A sharp pain awoke Sybil. She’d fallen asleep after eating breakfast and doing a few light chores. The pain struck again and she realized that her shift was wet. “Oh, the babe.” She looked outside, and saw that the snow was still coming down softly. It was rough when it snowed during lambing season. Her own two had given birth a few days ago, which helped. Vivien had been here for one and Cern for the other.
Sybil put water on to boil and stoked the fire. Then she stripped her bed of the good bedding and got a rough piece of tarp that had lanolin worked into it. She placed that on the bed and a fine sheet over it between the pains. Then she got the swaddling out for the babe. She undressed down to her shift and sure enough, it was soaked. She changed and then wrapped a shawl around herself. She rocked as the pains grew closer together. When she realized that one was barely done before the other started, she crawled up on the bed and hoped that Vivien or Cern would come soon.
“Good afternoon,” cried Vivien as she came through the door.
“Go…od… Oh!” gasped Sybil as a pain hit. Vivien dropped her basket after closing the door and came to check on Sybil.
“Knew I shudda come earlier.” Vivien wiped her hands on her apron and looked around. Water was hot. She smiled. “Not much longer.”
“No, Need to push.”
Vivien checked. “Give it a minute.” She found the beeswax salve and rubbed some on Sybil to help ease the passage of the baby. Not long after, the head appeared. “Push luv.”
Sybil pushed, caught her breath, pushed again and suddenly there was a gush and relief as the baby came into the world. Vivien took the wee babe and tucked her up on her mother’s chest while she tied and cut the cord.
“A fine wee lass.” Vivien smiled.
Sybil nodded, too emotional to speak.
By the time that Cern came through the door that evening, Vivien had helped Sybil clean up and tucked mother and babe into bed. She was nodding off at the table. Cern tried to close the door quietly, but it still woke both women.
“Is it alright?” He tried to look at Sybil, but the candlelight was dim.
“Aye. Fine lass. Sybil be right too. Now ye be here, I be off. Todd be wonderin’ where supper tis.” Vivien stretched and wrapped up in her shawl. She was out the door before Cern had finished taking his cloak off.
“Be ye alright, Sybil my love?” He sat down on the bed next to her and the babe.
“Aye. Not the easiest, but she be fine.” Sybil smiled and held the babe up to Cern. He took her gently.
“So tiny.” He unwrapped her just a bit. Dark curls covered her head and her finger grasped his tightly. A smile broke on his face. “What shall we name her?”
“Not sure. She be a wee fae thing. What do ye call the daughter of the Lord of the Forest?” Sybil smiled softly at Cern holding his daughter as if she would float away.
“I… I dinna ken.” He looked at the babe who yawned at him and then blinked dark blue eyes at him.
“Her mouth is like a little rosebud. Rose perhaps?”
Cern brought the babe up to his lips and whispered her name in her ear. She sighed, yawned and went back to sleep. “Rose it is.”
Sybil took the babe to nurse and Cern made supper for them and tea for Sybil to drink. As he stood up, Sybil noticed something.
“Cern, come here to the light.”
He did so and she looked closer at him. His face wasn’t as drawn, nor tight, and she swore that his hair was darker. He smiled at her, knowing what she was looking at. “Aye, my love. As the year freshens, so do I.”
Sybil smiled. She’d been so worried about him. Worried that she’d lose him before the babe was born. “Tomorrow is Imbolc.”
“Aye, and we will celebrate here. No village fete for you or the wee lass.” He kissed Sybil.
“Nay. Just us.” She moved over gently so that Cern could lay down beside her with Rose in between them. They were asleep quickly.
The next morning, Vivien came to check on Sybil. They were asleep in the bed, and she tip-toed around the cottage. The smell of fresh pine branches perfumed the air. Outside, the sun had melted the snow that fell and the first crocuses and snowdrops were peaking up.
Vivien whispered the chant to welcome the Goddess back as she closed the door. “Cold Winter is gone, the snow with thaw,”
As she closed the door, she heard Cern’s voice coming up the lane. “And with one voice In spring and love and Goddess we rejoice!”*
He smiled at her and gave her a brace of hares. “For your supper.” Then he was in the door to check on Sybil and Rose.
Vivien stood there shocked. She’d never expected anything, and the rabbits were welcome. She smiled and headed off home.