Touch of Nature
By Susan L. Leidy
Michaela and Sully found themselves surrounded by friends and well-wishers who seemed as excited about the news of their coming child as they were. The children, Colleen, Matthew, and Brian were understandably jubilant. It seemed as if word of Michaela’s pregnancy was spreading as quick as wildfire. Each expression of congratulations and good luck brought another feeling of awe to Sully and Michaela. This news was certainly what they wanted, what they had hoped for, and what each secretly feared would not come to pass. Michaela had been consumed by her fears that she would not be able to conceive a child. At her age, 37, most women have completed their families. She was just beginning hers. And Sully was understandably concerned about the risk to Michaela should there be problems with her pregnancy. They dealt privately with these fears until they came to realize that they needed to face them together.
As grateful as Michaela and Sully were for the good wishes of their friends, the one overwhelming feeling they both had was wanting to be alone together, to revel in the news, to express their gladness to one another. The town’s Thanksgiving Celebration at Palmer Creek wasn’t a very opportune time or place for that. Once the crowd had ebbed away, Michaela and Sully found themselves being pulled toward the tables set up for the Thanksgiving Feast. Brian had saved a place at the table for Sully and Michaela to join he and Colleen and Matthew. Grace had orchestrated a fantastic feast with contributions from all members of Colorado Springs and the people of the reservation. Michaela’s plate was heaped with servings of turkey, cornbread, green beans with wild onions, potatoes with gravy, and Michaela’s own contribution of pecan pie.
Michaela knew she should eat, needed to eat, but she was simply too excited. Sully’s hand found her knee under the table and he gave her a caressing pass on the top of her thigh. Michaela smiled and Sully leaned over to whisper in her ear. “I’ll try to find us a place to talk. Be right back.”
Michaela replied, “What about Cloud Dancing? Is he here? Has he been told?”
Sully looked around for his best friend. “I think he’s off gettin’ ready for his Thanksgivin’ offering. I’ll go find him.”
Michaela and Sully shared a quick kiss as he left. It took no time at all for his place at the table to be filled by another in a long line of well-wishers. Michaela continued to find herself the center of attention.
Sully found Cloud Dancing secluded outside the reservation as he was preparing for his tobacco offering of Thanks. Sully was familiar with this ritual, as he had been a member of the Cheyenne Community for a number of years before Michaela came to Colorado Springs. He waited until Cloud Dancing had finished his song of thanks to the Spirits before he made his presence known to Cloud Dancing. He stepped into the clearing as Cloud Dancing was gathering his things.
Cloud Dancing asked, “Is it time for the ceremony?”
“Just about”, Sully replied. Cloud Dancing looked at Sully inquisitively, as his voice seemed to convey some unspoken message. Sully smiled and said “Let’s get back. Michaela and me wanna talk to you ‘bout something.”
Cloud Dancing knew enough not to ask questions and instead walked back to the gathering in silence with Sully. When they reached the populated area of the reservation, Sully directed Cloud Dancing to his teepee. “I’ll go git Michaela and meetcha back here,” he said as he left Cloud Dancing. Cloud Dancing smiled and entered his teepee to wait for Sully and Michaela to return. He felt as if he already knew their news, but wanted to give them the joy of announcing it themselves. Cloud Dancing’s thoughts were already turning to his Prayer of Thanksgiving and he realized how much more meaningful it was quickly becoming.
Sully came up behind Michaela at the table. She was still the center of attention. Her plate was as full of food as it had been when Sully left. He leaned in to whisper something in her ear. He reached out a hand to help her to her feet as Michaela excused herself from the table. Sully led her with his arm about her waist toward Cloud Dancing’s teepee. He pulled back the flap on the teepee to assist her inside. Once they entered, they saw Cloud Dancing sitting Indian style on the ground, with a blanket spread in preparation for their arrival. Sully helped Michaela be seated on the floor and then situated himself beside her on the woven blanket.
Cloud Dancing looked at them expectedly and said, “Well?” in his inimitable way. Michaela looked to Sully. She wanted him to be the one to share their glorious news. She wanted to hear him say the words.
Sully took her hand in both of his and looked at Cloud Dancing and said, “Michaela just found out that she,...that we, are having a baby.” Tears filled his eyes and spilled over onto his cheeks. Cloud Dancing rose up on his knees and pulled Sully into a tight embrace. He and Sully shared this grasp of jubilation which conveyed more than words ever could. Here were two men who had experienced the worst that life had to offer---the unexpected loss of their families. And finally there was an opportunity to share the best that life had to offer--new life, renewed life. As Michaela watched them, she was filled even greater joy.
Their embrace expanded to include Michaela. The smile on each face conveyed what was going on inside each heart.
Cloud Dancing spoke first. “How right that you should find this out on a day dedicated to giving thanks.”
Michaela looked at Sully with surprise. “I hadn’t even realized,” she exclaimed as she pulled her hands to her chest.
Cloud Dancing continued. “We shall give thanks to the Spirits for this blessing.” He stood and began gathering the supplies for his offering. Sully helped Michaela to her feet. His rare smile radiated his emotions clearly.
Cloud Dancing said, “I’ll have Brian come for you when it’s time for the ceremony. Until then, I will occupy myself with sharing the feast.”
Sully and Michaela understood that message to mean that if asked, Cloud Dancing would remain ambiguous as to their whereabouts. Cloud Dancing paused to look intently at the faces of his friends. Their eyes met and conveyed a message of hope. Then he quietly slipped away.
Sully and Michaela finally found themselves alone, hidden away in Cloud Dancing’s teepee. Michaela turned her head to peer at Sully and was immediately struck by the look on his face. It reminded her of the moment they were first pronounced as husband and wife. It was a combination of awe, of love, of hope, and certainly of joy. Sully reached for Michaela and pulled her into his arms. He held her with great tenderness, yet she felt the current of excitement running through him. Michaela began to laugh--quietly at first, then it was as if her laughter was bubbling over. This caused Sully to pull away from her a bit so that he could see her face. There was a puzzled expression on his face.
Michaela said, “I must not be much of a doctor if I don’t even realize when I’m pregnant.”
Sully replied, “Seems to me to be a big difference between bein’ the doctor and bein’ the patient. Now tell me what that doctor told you.”
“Well,” Michaela began, “He thinks that I’m already about three months along. He was able to feel the uterus---that’s the sac that the baby grows in---and could tell by it’s size how far along I am. All that time we were worried about my being able to become pregnant--and I already was. I can hardly believe it myself.”
Michaela looked to Sully to see if she could interpret his feelings. She waited for Sully to speak. When he did, he said “I want you to promise me that you come first. You got a lot of demands on you and having a baby will only add more. You gotta need to take care of everyone before you take care of yourself. You ain't gonna be able to do that from now on.”
Michaela listened closely to his words. She knew what his fears were based on. She also knew of her dedication to her patients.
“Sully. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to give you the healthiest baby I can.”
Sully interrupted her. “You don’t understand. I want you and the baby both to be strong. You gotta take advantage of all the help around you. Promise me that.”
“I will. I promise you that I’ll eat, I’ll rest, and I’ll even ask for help when I need to. Nothing is more important to me than having your baby.”
And with that, Sully leaned in to kiss his wife, the mother of his coming child, the carrier of his greatest hope.
When the trio rejoined the residents of Colorado Springs and the residents of Palmer Creek, they found the ceremony had begun. They took their seats along the back row of benches quietly. Grace was at the front, singing a song of Thanksgiving. The town seldom had a chance to hear Grace sing. Most everyone knew her, but few knew she was gifted with such a beautiful voice. The song was new to most of them and few of the Indians understood English. But all there knew that Grace’s voice was a thing of beauty. After she finished, the Reverend rose to lead the people in prayer. His words were: “Lord, we come before You today in Thanksgiving. We have endured many heartaches and many sorrows, collectively and individually. But we have also experienced continued prosperity, continued health, continued hope. Today is a day of peace, a day of renewal, a day of thanksgiving. Each heart bears its own message. We lift these up to You in celebration of life. I ask a special blessing for Dr. Mike. Be with her as she continues her work and as she prepares to welcome a new child. May she receive as much as she gives. We ask you for continued peace, continued prosperity, and continued hope. Amen.”
At first, Michaela was somewhat embarrassed by the words of Rev. Johnson. She already felt as if she was often the focus of the town’s attention and quite often, gossip. But she realized that Rev. Johnson’s words were meant as an expression of love and Christian charity.
Sully’s hand found Michaela’s as Cloud Dancing began his tobacco offering. Sully followed Cloud Dancing’s actions and words closely as his ritualistic offering continued. It included songs and prayers of thanksgiving, just as Rev. Johnson’s and Grace’s contributions had. After it was over, Sully whispered Cloud Dancing’s words into Michaela’s ear. “He asked the Spirits to watch over the Spirit of our child until it is safely delivered to the arms of it’s parents.” Michaela looked at Sully, speechless. The news of the coming child was new for all of them, Michaela included. And already, prayers of Thanksgiving and safety had been offered for their child. Michaela’s free hand found its way to her flat stomach. The child was newly forming, but was already present in peoples’ minds and hearts and prayers. Michaela offered her own silent prayer of Thanks.
Matthew had generously and perceptively offered to take Colleen and Brian home with him for the night. Michaela and Sully were riding home alone in their wagon. It was Sully’s favorite time of day. The sun was beginning to set, casting shadows across the road in front of them. The air was crisp and clear, with just a slight chill of the coming winter. Sully found it invigorating. It was this time of day that he looked forward to most. When he would could expect to join his family around the dinner table, share his day with them and hear of theirs. When he and Michaela somehow found a way to share a kiss, an embrace or a look that conveyed their feelings without words. Just knowing that there was a place for him filled Sully with gratitude. And now, all those feelings had been intensified. All Sully could focus on were Michaela’s words. “Sully......I......we’re...we’re going to have a baby.” He looked at her profile and knew immediately she was thinking the same thing.
He asked her “How long do ya think it’s gonna before we stop smiling?”
She replied, “I don’t think I can. I’m happier than I ever thought possible.” She moved over on the wagon seat to sit as close to her husband as she could. She inserted her arm in the crook of his and leaned her head onto his shoulder. “Today will always be my most favorite Thanksgiving memory.”
Sully smiled in response to her words and said softly, “Mine too.”
Sully was busy tending to the animals, bedding them down for the night. Michaela had brewed chamomile tea for herself, with extra for Sully if he care for some. She was sitting at the table with her back to the front door, a number of her medical books opened up in front of her. She was reading about pregnancy---not from the perspective of Doctor, but that of expectant mother. What she already knew had taken on new meaning, for now she would experience what she had learned about so long ago.
Sully came in, hung his coat on the peg next to the door and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Whatca reading?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m just getting reacquainted with the symptoms of early pregnancy. I want to be ready for it all.”
“Michaela,” Sully said as he took a seat next to her at the table. He took the book from her hands, closed it, and took her hands in his. “I can tell you what you need. You need plenty of food, rest, and as few troubles as possible. I’m here to make sure you get all of ‘em. I promise.” He leaned down to kiss her hands. “Now, how about we git up to bed? Remember, you need your rest.” He kissed her hands again, in a way that suggested that rest wasn’t all that he had planned. He pulled Michaela to her feet and led her by the hand to the stairs. They ascended the stairs together, filled with the joy of the day and relishing the coming of tomorrow.
Sully watched Michaela as she went through her going to bed ritual---packing away her clothes of the day, preparing her clothes for tomorrow, brushing her hair. Her ritual usually included a late night visit with Colleen and Brian, but tonight she only had him to say her goodnights to. As Michaela rose from her dressing table, Sully pulled back the covers invitingly for her to join him in their bed. He tucked the covers in around her and drew her into the warmth of the circle of his arms.
”I almost don’t know what to say to you, ‘cept that each day I spend with you I love you more. You make me happier than I ever thought possible--even when I found out Abigail was having a baby. When I found out, all I thought about was that I’d make her proud of me, that I’d provide for them. All I can think about now is how much I love you and how much I’m gonna love our baby.”
Michaela’s eyes filled with tears. She smiled up at her husband. “You want to know what my thoughts have been?” Sully nodded. “I’ve been thinking that I have a part of you inside me, blending with a part of me, and that together, we are going to have the most special child in the world. I feel like the most important thing I’m ever going to do in my whole life has just begun.”
Sully waited to make sure Michaela had time to say everything she was feeling. After a time, he replied, “The Cheyenne believe that the Spirits gift the parents with a child once they learn enough to pass onto it. There’s no other person I want to be the mother of my child than you, no other person I want to guide my child than you.” He leaned down to kiss her gently, in such a way to reinforce his words and convey his deepest feelings.
”Oh, Sully,” Michaela replied when her breath returned after his kiss. “We have so much to give this baby--love, wisdom, a wonderful family. I am so glad, so thankful to be having your baby. I love you so much.” And with that, Michaela pulled Sully down to receive her kiss of gratitude, of love, and of longing.
Michaela woke in the wee hours of the night. The fire had died down, but was still providing warmth to their room. Michaela was wrapped in Sully’s arms.. His bare chest and bare arms were providing her with shelter, with warmth, with sustenance. His hands were splayed across her flat stomach, as if to convey his presence to their child. Michaela closed her eyes and again offered a prayer of Thanks for the blessings of her life. She was married to a man who was her friend, her protector, her soul mate, and the love of her life. She was mother to three loving and generous children. And now she was carrying a child who would undoubtedly bring her, bring all of them, the greatest joy of their lives. Michaela fell asleep again, safe and secure in the arms of her husband.