Become a Fan
Mozart's Wife 24
By Juliet Waldron
Monday, May 11, 2009
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
A blessed event...
What I wanted most in life was to be cool, to be able to move freely, and to sleep in comfort straight through the night. I had to pee constantly, climbing out of bed to squat over the pot again and again. The baby squirmed and thumped my sides as if he or she was cramped and miserable, too.
Right after midnight one hot summer night, I woke up. I had cramps, rather like the monthly thing. The only difference was that every few minutes the muscles of my belly knotted into a hard ball.
I lay still, hand on my curiously rigid belly. Here it was at last—longed for and dreaded. Although it was a hot night, I felt a chill. All those terrible stories!
At once, the pain became more unforgiving. I struggled to escape from the bed.
“What’s wrong?” Always a light sleeper, Wolfi stirred beside me.
“I think it’s begun.”
“Ha!” he cried triumphantly. “The seventeenth. I almost got the date right.”
Then, seeing my distress, he slipped an arm around me. “Don’t worry, Stanzerl. Everything will be fine.”
I knew he was putting on bravery, for it took him several tries to get the candle lit.
When Mama arrived, she took one look at me and then declared, “Well, Mozart, you certainly waited long enough to send for me. The midwife will know best, but I don’t think she’s got much longer.”
Hurting and frightened, I clung to her hand. After soothing me, she and Thekla, my new maid, proceeded to pull back the covers and tug a thick, wadded pad underneath me to protect the featherbed. I bore the movement badly, groaning and weeping.
“Why on earth didn’t you see to this earlier?” she scolded.
Next, they rolled my nightgown over my head. Mama paused to admire the embroidery before folding it and laying it over a chair.
“You always do such nice work, dear,” she said approvingly. Ordinarily I would have been pleased, but how could she be noticing such things at a time like this?
“Don’t hold your breath,” Mama ordered brusquely as she pulled a chair up next to the bed. “That only makes it worse.”
She gave me sips of wine and some herbal concoction, but I can’t say it helped much. Soon, there was a another knock and Thekla dashed away to answer it.
This time it was the midwife, a tall, elderly woman with a long face, gray gown and narrow, white hands. At first all she did was stand by the bed and watch while I thrashed and cried. Then, she asked Mama to help roll me onto my back.
“It’s just for a moment, Frau Mozart. I have to see how you’re doing.”
Positioned this way, the pain was worse than ever. No brave rags for me! Although she was gentle, I shrieked.
“There, there,” she soothed. “Let’s get her back on her side. It’s easier for some that way.”
Her bony hands began to turn me again, but no sooner had she started when a great contraction, bigger than any of the others, seized me. I hugged my belly, which seemed to have turned to rock, drew up my knees and screamed until my throat was raw. A flooding hot gush filled the bed.
The door banged open and Wolfi, eyes big with fear, flew through it.
“It’s only the water,” the midwife said.
Mozart nodded as if he understood, but his eyes seemed ready to pop.
Nervously, he began wiping his fingers on the inky rag tucked into his waistband.
No ordinary father this, wasting his time in pacing. Wolfgang Mozart was composing...
A change followed the flood. I was able to take dainty little panting breaths, just as Gaukerel had. The clenching in my belly stopped but was replaced by an enormous, crushing weight.
Gently, slowly, the midwife rolled me onto my back again and pushed my knees up. She told me to hold them, one in each arm. I did what she said, but it hurt so much.
Through the haze of pain and fatigue, I focused on my husband’s white face. Disbelief was written all over it.
“You, Sir! Out!” The midwife abruptly called over her shoulder. “See what you’ve done to her?”
As he beat a hasty retreat, the old woman elbowed Mama.
“I always let the new Papas take a look. Then they won’t make light of what a woman has to do.”
She chafed my arms encouragingly, sharing a grim smile with my mother.
“Good work, little Frau. The head’s coming.”
Thekla struggled in with the kettle. I heard a screech as the table was pushed to the side of the bed, the tinkle as water was rung out. Then the midwife layered on steaming cloths. Ordinarily, I would have resisted so much heat in such a tender place, but now there was simply too much other pain.
The midwife kept wringing and applying the hot cloths to the place from which my baby would emerge, massaging and rubbing. Thekla’s eyes were like gray saucers. My knees, as I hung onto them, shook wildly.
Then, suddenly, the imperative changed again. I had to push.
As soon as I bore down, the midwife urged me on. “That’s my girl. Come on now, let’s finish this.”
It didn’t take long. Soon another scream, high and strong, joined with mine.
“Good!” cheered the midwife. “Give us another big one.”
I clenched my teeth and pushed with all my might. Before my eyes, the high angled mound of my belly moved. An impossibly huge, slippery rush later there was a wailing man-child between my legs, all streaked with blood and caked with white.
“Wunderbar!” Mama cried.
The midwife’s knife flashed. After tying a bit of gut around the baby’s cord, she handed him to Mama and set about washing my bottom and packing clean cloth against me.
“Dead easy for a first time, Frau Mozart.”
As she threw a cover over me, I suddenly realized that Aloysia was right. It would be ages before I dared to...
Before I could ask about that, Wolfi, face aglow, burst through the door.
“Naughty fellow,” cried Mama. “Can’t wait, can you? Here then, have a look at this fine big boy.”
“Just as round as a ball,” Mozart murmured, cautiously inspecting the wailing bundle.
“She should put him to her breast,” said Mama. “That will quiet him.”
“God! No!” Wolfgang’s eyes widened in horror. “My wife is not a peasant.”
“An hour or so won’t hurt. It will stop the baby’s mouth and let your neighbors get some sleep,” Mama advised.
“Well, I can afford a nurse, but I’ve been told that babies don’t really need milk, that they can be raised on sugar water.
“Herr Mozart,” the midwife said firmly, “I don’t believe you’ve been told right. I can get a nurse for you in just a few hours. For right now, however, his suckling will comfort them both.”
“But my sister and I were brought up on sugar water,” he insisted. “We were never fed milk.”
He went on and on, maintaining that was what his Papa had told him.
Mama was becoming alarmed by his insistence, but the midwife, the soul of tact, took Wolfgang’s arm and said persuasively, “Kapellmeister, people here in Vienna do not know how to give sugar water properly. If you want the child to live, either your wife must nurse him, or you must engage a woman in milk.”
While the two of them talked, Mama opened the blanket and showed me my baby. Although he’d had a perfunctory splashing in the basin, he was still covered with waxy, white stuff. Exposed to the air, he squeezed his eyes shut and whimpered.
Mama laid him in my arms. I felt so awkward, so nervous. Still, here he was; damp, warm, utterly helpless, and amazingly real.
“Here, darling,” said Mama encouragingly, “hold him like this.”
As she was helping me Mozart turned, saw us, and was promptly struck dumb. Seizing her opportunity, Mama assisted and soon we had baby and nipple together.
Then there I was, like the Madonna! My baby nestled against my bare breast, just like all the pictures, but I’m afraid it didn’t feel a bit sublime.
Everything hurt. The bed was wet. I was wet. The baby soaked right through his swaddling. There were sharp twinges in my breast as he suckled.
“It hurts!” I sniffled, fresh tears coursing down my face.
Mama patted me. “Poor little girl. We’ll brew some sleeping tea. You’ll feel better after you get some rest.”
The baby kept tugging, his tiny perfect fingers groping against my breast. It started to ache, as if roots deep inside were being pulled. Roots that went straight down to the place he’d just come from.
“What a handsome boy,” cooed Mama.
Handsome? Baby was undeniably compelling, but he was also as bald an old man and snuffling like a piglet.
“Grosse Gott!” my husband suddenly exclaimed.
Fortunately, Mama was there to keep him reined in. “Out of here, Wolfgang,” she commanded. “Why don’t you get some sleep? We need to finish cleaning up and Konstanze needs her rest.”
“Yes, Mama, all right,” he said, “I’ll go, but I won’t sleep. Why, I’ve almost finished my new quartet.”
He broke into one of his radiant smiles, turning the full force of it upon me.
“Wait until you hear this splendid allegretto, Stanzi. It’s going to be marvelous! It finishes with a splendid two octave leap and a great, crashing forte. You know,” he went on, fondly regarding me, “I got the idea from you, from your screams right at the end.”