1905

Chava stood beside Fyedka as the priest pronounced them man and wife, knowing that this was it; the final break with her family and homeland had been made, a bond had been severed that could never be healed. There was to be no looking back; the only direction to move was forward. Together with Fyedka she would build a new life, would find a new niche to fill in this world that was now hers.

Fyedka raised her veil and kissed her, his lips warm and soft and loving. Together they walked hand in hand out of the church and into the life that they would share from now on.

It was later that same day, in the humble cottage they now called home, that it hit Chava that she would never see her mother or sisters again, hit her with such force that it was almost like a physical blow. The final and absolute rejection by her father had cut her to the bone; the additional loss of the rest of her family was almost more than she could bear.

Fyedka heard his wife sobbing from another room; he went to her and gathered her tenderly into his arms and tried his best to comfort her. He was well aware of the sacrifice she had made to be with him; he had made sacrifices too, but that fact in no way diminished her sorrow.

That night she lay awake in anticipation, waiting for him. He came to her with both passion and tenderness; in the beginning it was very painful, which she wasn't prepared for. She knew that it wasn't Fyedka's fault; he was trying to be as gentle as he could. Afterwards he fell asleep almost instantly, but she lay awake in his arms for a long time afterwards, feeling both elated and terrified, until she slowly fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.


1906

Chava was working in the field when she felt the first pain, and it almost doubled her over. Fyedka saw her cringe and rushed to her side.

"Is it time?" he asked.

"Yes."

Fyedka helped her back inside and then hurried to summon the midwife. Chava lay in the same bed in which her child had been conceived and wondered how long the wait would be. She had always heard that first deliveries took the longest.

She had several more contractions before the midwife arrived and examined her.

"She's got a ways to go," the midwife told Fyedka, before instructing him to boil water and round up supplies.

By the middle of the night, the contractions were strong enough to make Chava cry out in pain. "It won't be long now," the midwife told Fyedka.

Soon the pains even more unbearable, and in addition they were accompanied by an almost uncontrollable urge to bear down. The midwife checked her again and said that she was ready.

Chava grabbed the sides of the bed and pushed with all her might. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Fyedka standing white-faced, holding onto a piece of furniture for support, but she barely noticed him.

She caught her breath and waited for the next contraction, then repeated the process over and over again.

At last she felt the baby's head slide out.

"Give me one more good push," the midwife instructed. With the next contraction came first one shoulder, then the other, and then the entire baby slid out. Fyedka stood watching in wonder as the midwife lay the newborn on Chava's breast.

Chava looked at the tiny head covered with damp silky hair, hardly able to believe that this tiny new life had come about as the result of her and Fyedka's act of love.

The midwife skillfully turned the baby over and cut the umbilical cord, and then began to clean the blood off the newborn.

"It's a girl," she announced.

The newborn made tiny noises that sounded like the mewing of a kitten. Chava watched the little face grimace and the tiny arms flail. The midwife wrapped the baby tightly in a blanket, and she stopped crying and opened her blue eyes to look into Chava's. The midwife delivered the afterbirth and massaged Chava's belly firmly to control the bleeding.

Fyedka, to overcome to say a word, just sat on the edge of the bed watching his newborn daughter.

"I want to name her 'Gittel'. That means 'good' in my language."

Fyedka nodded his assent. Both of them silently watched baby Gittel until she was sleeping soundly, followed soon afterwards by Chava.