Josephine’s birth was of little significance to anyone save the three people in the room: her parents, who cried and grinned at her squalling, and the midwife who quietly cleaned up the afterbirth.
As the sun shone brightly through the mullioned windows, illuminating the tiny bedroom and spotlighting the newly-formed family cuddled on the bed, Valentina carefully shrouded the placenta in gauzy cloth before placing it inside an iron bowl, murmuring softly as she worked. She then gathered all the soiled linen together, sat the bowl on top of the pile and excused herself, stopping in the laundry room before making her way outside.
Valentina walked the perimeter of the two-bedroom ranch, her low-pitched chanting never ceasing until she came to a stop beside the window to the nursery. She gently placed the placenta on the ground, paced three steps away from the house, and then quickly dug a hole a foot deep, using the iron bowl with the ease of long practice. Once satisfied with the depth, she reached into her pocket and sprinkled the newly-turned earth with what looked like dried herbs and an exceptionally large seed. She lowered the afterbirth, still wrapped in now bloody linen, into the hollow, and covered it with soil.
She washed the bowl in the kitchen and made her way back to the bedroom where the Smiths still cooed over their newborn daughter.
“She’s so beautiful,” Josephine’s mother murmured softly, cradling the neonate to her breast while simultaneously pressing a cheek against the hand her husband curled around her shoulder.
“Yes, she is,” he agreed, stroking his daughter’s cheek.
“What will you name her?” Valentina asked, smiling at the nativity before her.
“Josephine,” Mrs. Smith said without hesitation, sending a beatific smile to the midwife.
“A good name,” she replied. “I’ve placed the birthing cloths in the sink to soak, Mrs. Smith. The baby looks to be latching well, so I’ll take myself off until tomorrow.”
After hugging the mother and acknowledging her thanks, Valentina walked to the front door accompanied by Mr. Smith who pressed a bundle in her hand. After a token declination, she relented with a smile and exited the home, walking slowly down the path, out the garden gate and onto the sidewalk, glancing surreptitiously at the mound by the side of the house as she went.