Ruth winced as Mary gripped her hand, pain was etched in the young mother’s tired face. The moments passed slowly and Ruth felt the her grasp relax as the contraction eased. She studied Mary’s face as she gently dabbed a cloth across her brow. Mary’s dark eyes spoke of her fear and anxiety, but also of her joy and anticipation in the birth of her child. Then another contraction washed over her and Ruth closed her eyes in prayer.
There was a rustling behind the woman and Ruth glanced over her shoulder to find Mary’s husband, Joseph, standing in the hay near the stable door, hands hanging limply at his side. His eyes begged for news of his wife’s delivery. As the contraction passed, Ruth patted Mary’s shoulder and helped her to lay back in the blankets to rest. She stood, dusting the dry straw from her dress, and turning to Joseph, she smiled encouragingly, “It will be soon. Your wife is strong and the birth is progressing well. Soon you will be a father.”
Joseph smiled and nodded. “Please, what can I do? Give me a task ... anything to keep my hands busy.” He peered around Ruth and caught a glimpse of Mary. His brow furrowed.
“You can fetch us fresh water,” she handed him a jar and gave him directions to the town well. Joseph nodded, gratitude flooded his face, but his peace was fleeting as another contraction seized Mary. At the sound of her pain, his eyes clouded. He turned and headed out into the night leaving Ruth to tend to his wife.
Kneeling beside Mary again, Ruth helped her to sit and when the contraction passed again, she offered the young mother a sip of water from a clay cup. “Thank you,” Mary whispered, licking her lips. Her eyes echoed her thankfulness. Ruth could only nod, her own words caught in her throat.