October 5, 1882
The United States
"Push, Mrs. Goddard, push!" said Dr. Dunwood. Fanny Louise Goddard lay on her bed, her night clothes drawn up above her waist, exposing her distended abdomen. Her face wore a thin sheen of perspiration. It was twisted into a grimace as she breathed in and out rapidly. Her legs were spread wideLy apart in front of her.
"Push!" said Dr. Dunwood again.
Fanny groaned and pushed and continued her rapid exhalations.
Dr. Dunwood examined her carefully. "Yes," he said. He pulled a pocket watch from his pocket and checked the time. The contractions were coming approximately two minutes apart. Fanny screamed in agony as she bore down and pushed again. The midwife reached down between her legs cleaned away some of the amniotic fluid. Dr. Dunwood looked at his watch again. He expected the baby to crown soon. He pulled a pencil and a small notebook from his doctor's bag and quickly scribbled down his patient's vital statistics. Pulse, heart rate, dilation, time between contractions and so on. "Yes," he said to to himself again, "yes, good."
Fanny felt another painful contraction and she pushed again, groaning loudly.
"Dr. Dunwood," said the midwife, "the baby is crowning."
He gently pushed her aside and examined Fanny once again. The top of the baby's head was emerging from the birth canal. He motioned to the midwife. "Clean towels and hot water" he said, "quickly." She nodded and left the room to find the maid about as fast as was possible to do so without running.
Dr. Dunwood turn his attention back to Fanny. "You're doing wonderfully," he said, an encouraging note in his voice. "The baby's almost here. When Mary comes back, I need you to push just once more and then it'll all be over, alright? Can you do that for me?"
Fanny nodded. Behind him, the bedroom door opened and then shut with a snap as Mary, the midwife, returned with a pitcher of hot water, a large basin and clean bedsheets and night clothes in her arms. She deposited them on a small table in a corner of the room next to the window. The sunlight coming in the bedroom window slanted across the room at a low angle as the sun slid toward the horizon.
Fanny felt another painful contraction and grimaced again.
"One more time," said Dr. Dunwood. "Push!"
He positioned his hands to catch the baby. She pushed one more time and the baby came screaming into the world. Dr. Dunwood took the baby from his mother. He slapped the baby to induce breathing, and the baby's squalling filled the room. Dr. Dunwood cut and tied the baby's umbilical cord. He rummaged in his doctors's bag and extracted a measuring tape, while the midwife gently washed away the residue of birth. When she was finished, he took the baby and placed on a scale that was sitting on the table next the pitcher and the pile of blankets and bedsheets. He measured the baby, scribbled down his weight, took his pulse, murmured something to Mary and nodded and went out, closing the door behind him.
Dr. Dunwood left the bedroom and stepped into the hall. He gently pushed passed the cook and the kitchen maid who had come up from downstairs. They were clearly after news of Mrs. Goddard and the baby. He murmured the usual pleasantries to the cook and the kitchen maid and kept walking until he reached the top of the stairs. He proceeded downstairs, turned left and continued walking until he found the door he was looking for. He raised he right fist and knocked twice. The door opened and he stepped inside.
Nahum Danford Goddard stopped pacing at the sound of the knock on his study door. He crossed the room in a couple of strides and open the door to find Dr. Dunwood standing on the threshold. He took a step back and the doctor stepped inside. Nahum shut the door again. The room was lined with bookshelves. A drop down desk and a chair stood along one wall. On the opposite wall was a window that looked out on to the yard, which contained a chicken coop and an outhouse. A slightly looking Franklin battered stove stove stood in the fireplace. A thin blue cloud of cigar smoke hovered near the ceiling.
Nahum Goddard was twenty-three years old. He was a short and rather stocky man with a large moustache. A cigar was clamped firmly between his teeth. He had been born in Boston to Nahum and Mary Goddard in 1859. When it had proven impossible to scratch out a living as a musician in Boston, in the years following the American Civil War, Nahum Goddard Senior had moved his family to Worchester, uprooting his grown up son in the process. Nahum Danford Goddard had been in the employ of WB Browne and Co and had arrived in Worchester with a glowing recommendation from his former employer. He quickly found work in the employ of the L Hardy Manufacturing Company as a book keeper. The L Hardy Manufacturing Company made knives and other cutting implements for the paper and textiles industries. While employed by the Hard Manufacturing Company, Nahum had become smitten with a slender, doe-eyed young woman named Fanny Louise Hoyt. Fanny was the daughter of Fred Hoyt, who was one of the company's co-owners. Nahum and Fanny had quickly fallen in love with each other and had resolved to get married. However, Fanny's father had objected to the match.
"I utterly forbid it!" he had said. He believed that Nahum Goddard's family was improvident.
Despite his objection, Nahum and Fanny were married on Nahum's birthday and Fanny had been disinherited by her father as a result. That had been exactly nine months and two days ago.
Dr. Dunwood placed his doctors bag on the drop down desk and opened it with a snap. It was made of black leather and had a brass lock, which shone brightly in the late afternoon light coming in through the window which looked out on to the yard. He extracted a small bottle and two glasses. "I only have a moment to look in on you," he said. He pulled the stopper out of the bottle and poured some amber coloured liquid into the two glasses, "but I wanted to congratulate you," he said. He picked up one the glasses and passed it to Nahum, who took. "Mrs. Goddard has safely delivered a boy."
Nahum quickly knocked back his drink and shook Dr. Dunwood's hand. "Thank you, Doctor," he said, "for all your assistance."
Dr. Dunwood waved away Nahum's compliment and put away the two glasses and the bottle. He shut his doctors bag with a snap. "There's no need to thank me," he said. "It's always a privilege to bring a new life into the world."
"How are Fanny and the baby doing?" asked Nahum.
"The baby is healthy and they're both resting comfortably," replied .
Nahum nodded. "How soon before they can travel?" he asked. Nahum had been in the midst of making plans to take Fanny back to Boston
Dr. Dunwood's eyebrows went up in slight surprise. "Travel?" he asked, "no I'm afraid that that's quite out of the question. It will be several weeks at least before they may be fit to travel. Your wife needs to recover from her pregnancy and the baby need sot acclimatize to his surroundings."
Nahum nodded again. "Yes, I understand, doctor, thank you." It seems that I will have to put off my business plans for at least for a time, he thought. "I'll walk you to the door."
Dr. Dunwood nodded his thanks and the two men left Nahum's study. Dr, Dunwood followed Nahum down the hall to the bottom of the stairs up to the second story. They kept going until they reached the foyer with its elaborately carved oak front door. Nahum thrust a hand into the pocket of his smoking jacket and pulled out his billfold. He opened it, counted out some crisp new bills and handed them to Dr. Dunwood. The doctor took them and quickly a scribbled out a receipt for Nahum who accepted it and put it in his wallet, which he put back in the pocket of his smoking jacket.
"Good bye, Mr. Goddard,"said Dr. Dunwood. "Congratulations again. If Mrs. Goddard or the baby require anything, please do not hesitate to send for me."
Nahum shook the doctor's hand again. He opened the front door and Dr. Dunwood stepped in to the autumn chill. Nahum paused in the act of shutting the door and momentarily watched as the doctor hailed a passing cab. After a second or two, he turned away from Dr. Dunwood climbing into his cab and proceeded back to toward the stairs. He paused for just a moment and mounted the stairs up to the second storey. When he got to the top of the stairs he turned walked down the hall to the room where his wife had just given birth. He stopped in front of the door and knocked softly.
A second or two later the door opened and the maid came out with a bundle of soiled bedsheets, a washbasin and a pitcher. Nahum stepped aside to let her pass and then stepped inside. The midwife excused herself and went out. There was a ringing silence that seemed to last for several eternities. In actuality, it was only ten seconds. He seemed to be almost hyper aware everything in the room, from the slightly faded floral wallpaper to the brass bed to the bedside oil lamp. The bedsheets had been changed, Fanny's hair had been combed and the sweat from her labour had been washed away. She had been dressed in clean night clothes. She cradled her newborn son in her arms as he suckled at her breast. Nahum walked toward Fanny's bed. His footsteps seemed to echo extra loudly on the wood floorboards. Nahum pulled a chair over from a corner of the room and set it down next to the bed. He sat down and took gently Fanny's hand. "I love you," he said, "and I'm very proud of you."
Fanny gave Nahum's hand a loving squeeze. "I love you too," she replied. Her gaze returned from her husband to her son, who continued to suck greedily at her nipple. They were silent for a time, watching the baby feed.
"So what should we name him?"asked Nahum.
Fanny thought for a moment. "Let's call him Robert," she said.