If you missed part 2, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/11/my-name-is-hadesh-part-2-by-p-m-gilmer/
From Part 2: I continued to hug my Seled so close that he began to squirm. I made myself relax my grip before he began crying. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the midwife’s offer, but it scared me somehow. I knew people would think we had no business raising children–but this was my baby, and no one could take him from me.
Life went on fine for several weeks. Jemima and I both nursed our boys and began to regain our strength. The other women were accommodating, but we would soon need to be taking customers again. My Seled was sleeping well in his little basket, but Jemima continued to keep her Adar in bed with her as they fell asleep. We tried to tell her that wasn’t good for her or the babe, but she refused to listen. She wanted to cuddle her son as much as she could before going back to work, and I couldn’t really blame her.
The little world we had built soon came crashing in on us, though I probably should have known things couldn’t stay sweet for long. I woke one morning, while it was still dark, startled to find my babe in my arms. I realized I must have fallen asleep while nursing him and had failed to put him back in his basket. I needed to get up and stir up the embers in our fire pit, start some water boiling, and all those things that needed to be done to start one’s day. Feeling a bit cramped, I wanted to just get up and put Seled in his basket, but I felt sure if I did that without feeding him first, he would not sleep long, if at all. So, I nudged him a bit, so I could nurse him again before putting him in his basket.
He didn’t even stir, and my first thought was on how well he was sleeping and what a shame to wake him. Maybe I could carefully put him in his basket after all.
I tried to ease myself quietly up off my pallet, so I didn’t wake either him or Jemima and her baby. I knew both Zebidah and Hoglah had gone out for the night and were unlikely to be back yet. Holding my baby against my chest, I suddenly felt something was wrong. My babe felt cold, and I couldn’t hear his soft breathing as I usually did. My heart pounded as I sat back down, carefully laid him on my bed, and gently put my hand on his face. It was stone cold.
My heart seemed to stop, and I felt dizzy. No! My beautiful, healthy baby could not be gone. Just like that! He had been fine last night. I tried to remember nursing him and wondered again how I could have fallen asleep. But, then I remembered putting him in his basket. I did! I did put him in his basket! Did he awaken again, and had I sleepily gotten up and brought him back to bed with me? Sometimes the nights and the feedings did seem to run together.
I placed my hand on his face again, the tears running down my own. I sat, stroking his face, still in disbelief as light slowly began to illuminate our small room. Zebidah and Hoglah came into the house just as dawn was breaking.
“What is it, Hadesh?” Zebidah asked upon seeing my tears. “Is the babe sick?”
I threw back my head and let out a long, low wail. The sorrow poured out of me as if my grief could be unleashed and set free. Zebidah and Hoglah, as well as a few of our neighbors quickly gathered around me.
“Hadesh! What is it?” Then I heard gasps and more crying (besides my own).
“He was fine last night,” I moaned, finally opening my eyes to look at him, now that daylight was here. I started to stroke his face again, then jerked my hand back as if I had seen a snake.
“This isn’t my baby!” I cried out. I looked over at Jemimah who was huddled on her pallet, holding her baby close to her chest and crooning to him. Except . . . that couldn’t be her baby because her baby was lying here on my bed. Dead. And if this was her baby . . .
“Jemimah!” She finally looked over at me, but her eyes were hard and her mouth was set. “This is your baby! You must have mine. Give me back my son!”
Jemima held the baby to her chest, and he began to cry. “You are crazy! Grief has maddened you. Of course, this is my baby. I’m sorry your babe is gone, but that is no cause to try and claim mine. You must have rolled over in the night and suffocated the poor babe.”
I stared at her in horror. Rolled over on my baby? But, no, this wasn’t my baby, and I always put him in his basket. I never went to sleep with him. Did I?
The other women stood watching us closely, but making no comments. Unusual for these women not to have any opinions. I looked to them for help. “Look at this baby. Can’t you see he is Jemima’s and not mine? Would I not recognize my own child?”
Part 4 coming Thursday.