The midwifes courage gle.., p.1

  The Midwife's Courage (Glenfallon), p.1

The Midwife's Courage (Glenfallon)

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The Midwife's Courage (Glenfallon)

  He pressed his forehead to hers, laced his fingers together in the small of her back so that his chest was a wall of warmth against her

  “It doesn’t make sense for you to protest, and push and put up barriers, when I can feel how much we both want this. When I can feel that there’s a spark, a magic, that I haven’t felt in a long time, that I haven’t ever felt quite the same as this,” he said.

  “If you’re looking for an affair…” She looked searchingly into his face.

  “I’m not looking for an affair. Not just an affair, certainly. It’s a starting point. We can take it very slowly, if you like. And we’re free to stop it, either of us, if it isn’t working out.”

  “I’m stopping it now, in that case.”

  “No, you’re not. Not until you tell me why.”

  She sighed. “This feels so…back to front.” She looked at him and saw how intently he was watching her. “I have to tell you something. Far too soon. I know it’s too soon. But I have to tell you. I’ll just say it.”

  “Go ahead.”

  “I probably—more than probably—can’t have children, Gian.”

  Dear Reader,

  Although the town of Glenfallon, introduced in this book, is fictional, I’ve tried to give it a real Australian flavor—a mix of sheep farming country, rugged national parks and the irrigated citrus groves and vineyards that spread out, lush and green, beside our lazy brown rivers.

  There are four books in my Glenfallon miniseries, following the lives of four women friends who each find love in different ways. You’ll meet Emma, Caroline and Nell in this book, but you’ll have to wait to hear their stories.

  Like many of my heroines, Kit has been through a rough time when The Midwife’s Courage opens, and really deserves a man who will love her with his whole heart. The problem is, she’s not going to let Dr. Gian Di Luzio do it. Sit back and discover just how persuasive he can be!

  Lilian Darcy

  The Midwife’s Courage

  Lilian Darcy













  WITHIN a few days, the farm felt like home to Katherine McConnell.

  Her decision to come and live here with Aunt Helen was a problem solver for both of them. At sixty, Helen had been finding the farm difficult to manage since Uncle Brian’s death last year.

  ‘Mentally more than physically,’ she’d said, on the day Kit had arrived, with tears welling in her kind blue eyes. Kit knew they’d had a good marriage, as did her own parents, now running a retail business in Queensland. Aunt Helen was her father’s sister. ‘It will be wonderful to have you here, Kit!’

  Talking about it, they’d touched far less on Kit’s own reasons for making the move, although Aunt Helen knew the basic facts about her drawn-out break-up with James. That they’d been having problems for a while. That James had found someone else.

  Aunt Helen didn’t know the underlying source of those problems, however.

  Kit had reached breaking point the day she found out that James’s new partner, Tammy, was planning to have her pre-natal care and her delivery in Kit’s own maternity department at Canberra’s Black Mountain Hospital. Kit had picked up the manila file folder containing Tammy’s notes and barged into the next office, her competence and control hanging by a fragile thread.

  ‘I can’t see this next patient, Rosemary!’ she’d said to the other midwife taking appointments at that morning’s clinic. ‘I just can’t!’

  She’d resigned the following week, desperately in need of a change.

  Now, three difficult months later, she was here.

  Closing the gate behind her car, so that the sheep wouldn’t stray into the yard from their nearby paddock, Kit paused for a few moments, purely to appreciate her new surroundings.

  It was early afternoon, and a colony of sulphur-crested cockatoos was squabbling up in the big eucalyptus trees by the creek. The hens were strutting about their run, poking their beaks at kitchen scraps and grain. Kit had collected seven eggs first thing this morning, and had eaten two of them for breakfast, relishing the fresh taste of the thick, golden yolks.

  A line of old pepper trees ran along the fence, shading it with their frond-like leaves. Kit picked a handful of the dusky pink, paper-skinned corns, breathed in their spicy fragrance then let them trickle through her fingers to the ground. One of the farm cats, a black and white neutered tom named Sid, padded up to her on his silent, fastidious paws and sniffed her legs.

  In the distance, there were rolling yellow wheatfields and sheep paddocks, and just out of view on the flatter and more fertile land closer to the river, the brighter greens of vineyards and citrus groves. The rocky hills were hazed with blue, and there came the faint sound of a tractor. Just the smell of the air was a balm to her spirits. A breeze lifted some strands of hair from her neck, and the sun shone on her back.

  She’d spent the morning grocery shopping and running errands in town, before grabbing a quick lunch at the Glenfallon Bakery Café, in Glenfallon’s main street. She would be starting her first shift at the hospital in an hour, which meant that there was time for a cup of tea at home before she changed into her uniform and left for work.

  An unfamiliar car was already parked on the grass in the shade of the pepper trees. Aunt Helen had company, Kit realised. Gathering several bags of groceries in her arms, she went into the kitchen. The squeak and bang of the screen door announced her arrival, but Helen and her visitor must have heard the car a minute or two earlier as well.

  They were through in the sitting room, basking in a shaft of warm autumn sun that fell across the twin armchairs. Putting down the groceries and starting to unpack, Kit caught a glimpse of an older woman, who was moving her hands expressively in the air as she spoke.

  ‘I can’t understand a woman not wanting children but, there, that’s my prejudice, I know. The point is, Gian wanted them, and that’s an incompatibility you can’t get around, can you? Gian was willing to live in Sydney, but that wasn’t much use when they couldn’t agree on the question of a family. It’s already more than a year since their divorce was finalised.’

  ‘Life was simpler, in some ways, when we were young, wasn’t it?’ Aunt Helen agreed. ‘We had fewer choices!’ Then she raised her voice. ‘Kit?’

  ‘Just unpacking the shopping,’ Kit called back.

  ‘Don’t. Come and have a cuppa with us instead.’

  Further persuasion was not required. Kit grabbed a nice big mug from the draining basket and went through.

  ‘Freddie, this is my niece Katherine, whom we always call Kit,’ Aunt Helen said. ‘Kit, this is Federica Di Luzio, our neighbour a couple of kilometres down the road.’

  ‘Oh, the vineyard?’

  ‘Yes, only I can’t take any credit for those rows of green vines marching across the landscape.’ The older woman smiled. ‘All our land is leased out to the Glen Aran winery, across the road, now. It’s so nice for Helen that you’ve come, Kit.’

  ‘Not a bad deal for me either,’ she said laughing, as Aunt Helen filled her mug with dark, strong tea. ‘I’ve always loved this farm.’

  ‘You’ll meet Gian, my son, too,’ Federica went on. ‘Helen has told me you’re starting at the hospital today. He’s Dr Di Luzio, and he looks very much like me.’

  Really? It seemed unlikely, to Kit.

  Federica Di Luzio was round and warm and maternal-looking, and only about fi
ve feet three. Her hair was tinted an attractive light brown, growing out just perceptibly at the roots to show the grey, and her olive skin, although lined, was fine-pored and smooth. She had dark brown eyes and wore no make-up, but even thus unadorned it was impossible to imagine a masculine version of her face.

  ‘I must go,’ she said now. ‘Bonnie has been at a little friend’s house for lunch, and she’ll need an afternoon sleep soon.’ Her eyes warmed, and she smiled again.

  ‘You’re brave to have taken it on, Freddie,’ Aunt Helen told her, but Mrs Di Luzio only laughed.

  ‘It keeps me out of trouble, and it gives me someone to hug. Gian won’t let me do that to him too often! Anyway, was there a choice? She’s flesh and blood, and I love her to pieces.’

  ‘I still think you should be proud of yourself.’

  The two women went out to the yard, still talking, and Kit took her half-drunk tea into the kitchen and went on unpacking the groceries. A few minutes later, Helen came back inside.

  ‘Isn’t she lovely, Kit? We hadn’t caught up for ages, what with one thing and another, but we’ve resolved to do better from now on. I hadn’t realised until—until Brian died how much I’d need my female friends.’

  ‘From the little I saw of her, she seems terrific,’ Kit agreed gently. Aunt Helen had turned away, to stare blindly down into the kitchen sink. ‘Great to have compatible neighbours.’

  Kit’s aunt lifted her head again, and some brightness crept back into her tone. ‘She has her little granddaughter to care for—permanently, it looks like. Bonnie’s a handful. It must be hard at Freddie’s age, even though she shrugs off that idea. She’s two years older than I am.’ Aunt Helen was sixty. ‘She takes it in her stride wonderfully.’

  ‘What happened to the parents?’

  ‘Her other son is in Hong Kong. Never met his little girl until she was several months old. The mother was a difficult character, as I understand it, and the relationship didn’t last long. She died of an overdose, and there was no one to take the baby, apart from Marco. But he was, well, ambivalent, apparently. Gob-smacked. Not ready to be a parent. And Freddie didn’t want him to have to downgrade his career, or for the baby to be brought up by a nanny in a Hong Kong high-rise. I admire her tremendously. I’m not sure I could have done it.’

  ‘You would, if the situation arose,’ Kit told her. Kit’s two cousins were both happily married. Sandra lived on another farm about half an hour’s drive away, which allowed her husband Mike to help Helen with the heavy work around this place, while Chris worked for the government in Canberra.

  ‘I wouldn’t look as fresh and cheerful as Federica does,’ Helen answered. ‘Stop doing that,’ she added. Kit was still putting groceries away. ‘Let me finish.’

  ‘I will, because it’s time to change,’ Kit said, hiding a faint sense of trepidation.

  It was a long time since she’d experienced that First Day feeling.

  Gian Di Luzio arrived at the hospital with his mind on the surgery he was about to perform. It was a Caesarean delivery of twins, with the larger of the babies in a frank breech position. The baby had been that way when Gian had last checked, and the midwife in the maternity unit had confirmed the same position fifteen minutes ago, when she examined the patient.

  Mrs Frampton had been scheduled for a Caesarean the following week if the breech baby’s position hadn’t changed, but Gian wasn’t surprised that she’d jumped the gun. Twins very often came early. This time, Mrs Frampton’s waters had broken in the middle of the supermarket, and labour had started almost at once. Gian wanted to get these babies out before the pressure of the contractions pushed that little rear end too tightly down into the birth canal.

  He jerked to a halt in one of the reserved spaces next to the entrance to the maternity wing just as another car scraped its tyres against the kerb. Two women got out at the same time as he did, and they immediately began to help a third, who was heavily pregnant and obviously in labour.

  ‘I can’t!’ he heard.

  ‘You can! You’re almost there, then we’ll have help on hand. Not that we’ll need it, because you’re doing so great, Laurel.’

  ‘It’s been more than two days…’

  ‘It hasn’t. Not really. It only feels that way. You started slowly, that’s all.’

  Moving faster than the trio of women, Gian ducked ahead of them. They weren’t his business. Or at any rate, not yet. The automatic doors slid open and he went inside.

  Sister Emma Burns pounced on him the moment he entered the unit, one level up. ‘Things are hotting up fast. How’s your breech technique, Dr Di Luzio?’

  ‘Rusty, but we’re not going to test it. Is Clive here?’

  ‘Just about.’ Emma nodded over Gian’s shoulder and he turned to find the anaesthetist right behind him, a little breathless.

  ‘Good!’ Gian said. ‘Meanwhile, you’ve got another customer, Sister Burns, and she’ll need some attention. She’s got friends bringing her up from the car, and she’s exhausted. Get an accurate handle on how long she’s actually been in labour, and…not to tell you your job—’

  ‘Tell me my job, Dr Di Luzio, I can take it.’

  ‘Check the baby’s condition.’

  ‘We generally do,’ she drawled.

  ‘Hmm,’ was all Gian said.

  He had conservative instincts on these matters, and he knew it. He could have blamed his even more conservative training in Sydney, but that wouldn’t quite have been fair. The conservatism came from within himself, and his sense of where certain priorities should fall. He rubbed the nursing staff up the wrong way sometimes, but usually managed to deflect any real conflict through humour and a willingness to compromise.

  Heading with long strides towards the almost-new obstetric operating theatre he’d christened with its first procedure just a few weeks ago, Gian caught a glimpse of the midwife who was replacing Jean Darby.

  Bless Jean! he thought. May she enjoy a very satisfactory retirement!

  This new one was young and blonde-streaked and slim. She had her hair cut short and feathery, and she had beautiful ivory skin in contrast to her brown eyes. If he’d heard her name at any point, he didn’t remember it.

  He didn’t have time to see any more of her than this one brief glimpse, but heard Emma Burns behind him saying to her, ‘Ready for your first? Dr Di Luzio suggests that we…’

  The sound of running water hitting the bottom of the big stainless-steel sink, as he began to scrub, drowned out the rest of her words.

  Clive worked quickly, and Mrs Frampton was soon well under anaesthesia. Within a minute or two, Gian had incised his way through the outer layers of skin and muscle, and breached the wall of the uterus. He removed the baby girl first, slippery and wet. She was the smaller of the two. Would weigh just a little over two kilograms, at his best guess, and might need some extra attention during her first few days of life.

  Midwife Jane Cameron suctioned her mouth and nose quickly, and cut and clamped the cord. The baby gave her first satisfying cry, and healthy pink began to radiate outwards from torso to bluish extremities.

  The boy was next, and required some deft yet firm manoeuvring to slide him free of the pelvis. He looked as if he would weigh close to a kilogram more than the baby girl, and Gian teased him softly, ‘Been starving your sister, little man?’

  He cried at once, his open mouth huge in his little screwed-up face, and his wet black hair like a silky wig, incongruous on such a tiny head. Over the next few weeks, Mrs Frampton would get tired of the repeated comment, ‘Hasn’t he got a lot of hair!’

  With less haste and more deliberation, Gian delivered the two placentas and made sure they were complete. As he would have expected, given their differing birth weights, the placenta which had nourished the boy was the heavier of the two. Next, he began to close the incision.

  Around him, the familiar routine of surgery continued to unfold. The babies were wheeled to the side of the room in their special cribs. Their five-
minute Apgar scores were eight and nine respectively, giving a good prognosis for their future. The nurses counted through their equipment and confirmed that nothing was missing. Clive Alderson gave a running commentary on where he and the patient were up to.

  Gian pulled off his gloves within forty minutes of parking the car. He was satisfied with the result and looked forward to seeing the mother with her new twins later on, when he visited their room.

  Passing the nurses’ station, he asked Emma, ‘How’s your latest baby?’

  ‘Never mind that for the moment. How are yours? I know Mrs Frampton was worried about one of them being breech.’

  ‘I asked first, Sister Burns.’

  Emma sighed. And smiled. She was a nice woman, around thirty-three or thirty-four, with a mass of dark hair, severe eyebrows and brown eyes. She was prettier than she looked. That didn’t exactly make sense, but it was true, all the same. And she was much put upon, Gian understood, by a difficult stepmother. She’d inherited the woman, so to speak, when her father died, and apparently no one else wanted her.

  ‘The baby is fine,’ she said. ‘Kit McConnell, our new recruit, listened to the heartbeat and it was good and strong.’

  ‘Between contractions, or during? Did she do an internal?’ Emma opened her mouth to reply, but he cut her off. ‘I know the policy on internal examinations. Only if the mother wants one. Quite often, they do.’

  ‘She didn’t.’

  ‘She didn’t, or her friends? And how long since true labour began?’

  It sounded as if he was attacking Sister Burns, he realised. She was handling it calmly, but he backed off all the same, and said in a neutral tone, ‘Never mind. I’ll take a look. My problem, OK? Just something I overheard down by the car, and I want to check it out. People aren’t always accurate. Or honest.’

  The explanation didn’t make much sense, but he left her to deal with it anyway. Remembered to throw back over his shoulder, ‘The twins are going to be fine, by the way. Girl is a little small. Might be in Special Care for a day or two. The boy’s a bruiser.’

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