When they looked back on it later, one or another would say, “The day started out so normally!” The midwives made their morning rounds, encountering nothing out of the ordinary. Mrs. Martin was coming along nicely, right on schedule for a delivery early next month. Little Emily Baker had gained nearly six ounces. Everything was on track for the 90 or so births the midwives attended each month in the East End. After a grey morning the sun had broken through the clouds. There was even cake with their mid-afternoon tea.
Sister Monica Joan was already seated at the table when Cynthia brought in tea and poured for everyone. Jenny sliced the cake and handed it around.
“Were you able to see Chummy while you were out, Cynthia?” Jenny asked.
“I was. Her little one is so sweet. Though really he’s not so little, I do believe he will be as tall as his mother.”
“I hope you told her she needs to bring him around more and share him amongst us all.” Trixie flashed her dimples.
Sister Monica Joan spoke as if she hadn’t heard a word anyone else had said, which may have been true or she might have been pretending not to hear. “Of course everything went smoothly today. Mercury has been out of retrograde for two days. There was a light in the sky early this morning. Do you think it was a planet exploding or an alien landing?”
Sister Evangelina snorted. “Exploding planets! Most likely something going on down the docks.”
“It was not in the direction of the docks, I do know where they are,” Sister Monica Joan sniffed.
When they were finished everyone carried the dishes into the kitchen. Cynthia was washing up when Fred ran in. “Nurse Miller, Nurse Franklin, you got to ‘elp me. I got a situation.”
“What is it Fred, what do you mean ‘a situation’.”
“Somefing just appeared in the garden – last night everyfing was the same, and this morning I went out to pick some veg to go wiv tea and there was this…fing! Like a big rock mebbe or…” Fred waved his hands, unable to find the exact words for whatever he had seen.
“Those scouts better not have been in the salad greens, or I will give them what for.” Sister Evangelina looked grim.
The group followed Fred out into the sunny garden. All stopped short and stared at the large brown rock that had most certainly not been there the night before. It looked as if it belonged there, yet there was no way it could have been brought in through the house. It was too big to fit through the doors and there were no scuff or other marks on the floors or ground to suggest that was how it had come to be in the garden.
“Should we call Sister Julienne?” Jenny ventured.
“She’s at the chapter meeting until tomorrow afternoon. We don’t need to bother her,” Sister Evangelina stated firmly, but then muttered “at least not just yet”.
“Is this one of those East End things that we wouldn’t have known of, like the work house howl? Do rocks just show up in gardens here?” Trixie asked, dubious.
Sister Evangelina admitted, “Not that I’ve ever seen.”
A crack opened in the rock-like thing, and a couple of the women jumped back. It widened until a man stepped out. He looked perfectly ordinary, and had they seen him on the street no one would have given him a second look. His clothes might have been a bit off – each article on its own was unremarkable but together they made a rather odd assemblage. Though compared to some of the characters in the East End he would not have stood out.
“Hello, we are looking for Nonnatus House. Our instruments indicated it is a place where babies are delivered.” The man’s accent also sounded perfectly normal.
“However did you get in the garden with that thing?” Sister Evangelina demanded. “And we don’t deliver babies here, we deliver them at homes or in hospital.”
“My apologies for the mistake. We are very far from home and the baby is coming sooner than expected. Excuse me.” The man disappeared back into the rock.
“Where has he gone, that thing looks barely big enough for him, let alone another person,” exclaimed Cynthia.
“If he even is a person,” Trixie said. “Mighty funny just showing up like this. And in a rock no less.”
The man reappeared with a very pregnant woman. “I am James Smith and this is my wife, Maria. Her labor started some hours ago, it took longer than we expected to get to the right place and time. Her contractions are less than four minutes apart.” What surprise the group felt at seeing another being emerge from the rock was soon overcome by training. They had all witnessed more than a few strange things in their time in the East End.
“We can’t get her to hospital in time. We shall have to put her in the guest room. And we don’t all need to be in with her. Who is next on the rota?” Sister Evangelina, with the most experience in neighborhood eccentricities, took the strange couple in stride.
“That would be me, Sister.” Trixie said smartly. If she could deliver a baby surrounded by (ugh) fish, she could assist in this…unusual…delivery. But she couldn’t help feeling anxious.
“Right then, Nurse Franklin and I will be at the delivery. Nurse Lee, please prepare the guest room, use one of the delivery packs. Nurse Miller can heat water. Fred, you can bring Mr. Smith back out to the garden once we have Mrs. Smith sorted.”
“I shall see if I have a new dolly.” Sister Monica Joan was very pleased with her idea and started back inside.
Jenny ran ahead to set up the bed with rubber sheeting while Cynthia dashed to the kitchen to get the water started and Mr. Smith helped his wife walk slowly across the courtyard, followed closely by Trixie and Sister Evangelina.
“We still don’t know how they got here,” Trixie muttered to the Sister. “Or where they are from.”
“Aye, and it’s not likely we’ll find out before this baby comes. Not sure I want to know anyway.”
When they arrived at the room, Jenny ran to help Cynthia bring in water as Trixie helped Mrs. Smith exchange her clothing for a simple white nightgown that Jenny must have brought in. Mr. Smith appeared to want to stay but his will was no match for Sister Evangelina’s ideas about fathers attending births. She banished him back to the garden to wait.
Trixie hesitated a moment after she had Mrs. Smith settled in bed, until she saw that Jenny had also brought in her kit. Once again training took over as she looked over her oft-used instruments. She hoped that the woman’s anatomy was as human as she seemed. What if the baby came out a different place?
“Right then, we’ll start with…” Trixie trailed off. She wasn’t sure if women who suddenly appeared in the back garden in a rock and who thus might not be human could or should be given enemas. She looked at Sister Evangelina, who opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again.
“Never mind the enema this time,” Sister Evangelina decided.
Trixie bent over the woman’s belly, listening. “I hear two heartbeats. Twins often come early, no wonder you were caught unaware.” Her smile belied the anxiety she was feeling.
Mrs. Smith smiled. “Our people have two hearts. I am certain there is only one baby though he seems in a hurry to get here.”
Trixie later swore she heard Sister Evangelina muttering something about one heart being good enough for most people. Fortunately the mother did not appear to have heard anything.
Trixie glanced under the sheet, and was relieved to find everything as she would expect. She began to feel as if this might go smoothly after all. “I can see the baby’s head. You’re getting very close.”
Mrs. Smith gritted her teeth and then cried out as another contraction came.
“Breathe, breathe, yes that’s it.” Trixie breathed with the mother, and then asked “do you have a name for baby yet?”
“We do not give a baby its name until it is 30 days of age. Before that the name is a secret, known only to the parents.” The mother grimaced as another contraction came.
“A few more pushes and he’ll be here, good girl.” Sister Evangelina nodded.
In the garden, Fred brought a mug of over-strong tea to the waiting father.
“Thank you. Tea can be most invigorating.”
“Say, ‘ow did you get that thing ‘ere anyway? Did you say you had to find the right place and time?”
“We did, it took a couple of tries since I was a bit frazzled. Landing in the right place is simple but at the right point in time, well, that is more difficult.”
“Do they have lots of them fings where you come from?”
“We have more than a few, yes.”
“Must be mighty convenient.” Fred was quiet for a moment. “Don’t suppose there are any available for sale.”
Mr. Smith laughed. “No one has asked me that, surprisingly. But no, there are not.”
“Shame. The business possibilities are massive.”
Sister Evangelina appeared at the door smiling. “All right now, come in and meet your son.”
Mr. Smith ran to follow her. Once inside the room he went immediately to his wife’s side and kissed her before admiring the baby.
“Isn’t he beautiful?”
“His two hearts are beating strong and he has good lungs, that one.” Trixie smiled and left the room to the new parents. She let out a great sigh of relief and went to join the crowd waiting in the sitting room.
As she expected, everyone wanted to hear more about the delivery and the new baby.
“It really wasn’t all that different from other births. Mrs. Smith did very well and the little boy is a dear.” Trixie related her version of events.
“Two hearts!” Sister Monica Joan was charmed. “And an Aries, he’s sure to live a passionate life.”
“Sister Evangelina, is he really the first baby born at Nonnatus House?” Cynthia asked.
“He is, to my knowledge.”
“Funny that the first baby born here isn’t even a human baby.” Jenny remarked.
“Yes. And I’m not sure what Sister Julienne will say when she returns tomorrow.” The sister sighed.
But Sister Julienne was as understanding and calm as always when she returned to find a couple and new baby in the guest room and a large rock in the garden. All agreed the story was best kept within the walls of Nonnatus House. Fred found keeping quiet slightly difficult but his loyalties to the House won out.
The baby received glowing checkups several times each day (though as Sister Evangelina said, if there was anything about alien anatomy that should have been different, they wouldn’t have known). After a week the Smiths announced they would leave that evening.
“Thank you all so much. Our people travel widely, though it’s unusual for babies to be born anywhere but on our home world. A baby born elsewhere has a special affinity for that place, and I’m sure our son will return here often.” Mrs. Smith hugged and kissed each of the nurses. Mr. Smith gave them each a small gift and shook their hands.
The couple took with them numerous hand-knit blankets, booties, caps, and a doll with yarn hair from Sister Monica Joan. They stepped into the rock and waved until it closed around them. The nurses waved back.
“We’re waving to a rock,” Jenny remarked.
“After delivering an alien baby and living with an alien family for a week, it’s perfectly normal,” Trixie assured her.
“It has been quite a week. And now, I do believe there is a cake in the larder.” Sister Julienne guided them all inside to a now quieter Nonnatus House.