baby will be worth it, and Margaret will soon forget her pain when your baby is in her arms.”
Margaret: “I can’t take any more pain.” She pleads weakly to John. “Help me.”
Cameron: “I can na do anything … but operate.” Cameron looks pointedly at John.
John: “No!” And John remembers that Cameron said that he might have to make a choice–his wife or his baby. But John cannot do that–he cannot choose. “Can you not do anything else to help her?” John pleads desperately.
Midwife: The midwife bursts back into the room with the hot milk posset drink. “Maybe I can help her! I’ve a soothing drink for ye dearie. It should also help lessen the pain.”
Margaret nods, desperately willing to try anything at this point. John holds Margaret up a bit by her shoulders as he watches fixedly as she slowly sips the rum laden drink until a quarter of the cup is emptied. John gently lays her back down and Margaret sinks back into her pillow in exhaustion as she closes her eyes briefly.
Hannah: “John.” She whispers purposefully. “Please wait in the hall until we call for you.”
John: “No!” He says forcefully. Then he winces. “Mother, My place is at Margaret’s side.”
Margaret: “Ahhhhhhhh!” Margaret cries out again with a contraction.
Midwife: “If the ladies will stand back, Drrr. Ogilvy and I will examine Marrrgarrret again.”
Fiona and Angharad step away from Margaret’s bedside across from John kneeling next to the bed and clutching Margaret’s hand and squeezing it gently. First Cameron and then the Midwife assess the progress of the baby. The head is crowning and they must get it out. But Margaret is small even with her womb being fully expanded.
Cameron: “I could trrry forrrceps.” He winces to the Midwife.
Midwife: “I have a betterrr idea.” Then she turns and says. “Lady Angharad and Lady Fiona, come here.” The two ladies exchange curious looks, but they walk over to the midwife. “Let me see your hands.”
Lady Angharad’s eyes widen in shock. Lady Fiona looks perplexed. But they both comply with the Midwife’s request.
Cameron: “Hhhhhh! Fiona, ye have small and dainty hands.”
Fiona: Fiona looks at her hands and fingers.“Thank you, Papa.” She smiles uncertainly at her father-in-law and stepfather.
Midwife: “Aye! And your nails arrre trrrimmed shorrrt!”
Fiona: “Long nails impede my playing the piano.” Fiona explains.
Cameron: “Fiona, Ye must help Marrrgarrret. Will ye do that?” He inquires hopefully.
Fiona: “Of course. What might I do to help?” Fiona asks sweetly–her thinking that she might gently hold Margaret’s hand in hers.
Cameron: Looking between Fiona, his wife Hannah, and Stepson John, Cameron tells her. “Ye must help guide the baby out.”
Fiona: “I don’t understand.” Fiona warily looks at Cameron.
Midwife: “Yourrr hands are the smallest of all of us. You must reach inside Margarrret and gently pull the baby out.”
Fiona: “I couldn’t!” Fiona shakes her head in shock.
Margaret: “Ahhhh!” Margaret whimpers in pain as the next contraction reverberates through her. Margaret is almost spent.
John: “Please Fanny. For Margaret! For the Baby! Please!” John searches his sister’s face for a glimmer of hope that she’ll comply.
Fiona: “I can’t, Johnny. I just can’t. What if I do something wrong and or I poke the baby’s eye out? Or if it gets stuck further.”
Cameron: Taking Fiona aside, moving away from the bed, Cameron states honestly in a hushed whisper. “Fiona, Ye arrre our last hope–or I must operrrate. And if I operrrate, Marrrgarrret will likely die from loss of blood.”
John’s worst nightmare is coming true.
Fiona: “Mama?” Fiona looks to her mother for help.
Hannah: “Cameron! You cannot put this all on Fanny!” Hannah frowns indignantly, though torn between her compassion for her daughter-in-law’s need and her daughter’s sensibilities.
Cameron: “Hannah, This is your grandchild!” Cameron silences his wife sharply. “We must birth it now or it might die as well.” Then he turns to Fiona. “Fiona, I will talk you through it.”
Angharad: “Ye can do it, Fiona. I know you can.” Angharad urges encouragingly.
Midwife: “Come Lady Fiona, remove your rings and wash your hands.” The Midwife guides the shocked Fiona to the basin and she washes her hands.
Margaret continues to whimper in pain while being in and out of a partial faint from the rum laced posset drink that the midwife gave her.
Cameron: “John, I will have to cut Margaret’s womb opening wider to give the baby more room to come out.”
John: “Good god man! Is there no other way than to cause Margaret more pain?”
Cameron: “No! Otherwise, she might tear and hurt herself worse when the baby is born.” Cameron takes a sterile lancet and he quickly makes one one inch incision at a 45 degree downward angle at Margaret’s womb [(5)].
Margaret: “Aghhhhh! Stop!” Margaret cries out in pain with the incision.
Cameron: “I’m sorry, Margaret. I’m done. By cutting you a little now to widen the birth opening, we can prevent you tearing when the baby is born.”
Margaret: “Hmmmm. Just help my baby to be born.” Margaret nods and whimpers.
Cameron quickly staunches the flow of blood from the small incision with a sterile cloth. The baby’s head is already looser in the womb opening, but they still need Fiona to guide the baby out.
The next few minutes are a blur as a reluctant Fiona has her sleeves rolled up forcefully and quickly by the Midwife. Then Margaret is positioned sideways on the bed for better access to her from the side of the bed. John kneels behind Margaret on the bed embracing her and kissing her forehead as he supports her back.
Cameron: “Fiona, keep your fingers flat together like this.” He demonstrates. “Ye are less likely to poke the baby’s eyes. And do not pull sharply on the baby’s head or neck. We must gently ease the baby out.”
Fiona: “God help me do this right.” She prays. Fiona slowly inserts her hands up to her the base of her fingers into Margaret’s womb and around the baby’s head.
Margaret: “Ahhh! It hurts. Hmmm.” Margaret cannot endure the relentless pain.
John: Kissing Margaret’s forehead, John tries to comfort her. “I know. I’m so sorry, My Love. We are trying to get the baby out safely for both of you.”
Margaret: Margaret continues to whimper in pain. “Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.”
Cameron: “Fiona, ye must guide the baby’s head out.”
Fiona: Fiona tries to move the baby, but nothing happens. “It’s stuck.”
Midwife: “Tell us what your hands are feeling.” She asks Fiona with trepidation.
Fiona: “I don’t know. I suppose it’s the baby’s neck or something.” Fiona winces
Cameron: “Do ye feel anything like … tubing?” He worries about the umbilical cord getting wrapped around the baby’s neck.
Cameron: “Good! Now Margaret, you must push rrrealy harrrd on the next contrrraction. And Fiona, ye must gently guide the baby out.”
John: “You can do this, Margaret. I know you can.”
Margaret: “But I don’t know if I can.” Margaret imperceptibly shakes her head–unable to truly respond. “Tell our baby that I love her.” Margaret unconsciously telegraphs her wish for the sex of their baby.
John: “Margaret, no! You will do that! You must believe that you will love and nurture our baby. She needs you.” He beseeches her to have the will to live.
Margaret: Another contraction hits Margaret, and she screams in pain. “Aghghghghghghgh!” Then Margaret falls into a listless faint.
Fiona pulls, gently. Then the baby’s head pops out, quickly followed by its shoulders and then the rest of her.
Cameron: “Ye did it, Marrrgarrret! Ye have a baby gerrril!” Cameron suctions the baby’s mouth and nose and gives its backside a soft slap.
Baby: “Waaa, waaa! Hhh! Gggggg! Waaa, waaa!” The baby hiccups and burps its way through its initial birthing cries.
Hannah quickly takes her granddaughter, then cleans and swaddles in a blanket for warmth while Fiona washes up. Simultaneously, Cameron cleans Margaret’s womb of the after birth and then stitches her womb incision closed while she is in a faint and can’t feel the pain of the stitches.
Cameron: “Have a serrrvant bring us some crrrushed ice. We will put a cold comprrress to herrr womb to trrry to ease Marrrgarrret’s pain once she wakes up again.
John: Embracing his beloved wife joyfully but gently from behind her where he still kneels on the bed, John peppers her temple and cheek with quick kisses. “Oh Margaret, My Love! We have a baby girl!”
However, John’s relief that Margaret’s birthing trials are over is short lived. Margaret does not respond, her stupor is more than a mere faint.
Midwife: Noticing the increasing pallor on Margaret’s face [(6) right]. The Midwife clasps Margaret’s face in her hands and tries to rouse her. “Wake up, Lassie! Ye have a baby gerrril who needs you!
Margaret does not respond. Her breathing is slow and shallow. The sheen of perspiration from her exertions on her skin feels cold and clammy. The strenuous birth has been too much for her. For all of Margaret’s youth and vivacity, she is her mother’s daughter.
John: “Cameron?” John asks with trepidation.
Cameron: “We need to get her out of these wet things and into dry clothes and a fresh bed with warm blankets.”
John stands up from the bed and lifts Margaret into his arms as the bed sheets are quickly changed. Margaret is given a cursory sponge bath by the ladies and then she is put into a clean nightgown to make her more comfortable. An extra blanket is added to cover Margaret to help make her warm. But though Margaret breathes, still she does not stir. John lies down beside his wife, cradling her in his arms.
John: “Margaret.” John plaintively whispers in her ear as his tears silently stream down his cheeks. This cannot be happening. He will not let it happen. They have a baby girl who needs her mother. He needs his wife, his Margaret.
Hannah hands her granddaughter to her daughter Fiona without a word. Fiona looks uneasily at her mother as she gently rocks her niece in her arms. Hannah goes to her husband Cameron’s side and they look at each other wordlessly in shock. Then Hannah rests her hand on John’s shoulder. He flinches, but he does not turn to look back at his mother.
Cameron slowly walks around to the other side of the bed and he lifts up Margaret’s wrist, feeling for her pulse. It is still there, but very faint. Then Cameron notices that Margaret’s skin seems dry and he pinches it–her skin does not have the elasticity that it normally does as it takes a few seconds longer for her skin to return to lying flat.
Cameron: “Ach!” He cries out animatedly. “She is dehydrrrated! She has perrrrspirrred so much durrring the birrrth the last six hourrrs and has na rrreplenished herrr body by drrrinking enough waterrr.” [(7)]
John: “What does that mean?” John pleads.
Cameron: “She needs water and nourrrishment, Laddie!” Then Cameron turns to his daughter. “Angharad! Get the sugarrr from the tea trrray yonderrr and put two spoonfuls into a glass of waterrr. Then stirrr it arrrround to dissolve it. We have to get Margaret to sip some sugarrr waterrr if we hope to stop herrr decline.”
Angharad doesn’t question her father, she just does what she is told to do. She is a doctor’s daughter and she had visited patients with her father when she was a little girl. He called her his wee nurrrse then. Tremblingly, Angharad hands her father the sugar water mixture in a glass. John lifts Margaret up upon the pillows since they are going to try to get her to drink. Cameron tries to pour a bit into the corner of Margaret’s mouth, but she chokes on it. They all sigh in despair. Then Hannah has an inspiration.
Hannah: “John! Just as I would breathe for Fanny when she had her breathing attacks as a child, you must sip the water for Margaret and then transfer it to her mouth in small amounts.”
John: “Mother, I don’t understand how …” John looks at his mother quizzically.
Hannah: “Kiss her John. Take a small sip of the sugar water, coating your mouth. Then kiss Margaret and let the moisture and sugar transfer to her.” John looks skeptically at Cameron.
Cameron: “Aye! It might worrrk. Trrry it Laddie! If we can get Marrgarrret to starrt sucking on the moisturrre you give herrr, then she might wake up enough to sip the sugarrr waterrr on herrr own.”
The next ten minutes are tense as John sips the sugar water, then he kisses his wife to transfer the moisture [(8) right] –he repeats this action every ten seconds–and slowly, her color improves. All the while, John strokes Margaret’s back, caringly coaxing her to wake up. Finally, after fifteen minutes, Margaret begins to suck on her husband’s lips–like a newborn babe suckling its mother, more so than as if she were kissing him back.
John: “It’s working!” John smiles broadly in astonishment. John keeps repeating the sipping and kissing–each time, taking in a bit more fluid and transferring it to his wife.
Cameron: Cameron takes Margaret’s pulse again. “Her pulse feels strrrongerrr. Keep it up until she wakes up. Then we’ll let her sip the water on her own.” Cameron suggests hopefully.
Baby: The baby mewls and moves its lips wanting to suck on something, too. “Urrrr! Ngggg! Urrrr!”
An almost conscious Margaret hears her baby vocalize and the darkness that had muted her thoughts becomes a brighter foggy haze, then slowly begins to clear. She sighs as she stirs more.
Margaret: “Hhhhhh!” Margaret’s eyelids begin to flutter and she slowly opens her eyes, closes them, then she opens her eyes wider.
John: Gazing into his beloved’s eyes, John’s tears flow unabashedly. “There you are, My Love. Our daughter wants to meet you.” He smiles through his tears of happiness and relief.
Cameron and everyone else in the room also smile joyfully.
Margaret: “We have a little girl?” Margaret asks tiredly but happily.
John: “We do.” A proud new father, John smiles lovingly at his wife and they kiss. Then he motions to his sister Fiona to bring them the baby and she lays the baby in Margaret’s arms–with John supporting her arms from underneath since Margaret is still so very weak. Their baby girl [(9) right] sleeps contentedly against Margaret’s chest.
Margaret: Gazing down at her daughter with wonder and awe, Margaret sighs tiredly, but with a beatific smile. “Oh John! She is so beautiful!”
John: John smiles and nods. “She is My Love.” Cameron hands John the water glass again. “Please try and sip some more of this sugar water to help you regain your strength, Margaret.” Margaret nods and takes a few sips and she hands the glass back to John.
Margaret: Then Margaret gently kisses the softly fuzzy hair on the top of their baby girl’s head. “Hello, my little Sweetheart.”
To be continued with Chapter 64
“N&S: JT Love Lessons”, Ch. 63 References, June 06, 2014 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #578)
1) “N&S: John Thornton, Love Lessons” story logo: Richard Armitageas John Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe in the 2004 BBC period drama North & South, was found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode3/ns3-110.jpg ; For more information about this wonderful 2004 BBC miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth’s Gaskell’s story North & South, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_&_South_%28TV_serial%29
2) John Thorntonis Richard Armitage in the 2004 BBC drama North & South found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/ns2-158.jpg
3) Laudanaum drug information was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laudanum
4) Scottish birthing traditions included giving the mother to be a posset to drink, was found at http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2013/07/british-birth-traditions/
5) An episiotmy enlarges the birth opening to make it easier for the baby to fit throught it was found at :
6) Margaret Hale image (crop to oval, blue background; paler face) is Daniela Denby-Ashe in the BBC’s 2004 miniseries North & South found at http://northandsouth2004.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/NS2004-EP1-0066.jpg as part of an N&S fan fiction ch 2 by Loyal Wynyard found at http://northandsouth2004.com/?p=911
8) John Thornton is portrayed by Richard Armitage and Margaret Hale is portrayed by Daniela Denby-Ashe in the BBC’s 2004 drama North & South found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode4/ns4-340.jpg
9) Newborn baby girl Thornton is an MS Office Clip Art stock image.
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