January 1, 2014

In Which Nanalie Has a New Priority

April 9, 1184

Nanalie had done her best to keep Rina comfortable since she'd brought her home from school. She liked to think the tea she'd brewed her had helped somewhat, even if nothing she knew of was a miracle cure for particularly nasty cramps. She liked to think that the heated blankets had dulled the pains, if only to a point where Rina could lie in relative peace. But she'd only been a midwife for a handful of years, and she'd been lucky enough that most of her clients had not needed her services aside from her standard aid with pregnancy and labor--and even if more women did come to call on her with concerns about the times before conceptions, or between pregnancies, it would be decades before she had the skill and experience of Arydath. Thank God Princess Camaline had had the foresight to send the Tumekrin boy for her.

But now that Arydath had returned from Rina's room, stone-faced and grim, Nanalie was no longer sure if there was much to be thankful for. "Something is wrong, isn't it?"

"Yes." It had never been like Arydath to sugar-coat. The jolt in Nanalie's spine stood. "As Rina's guardians, you and Garrett will have to know, and I suppose I ought to head to the keep and tell the baroness as well. But before I tell you, I want you to promise me that you won't hold any of this against her. Many people have fault in this, but after all my years of helping young girls, believe me when I say she isn't one of them."

From the start, she'd already known that much. But if she considered all the possible meanings, not one she could think of had an easy fix. With any luck, that swarm of early thoughts had been lacking. "She... she wasn't raped, was she?"

"Not so far as I could gather, but there's always the possibility that she was and chose not to tell me--or doesn't even know herself."

Nanalie swallowed. Many had no idea just how wide the scope of rape could be, the much that was rape and the little that wasn't. She herself had never considered it before Arydath had taken her on as an apprentice. Rina might not have either.

But if there was something else, something that as far as Arydath could figure wasn't rape... "Incest?" Rina did have an older brother. Garrett didn't know his nephew well, but he'd mused that the boy couldn't be any worse than his father. What would he have known, though?

Arydath shook her head. "Sit down."

Nanalie did as she was told. Her old mentor took a couple seconds for a well-needed sigh, then joined her on the bench by the wall.

"Rina is close to her grandfather, correct? Your father-in-law?"

Nanalie nodded. "Tertius. He had an apoplexy some months back. Felron's effectively been count ever since."

"And she wasn't close with any other adult in the household, was she?"

"I don't think so. You know what her father is, and her mother isn't much of a presence next to him. Her grandmother is a good woman, but she and Rina didn't always see eye to eye, or so Garrett said."

"I thought so. Poor girl." Arydath shuffled, allowing herself a brief but nonetheless noticeable glance to her own lap before she forced her head back up again. "I guess that brings me to what she told me. After her grandfather had his apoplexy, she felt very... lost. Almost not there, she said, like she couldn't feel at all. She said she wanted to feel something.

"Her older brother had been frequenting the brothels. Her grandmother didn't approve, but the rest of them knew and none of them made a fuss about it, and of course Rina knew that that wouldn't have been the case if she were the one fooling around. But she got around to asking herself why that was, and the only logical reason was the risk of pregnancy--is the risk of pregnancy." Arydath's fingers curled into a fist. There was little that angered a seasoned midwife more than men who thought nothing of sleeping around but dared shame a woman who'd do so to even of a fraction of their extent.

"But her brother seemed... relaxed, almost like he'd been before their grandfather had fallen ill. I can't blame Rina for wanting that sort of peace. She did some research, and while any source that isn't firsthand can be dubious, she did learn that she was unlikely to get pregnant from a single incident, and that pregnancy could be avoided if the man pulled out."

But for all she could have requested it, she couldn't have made him. "Who was it?"

"A guard who'd admired her. I figure you can guess where this is going. She told him not to finish inside her, he didn't listen. A few weeks later and her course is late."

She had guessed. But of course Rina wasn't pregnant now, and the apoplexy had occurred too recently for her to have had the baby. "Did she miscarry?"

"That would have been easier."

Between that and the other thing, it would have been. "Oh."

"Yes. She went to a midwife in a nearby village, but the woman chased her out--something about saving those mixtures for life-or-death situations, and some bullshit about going to God for mercy on her soul, as if He doesn't have bigger problems than the prospect of one unwed girl having sex one time. But the midwife's son overheard, and he approached her outside. He said his mother used to deliver mixtures using pessaries, and he'd learned how to do it, so he told her to meet him in their barn that night, and he'd help her.

"But the stupid boy didn't know what he was doing. Her courses returned, but she wouldn't stop bleeding. They had to call in a doctor from a monastery. She nearly died."

Many did. This was why Nanalie had never attempted to brew abortifacients herself, instead sending all who came to her into the capable hands of Aerina Frey, who'd trained for over a decade under her mother, the best Arydath had ever known. If Nanalie were ever shown a midwife who firmly believed that every pregnancy ought to be carried to term, then Nanalie would in turn show a liar, or a fraud, or someone who had wasted her life with an ill-suited career.

But a good midwife knew that terminations were best left to those who knew what they were doing. Even if a woman survived a botched abortion, she was unlikely to remain unharmed.

That was why Felron had declared Rina 'useless'. "Her fertility..."

Arydath shook her head. "The doctor said her womb and tubes were severely damaged, and Rina allowed me to confirm. Based on what I could feel, I'd be shocked if she ever conceived again--and if she did, it would be a rough pregnancy and an even rougher labor."

"And of course Felron would have taken that to mean she ought to be locked in a nunnery and forgotten." Monster. "What awful timing. Tertius never would have stood for that." But if Tertius could have, there never would have been a problem.

"No. Rina said her grandmother put up a fight, but of course her father wouldn't heed her." Arydath turned her head to the side of the couch and spat. During most conversations, Nanalie would have minded. "All too common in our line of work, aren't they? Men who think women have no worth except for popping out children."

"And sadly, women who believe it," Nanalie added.

From now on, it would be a top priority to make sure that Rina was not one of them.



Van said...

Hope everyone's 2014 is off to a good start!

Ekho said...

My face was pressed to the screen as I read this :3 I was so eager to find out Rina's story, and it is along the lines of what I expected.
I kind of feel sorry for the boy who helped her, he was trying to do a good deed and yes it backfired but his heart was in the right place.
Hopefully Arydath can help Rina with the pain and maybe begin to heal.

Orilon said...

I was kind of expecting either ongoing sexual abuse from her father or rape and abortion.

Hopefully Nanalie can help her understand eventually that her worth is not only based on having children and can find an effective way to reduce the pain of her monthlies.

(I'm not sure if there will be strange spaces once this is published, if there are blame my cat, he walked across the keyboard as I was typing.)

Van said...

Ekho: I'm not surprised to hear that the theory was in the running. There were a few hints, some of which were probably accidental on my part.

I haven't thought much about the midwife's son. It's possible that he did genuinely want to help her, though he may have also wanted to make a quick buck or simply rebel against his mother. A smarter helper in his position would have tried to find someone more capable rather than perform the procedure themselves, and if he did have altruistic motives, he'll regret not doing that if he ever finds out.

If nothing else, I'm sure someone along the line can get Rina excused from school during her times of the month. Hopefully pain management is not impossible with Arydath's resources either.

Orilon: Probably the only redeeming feature Rina's father has is that he likes his sexual partners to be adults, and not his own daughter. That said, I can see why abuse at his hand would have been a contender for the back story mystery. He is a scary guy, and certainly a hypocrite. :S

I'm sure Nanalie will be able to help. Actually... until the idea of Garrett came at me from out-of-the-blue, I had no plans for Nanalie to ever have a family; just for her to be Arydath's apprentice and eventual successor. So Nanalie herself might have thought at one point that she wasn't going to have any children, and she would have come to terms with that. Granted, with Nanalie, this would have largely been a choice; she didn't not want kids, but she didn't want to have them with just anybody.

I also hope that Rina befriends Camaline outside of the context of the school. It's totally possible, since Renata is her grandmother. If nothing else, she'll gain an older female role model who also can't get pregnant, but who made a good (if platonic) marriage and has a useful career outside of the church, as well as a social life that hasn't been too heavily impacted by the lack of kids (and therefore, since some people would make a big deal of it, a good sense of who in the kingdom is a true friend and who shouldn't be bothered with).

Anonymous said...

:( Poor Rina. I figured there was some sort of rape/pregnancy story here, but ... ugh.

She just got screwed over at every turn here, didn't she? The guard, and then the midwife, and then the midwife's son ... and then of course her father, but her father was awful from day 1, so that's no surprise. I guess the only relief is that he didn't have anything to do with getting her pregnant (unless you count being awful and not seeing or caring that Rina was falling into depression).

Still, I do want to voice a little bit of support for the midwife -- first of all, if abortions are that dangerous in this time and place, I think limiting them to life-and-death situations is perfectly defensible choice. The bit about going to God was obnoxious, but it's the middle ages. Also, if she had any idea who Rina's father is ... could you blame her for not wanting to help? Look at what Rina's father did to her, imagine what he'd do to a peasant midwife.

I just hope Rina can begin to heal soon, physically and mentally. Maybe some of the awfulness of her periods will fade with time. I wouldn't go around believing everything a monk doctor from the 1100s says.

As for the rest ... well, again, maybe with time, she'll heal.

And on that cheerful note, happy birthday, Van!

Van said...

A lot of people have a liberal slice of fault pie here, that's for sure. :S

Yeah, if you know you can't perform an abortion (or any other medical procedure, for that matter) competently, it's best not to do so unless it's absolutely necessary, and there's no chance of getting the patient to anyone better. That's why Nanalie and even Arydath keep sending women to Aerina; they know she's the specialist there. I don't know if Rina went in there announcing who her father was, but if she did, that would have been reasonable grounds for the midwife to refuse as well. But yeah... eh, people need to stop using God as an excuse for their own selfish choices (or in this case, more likely, for "the way things are").

Rina's still young, so it's possible that some of the damage will heal up, at least to the point where her periods don't give her as much grief even if her chances of getting pregnant are still slim. You're right, anything a twelfth-century clergyman says about the female reproductive tract ought to be taken with a grain of salt, even if Arydath's not optimistic herself.

Now that Rina's away from her toxic father, surrounded by people who actually give a shit about her personal well-being, she'll hopefully manage to heal mentally and emotionally as well.

Thanks, Morgaine!

Penelope said...

Ach, not quite what I was imagining but it was close. What a horrible life that child has lead. On the bright side, she is surrounded by people who care about her, and Naroni is a great place to convalesce. But surely when the midwife kicked her out, she knew that Rina would only try something else more desperate?

Van said...

It's a lucky thing Rina got to Naroni when she did and a pity she didn't get there sooner. :S

As for what the midwife was thinking, who knows? Not wanting to perform a risky medical procedure on someone if you don't think you're up to it is one thing, but kicking them to the curb without a thought is quite another. :S