A short time later, and Liz was still bleeding. A lot. Though shed blood definitely has a way of spreading and soaking and appearing to be a good deal more than it is, Einar had seen enough over the years to know when a person’s in trouble, and Liz was in trouble, or about to be, in very short order. The baby was making an effort to feed, Liz had nearly finished the shepherd’s purse solution he’d given her, and he didn’t know what else to do. Needed to get the placenta delivered, he was sure of that, with the amount of bleeding that was taking place but she didn’t seem ready to do it and while in most situations it would be best not to rush matters, under the present circumstances he knew he needed to take charge of the situation just a bit. Letting her know what he was about to do--wanted to pull the cord, hurry things along, but knew he must not do so lest he risk leaving pieces behind and making her situation much worse--he began rubbing her stomach, gently at first and then more vigorously, hoping to urge the birth of the placenta, and it worked--something must have worked, anyhow--for several minutes later it was done, Einar setting it in one of the cooking pots up there on the bed above Liz so its blood could continue flowing to the baby and at once returning his attention to Liz, who was beginning to look a bit pale with blood loss.
Bleeding wasn’t slowing. He returned to kneading her stomach, hoping to get things to firm up and contract but knew she couldn’t go on losing blood at that rate for much longer, remembered something from the first birth he’d attended so many years ago on that mountainside in the jungle, how he’d watched with some horror and dismay as the mother consumed bits of the placenta just after birth but had quickly realized that she was simply doing what nearly every other mammal--even herbivorous ones--did immediately after birth, and he’d later learned that the process actually aided in stopping excessive bleeding due to the oxytocin content of the organ. Worth a try, and he quickly retrieved a small piece for Liz--put it under your tongue for a while, or something, it’ll help you--glad that she nodded at his hasty explanation and took it, rather than pushing him away.
Seemed to help, that last measure, his rubbing and kneading of her stomach, the baby’s ongoing efforts to feed, or some combination, for slowly the bleeding diminished, all but stopped, and Einar had at last a moment to spare on looking after the fire, adding wood so the place could continue to remain warm, bringing Liz a portion of the deep, richly green chlorophyll solution they’d previously prepared and helping her to drink, knowing that while it could not replace the blood she had lost, it would, at least, increase her body’s ability to clot and allow what blood remained to carry a bit more oxygen, begin rebuilding itself more quickly than it otherwise would have been able to do, as it had done for him after the loss of his toes. Both times… He knew it worked, helped, and wished they’d made more, but knew he could do it over the coming days, as they’d saved and dried a good quantity of the nettles and lamb’s quarter from which the solution was made. Nettles. Good source of iron, too, which she would definitely be needing in a bad way, after all that blood loss.
Ok. Back over to the bed and check on Liz once again…still no more bleeding, but she was beginning to look a little cold--not nearly as cold as he felt, now that things had slowed down some and he had time to realize such things--not too bad but when he asked her if she’d like to get into bed she said yes, so he helped her clean up, change into some fresh clothes, checked her over--a bit of tearing, but nothing too serious; she’d heal up just fine--and helped her into the bed, getting her propped comfortably on a roll of hides so she could easily hold the little one, who, he realized, still hadn’t been called by any name since his entry into the world, but he didn’t suppose that mattered too much, didn’t seem to matter to the baby, who slept peacefully in Liz’s arms--bet that won’t last too long, not too many days!--and suddenly, everyone’s immediate needs cared for and the force of his own weariness hitting him all at once, Einar’s legs folded up and deposited him in a heap on the floor, where he might have himself gone very contentedly to sleep for a day or two, had there not still been so much to do.
Back up, then, check Liz again to be sure the bleeding hadn’t resumed, which it had not, urge her to take another gulp of that chlorophyll--she was weary, weak with blood loss and having a difficult time holding the pot steady without risking a spill, and Einar wished it was summer, so he could go searching for a mare’s tail reed to use as a straw, make things a bit easier for her, but lacking any such he helped her with the drink--and then on to the cleanup, get the floor all scraped and sanitized and back down to the good, clean dirt again, all the mess taken outside and buried in the snow before it could become a problem, dispose of the wads of soiled usnea that had served so well as absorbent material throughout the process, and he didn’t stop until he’d got it all done, knowing the adrenalin that had carried him through the past…twenty six hours? Thirty? Forty? Who knows? What’s the difference, at this point…was fading rapidly and leaving him dangerously near collapse and involuntary sleep every time he stopped moving, mustn’t stop, still got to make some food for Liz, she should eat, if she can…and need to check the little one over and make sure he’s still breathing alright, looking good, got all his fingers and toes and all that…not that there’s much we can do about it, but good to know, I guess…
Cabin clean, his clothes changed, floor scraped and sprinkled with a fresh layer of dirt dug from the corner behind the water barrel, sprinkled again with just a bit of water and trampled until it was smooth and dust-free once more, wood added to the fire and then it was time to see to the cord, blood having stopped flowing through it and the time come for cutting, which he managed very neatly, tying it off with two recently boiled bits of sinew and immersing the blade of his knife for a good minute in the pot of boiling water on the stove before using it to make the cut, child separated for good from his first home, and when Einar took the child in his arms--strange feeling, that, and for no good reason at all he found himself blinking away tears, quickly laid the baby back on Liz’s chest--he seemed to be breathing quite well, looked a good healthy pink color, and in no distress.
Food. Needed to make Liz a good, iron-rich broth to begin replacing the tremendous amount of energy she’d expended in labor, and he was about to reach for the nettles but instead--what could be better?--took the pot that sat propped up beside her there on the bed, briefly inspected its contents to make sure they were whole and without missing parts, which they were, before turning them into a sort of stew to which he added a few bits of dried wild garlic greens, the ground corms of a few spring beauty plants for starch and thickness, and, at the end, some nettles for extra iron and good measure. Not that the meal needed additional iron, really. Looked very rich, and he supposed would last her many days, kept fresh out in the cold of the tunnel and reheated whenever she needed a bit of extra strength and sustenance. Cold. Despite the fire and the relative warmth of the room he found himself suddenly feeling chilled to the bone, barely able to go on applying himself to his tasks and when Liz, seeing his dilemma--goofy guy, you probably haven’t had a bite to eat since I went into labor, now have you?--suggested he join her in the bed for a while, he nodded woodenly, stoked the fire and carefully eased himself, the stew and a container of water over to the back of the bed, leaving Liz plenty of room on the side nearest the stove where she wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the baby so thoroughly covered against the chill.
Head back as he rested it on the cabin wall and the bear hide, at Liz’s insistence, covering his lower half, Einar reclined there for the space of ten or fifteen seconds with eyes closed and brain blessedly empty before being returned sharply to the reality of the present situation, realizing he’d been about to spill Liz’s stew and catching it just in time. Liz was looking better, slightly less pale, eyes a good deal more lively and he took it as a good sign, offered her the food.
“Here. I’ll hold the pot. Can you eat, or do you need me to take…”
“Snorri? Are we going to call him Snorri? I know we talked about it, and I still like the name, but now that I see him…I remember you telling me about your friend Willis whose old pack you found one time when you were injured and in pretty desperate need a couple of summers ago, and then later I found him up on top of one of those spires, when I was retrieving your hidden food… Well, I know he was a pretty important person to you, and was wondering what you might think about that as a middle name? And we could even call him by his middle name, if we decided we wanted to do that.”
“Will Asmundson. I like it.”
“Yes, me too. And if his will is anywhere near as strong as the iron and indomitable one demonstrated so often by his father--which I have little doubt it will be--then it’ll serve him very well out here in this life.”
“Hey, I got nothing compared to what you just accomplished, O Mother of a Mountain Tribe, so I’ll be hoping he’s got a little of his mama’s strength to go along with his father’s will…right, little Will? Yeah, I like it. Snorri Willis Asmundson. Will.”
Taking a single wolverine claw from the string he wore always around his neck, Einar tied it to a thin strip of soft sheep hide retrieved from Liz’s basket of scraps and slipped it over the baby’s tiny head. Welcome to the world, little one…