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Selina of Sussex 1818-1886
by Leonard Holder
Family life in Sussex, southern England, seen through the eyes of Selina, the wife of Eli Page, farmer and Baptist minister
22.9 x 15.2 x 2.1 cm
Published by Xlibris
One afternoon when I had managed to escape from the household chores, I arrived at Ann’s kitchen door with my youngest three, Samuel, Orpha, and Naomi, and found Ann near to tears. I sat down with my arm around her and let her sob for a while and eventually she was able to talk.
‘Selina,’ she stammered, ‘please forgive me for being so silly. I’ve been fighting tears all day and just seeing your friendly face at the door was more than I could bear.’
‘Is it something you can tell me about?’ I asked.
‘I’ve feared for some time that I was pregnant again, and today I’m sure,’ Ann answered. ‘I’m scared stiff.’
Having already by that time given birth to six children myself with varying degrees of anxiety, discomfort, and severe pain, I could well sympathise with Ann’s fear.
‘I hate being a woman!’ said Ann. ‘When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be married. I imagined it must be wonderful to have a man of my own who loved me. Don’t get me wrong, Selina, Henry and I get on fine most of the time. I love my children and would do almost anything for them, but when little Henry was born three years ago, I had such a bad time of it that I’ve done my level best not to become pregnant again. It’s taken any pleasure there might have been from being in bed with my husband, and now it’s all going to happen again!’
I did my best to comfort Ann, but we both knew the pain and danger of giving birth to children.
‘Ann,’ I said, ‘I can only tell you the way I’ve coped with pregnancies. I believe it’s the woman’s calling in life to produce children, to mother them and love them, and to bring them up to be the next generation. You’ll remember that the first woman God made was called Eve, which means the mother of all living. She was made to be a helper for the man and the mother of children. Men can’t produce children, and although it’s painful, only we can do it. I’ve tried to be proud of the privilege of being able to do this, and each time I feel a baby inside me, I think of the miracle of another little human being which will have its own personality and its own soul. I pray constantly for my children and start praying well before they are born. Somehow this helps me to look forward to their birth rather than to fear it.’
‘Oh, Selina,’ cried Ann, ‘that’s wonderful, but I’m not sure I could think like that. Last time was so awful I was sure I was going to die.’
‘Look, Ann,’ I answered, ‘I’ll do all I can to help you and if possible I’ll be with you during the birth. I’ll pray for you, but please try and talk to God yourself about your fears. It’s wonderful to know that he loves us and cares for us personally. When Naomi was being born, I consciously stretched out my hand and imagined I was holding God’s hand, and it gave me so much strength.’
I continued to visit Ann as often as possible, and after that afternoon, our friendship really took off. She used to say how wonderful it was to have a close woman friend with whom she could share womanly things. I don’t think she had really had a proper friend before. I encouraged her to come with us to chapel, but it’s so difficult for a wife and mother to get away on a Sunday when the husband isn’t supportive in this.
Ann’s fourth child was born safely, a delightful little girl who they named Ellender. I didn’t manage to be there at the birth, but I visited Ann the next day as soon as I heard the baby had come.
‘Selina,’ said Ann, ‘thanks so much for coming. It wasn’t as bad as with little Henry. I stretched out my hand to God as you said, and I really believe he was there. I felt new strength and courage and suddenly baby Ellender came, and she’s so lovely.’
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