About three weeks later Anya awoke to a back ache. It got worse as the morning drew on till she suddenly wet herself. She was mortified, though she’d gotten used the increased demands pregnancy put on her bladder. As she corralled Sally and set about cleaning herself up, labor pains began in earnest. Anya knew little about birth except what she’d seen from her step-mother and from life on the farm, but she knew she’d better get help. Joe and Little Joe were working in a far-off field, so she started a fire and loaded it with pine straw so it would make an impressive smoke to signal him home. Home in minutes, he found Anya with her pains regular and about twenty minutes apart. Hitching up the wagon and loading the children, he kissed Anya and warned her. “Stay in the cabin near the bed. I’ll be back with Emma quick as I can. Git up an’ walk if you have to, but don’t leave the cabin.” The horse trotted across the prairie, bouncing the kids Joe had taken time to tie in the wagon bed. Over the next two hours, Anya’s pain increased in frequency and intensity. Just as she feared the baby would come into the world unattended, Joe showed up with Emma. Within minutes, Emma handed a baby girl off to Joe, waiting behind her with a warmed blanket. “This baby ain’t big as a minute, but she’s purty like her mama.”
Joe held the baby close as his eyes filled with tears. Moments later, Emma took the child and helped Anya put her to the breast. He looked from the tiny girl to the woman he loved. “Our first baby. I ain’t never felt so fine. Thank you, Anya.”
Anya wept, feeling her life had finally begun.