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Poem: "Brought to Bed" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Brought to Bed"

Here is the perk for getting 25 voters in the July themes poll.  This poem was selected by the audience.  It's fishbowl spillover from June 20, 2012.  It was inspired by prompts from meeksp and zianuray.  It belongs to the series Hart's Farm, and you can read more about that on the Serial Poetry page.

Brought to Bed

The room was lovely,
with white wooden furniture
and pink flowers stamped on the white walls.
A spare quilt draped over the quilt stand,
and a bouquet sat on the bedside table.

Auduna was thoroughly sick of the lovely room.
She had spent the last two days of her pregnancy in it,
then a day and a night giving birth,
followed by another day and night mostly sleeping.
She still felt sore and tired, but
she was more tired of the room than tired in body.
Auduna wanted up.  She wanted out.

The door opened.
Auduna turned toward it eagerly.
Karin walked in with Auduna's daughter.
Auduna scrambled to sit up against the pile of pillows,
fussing with the pink bedrobe over her white nightgown.
Karin handed her the baby and showed them again
how to find a comfortable position for nursing.

"This is much more complicated than it looks,"
Auduna said, after her daughter finally latched on.
"It just takes practice," Karin said. 
"How are you feeling today?"

"I want to get out of this room," Auduna declared.
"Then let's go to the common house for breakfast,"
Karin suggested, "after you finish nursing."
"I'd love to, but I'm so grimy," Auduna said.
The common house and a few others had running water,
but many of the little old cottages did not,
and people still used pitchers and basins for washing.
It left Auduna feeling less than perfectly clean.

"So rinse off here before we go," Karin said.
"After breakfast, someone can watch the baby
while you take a proper bath."

Auduna thought that sounded wonderful.
She finished feeding her daughter, washed both of them,
and then got dressed.  That made her laugh.
"Look how tiny I am again!" she said,
gazing past her loose belly.  She wiggled her toes.
"Fortunately I brought you a dress that should fit,"
Karin said.  "It's smaller in the middle, with a roomy bodice."

When they reached the common house,
it was already busy with breakfast preparations,
and it got even busier when people spied the new baby.
"Ola first," Karin murmured to Auduna,
steering her toward the matriarch
seated in a polished walnut rocking chair.

"Ola, this is my daughter," Auduna said
as she handed over the tiny wriggling bundle. 
"Thank you for making a place for us here."
"Welcome to our family, little stranger," Ola said to the baby.
"We're so happy to meet you!  We hope that you like it here
and stay with us for a long, long time."

Other people crowded around to get a peek.
The baby was pink and wrinkled and completely bald,
healthy in every way, wrapped in a butter-yellow blanket.
When the older children got too noisy in their excitement,
Ola firmly shushed them.  They settled down.
Leif edged through the crowd and knelt by the rocker
to lay a hand on Auduna's daughter and offer his own blessing.
Ola and Leif were the two oldest members of the family.

Soon Una announced that breakfast was ready.
Everyone wanted to sit with Auduna.
She wound up with Rowen on one side
and Bergren on the other, Aisling across from her.
Everything Auduna could possibly want to eat was offered --
boiled eggs, muesli  made of whole grains and dried fruit,
sausages, Irish potato bread and black pudding,
smörgas  consisting of buttered bread topped with
hard cheese or salmon or even jam.
The baby fell asleep in her lap, allowing Auduna to eat.

After breakfast, Auduna sat in the rocker
enjoying a cup of hot tea.
Vendel was there again, bracketed
by Thorsten and Sindri.
Solvig stood with Hrafn and Gróa.
"Have you decided on a name?" Vendel asked.
Auduna shook her head.  "No, not yet."

"We have many of the old Irish names,"
Hrafn said, "if you don't like the Swedish ones.
Aisling and Muirgen, those are Irish.
Ola could tell you some that aren't in use now."

"The Scandinavian ones are easier to mix and match, though,"
said Solvig.  "All those little word roots make different names."
"Like what?" Auduna asked, intrigued by the scholar's idea.
"My father's name is Steinar," Hrafn said.  "It means 'stone-worrier'.
I named my son Thorsten, 'Thor's stone'."

"Hrafn's sister is Eirny, that means 'new peace',"
said Solvig.  "My name means 'strong house'."
"Mine is 'eagle-tree'," Arnvid volunteered,
leaning into the circle of people.
"Solvig wrote a paper on names."
Hrafn chuckled, saying,  "Solvig has written
a paper on everything, it seems."

"My mother's name is Dagmar," Auduna said.
"That means 'day-maid' or 'famous day',
depending on the etymology," Solvig said.
"What about mine?" Auduna asked.
"It means 'deserted'," the scholar explained.  
Auduna sighed, disappointed.
"They don't all break in half," Solvig said.

"I'm ready for my bath," Auduna said.  "Who wants --"
"Let me!" said the nearest half-dozen people,
all holding out their hands for the baby.
It wasn't just the women, either.
Vendel, Bergren, and Arnvid crowded around her,
and Auduna got the distinct impression
that there would have been more if not for lack of room.

She handed her daughter to Vendel,
who happened to be the closest.
Then she went to bathe.  It was a delicious luxury
to have the room and the hot water all to herself.
Auduna washed her hair twice just because she could.

She thought about names,
the story of their meanings that Solvig told,
names of relatives and ancestors,
how the bits broke apart and fit together again,
like the pieces of Auduna's life.

The right name came to her
like the first beam of sunrise
cresting the top of a hill.

Auduna dried herself and got dressed,
wrapping her wet hair in a towel.
She collected her daughter from Vendel
and sat down in the rocking chair.
"Her name is Dagny," Auduna declared.
" 'New day'," said Solvig.  "It suits her."

The people standing closest to Auduna
now shuffled away to spread the news.
Other people shifted forward to see the baby,
Frida and Finlo among them.
"Good morning, Dagny," said Finlo,
and she wrapped her fist around his finger.

"Frida, why are all the men ...
sort of hovering  around me?" Auduna asked.
Frida laughed.  "They're hoping you'll pick them."
Auduna looked at her blankly.

"Oh, we must have forgotten to mention that,"
Frida said with an embarrassed grin. 
"Sorry!  It's just another family custom.
If a baby's born without a father who lives on the farm,
the mother can choose a man to do the father things.
They'll all pitch in anyway, of course, but it's nice
to know who's officially responsible for it.
You can pick any of them; it doesn't have to be
one you want to lie with or live with.
Or none of them, if you don't like the idea."

Auduna quite  liked the idea
of gaining a father for her child
without rushing into a husband for herself.
"Is there anything special I need to do?"
she asked Frida.
"Just say who you're picking,
and hand him the baby," Frida said.

Auduna cast an assessing gaze around the room,
looking at the farm men in new light.
"Arnvid --" she began.
He was instantly at her side,
quivering with excitement.

"Yes, Auduna," he said.
"What can I do for you?"
She passed him the baby.
"I choose you for Dagny," she said.
A muted cheer sounded from the onlookers.

All of a sudden, Auduna felt tired and overcrowded.
She longed for her quiet little pink-and-white room.
"Walk us home?" she said to Arnvid.
"Of course," he said, though with Arnvid's arms full,
it was Bergren who offered Auduna
a hand getting up from the rocker.

When they got home, Auduna was pleased
to see that Karin -- or someone --
had changed the linens on her bed.
She sat down gratefully on the soft mattress.
Auduna didn't think she had the energy to make a bed,
or for that matter, to change Dagny
who probably did need changing by now.

But when she looked over,
Arnvid already had Dagny unwrapped,
going through the little chore with practiced ease.
He grinned at Auduna and said, "Take a nap. 
I'll lay her in the cradle when I'm done."

Arnvid had made that cradle,
Auduna recalled, and Finlo had painted it.
She took advantage of his offer,
rolled herself in the fragrant quilt,
and went to sleep.

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8 comments or Leave a comment
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 13th, 2012 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
This made me sniffle a bit, because it's such a SANE way of dealing with the situation.
e_scapism101 From: e_scapism101 Date: July 13th, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, glad it's not just me, then! I'm all weepy.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 13th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)


That's good to hear. I'm glad you liked it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 13th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you found it so touching.

Hart's Farm does a great job of communal childraising. The parents are still involved, but not left with the whole job, and it's common for the kids to be passed around in small groups for lessons or other activities. Most people live in clusters -- like the three women and three children in Auduna's house; or Gróa and Hrafn, their daughter Borga, and Solvig. Nobody has to go far if they need an extra hand.

They had to come up with a way of addressing the single-parent issue in a way that would protect the community weave, because it comes up for them a lot more often than in the outside society. They get young widows or unwed mothers showing up with babies, because there aren't a lot of places for people like that to go. So far I've found two farmborn who left and then returned -- and both of them had a spouse die and a baby in need of care. I'm sure there are other examples over the years, but I'll bet that's a common pattern.

Slightly less obvious from this perspective: purely homosexual men can't reproduce within their own preference, so their options are to claim an orphan, put themselves forward as farm-father candidates, or wait for an older child to pick them as a mentor. Vendel is an outsider, and homosexual; he adopted Sindri. Then Thorsten -- who is the son of Gróa and Hrafn -- latched onto Vendel, so now Vendel is fostering him.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 13th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
So now I'm wondering, about the choosing someone to act as father to the baby, can it be any of the men, or only men who aren't partnered?

And, come to think of it, if the mother doesn't want to pick a man, but also doesn't want to go it alone, could she pick another woman as co-mother?

I'm not trying to be difficult or snarky, and I apologize if it comes across that way. I'm just really liking this culture and poking at the edges of it to see what's what.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 13th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)


>>So now I'm wondering, about the choosing someone to act as father to the baby, can it be any of the men, or only men who aren't partnered?<<

In theory, it can be anyone who is willing. In practice, it's usually a man close to the mother's age who indicates his interest in raising a baby by hanging around her doing helpful things. The idea is to pick someone who has the available time and energy for a baby's needs, so it tends to be a man not currently occupied with major family responsibilities. A man whose previous baby is outgrowing the toddler stage might step back into consideration. It's not likely to be an older man, unless a very young teen mother wants the extra assurance of a father-figure for herself. A married man might put himself forward if the marriage wasn't producing offspring. If a woman wanted a man who wasn't making his interest obvious, she could ask him, but it would require a more delicate approach -- especially if he was married or otherwise tightly committed.

>>And, come to think of it, if the mother doesn't want to pick a man, but also doesn't want to go it alone, could she pick another woman as co-mother?<<

Sure. The women tend to band together for childraising anyhow. A pure lesbian might be sufficiently turned off of men to insist on a co-mother. The fundamental rule is, whatever people agree to that doesn't cause unnecessary harm, it's okay. So two women could be acknowledged as mother and farm-mother, if that's what they wanted; or as wives, and have the same consideration as a heterosexual married couple. (The farmborn seem to view marriage as "a little odd, but your kink is okay.")

The catch is that it's easier to raise children with a same-sex parent, so a mother raising a son without a father figure is at a disadvantage (and vice-versa). Conversely when parent and child are the same sex, a counterpoint is useful. That's a key reason why the farm-parent is for the child, and a separate relationship from lover or spouse. So a lesbian could pick a father for her child without taking a male lover or husband for herself.

>>I'm not trying to be difficult or snarky, and I apologize if it comes across that way. I'm just really liking this culture and poking at the edges of it to see what's what.<<

No, it's fine! These are good questions. I really enjoy exploring Hart's Farm too. It's fun to see what other people are interested in. You could get some good prompts out of this.
From: minor_architect Date: July 14th, 2012 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad Auduna chose Arnvid for her daughter. He seems to be a gentle, stabilizing counterpoint to Auduna's nervousness. (Not to say she doesn't have cause to feel nervous - new environment and a new baby - but it's good that she chose the most appropriate help. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 14th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you liked this!

>>I'm glad Auduna chose Arnvid for her daughter. He seems to be a gentle, stabilizing counterpoint to Auduna's nervousness.<<

True. Arnvid is a mellowing influence. That's actually one of his primary roles in the community: social lubricant and stress absorber. He keeps an eye out for points of tension and then works them out.

So often, male characters are written as macho and it sucks for male readers who want some other kind of role model. And the peacemakers are almost always written as female, which is not fun for women who dislike that role, plus frustrating for men who do. So I was really pleased to discover that Arnvid is one of the main chamfers at Hart's Farm.

>> (Not to say she doesn't have cause to feel nervous - new environment and a new baby - but it's good that she chose the most appropriate help. <<

Part of that is, as you noted, because Auduna has a lot of new things to deal with. Part is simply her basic nature. As she settles into life at Hart's Farm, she relaxes a little more and gets less jittery. One reason she likes sewing is because it's a calm, quiet activity. But she's always going to be alert, quick to notice things and quick to respond. That's useful when something goes wrong. It also makes her a convenient viewpoint character because she readily latches onto events -- a feature that will become more useful as she settles into the farm and her own story arc shifts from new discoveries more toward interconnection.

Conversely Arnvid doesn't fly off the handle easily, but he's also not often the first person to notice something happening. His awareness is buffered; Auduna's, not so much. So they do make an excellent team.
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