Abigail put a hand to her stomach and pushed her plate away.
“Are you all right, Abigail?”
“I think so. Just some indigestion.”
“Why don’t you go lie down for a bit,” her mother suggested. “I can manage the household if you need to lie down for an hour or two.”
“Are you sure? It was never my intention to put you to work during your visit.”
“Nonsense, I don’t want to be a burden. Nothing would make me happier than to look after my own daughter and feel like a mother again.”
Abigail smiled sadly, knowing her mother had been lonely since Abigail, her youngest and last to marry, had left a little over a year ago. “All right, but don’t be afraid to ask me if you have any questions or need help with anything.”
“I’ll be fine. Go rest.”
Abigail did as she was told, and although she hadn’t thought she was sleepy, it wasn’t long before she nodded off.
When she woke up, Abigail was famished. She had only eaten half her lunch and now her body was demanding the rest of its meal. She was trying to get out of bed when her maid entered, but as she sat up, she was overcome by a sense of dizziness and had to pause, propping herself up on one elbow. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
“Just dizzy. It’ll pass.”
“Your mother sent up this beef tea for you,” said the maid, holding up the tray with the steaming cup. “She said it might help your digestion.”
“Thank you, but I’m famished. Tell her to send me something up from the kitchens. I don’t care what. I’m so hungry I’ll eat anything.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The maid deposited the tray on the bed, curtsied, and left with her orders while Abigail arranged her pillows so they would prop her up while she sipped her beef tea and wondered what could be the matter with her.
Abigail had expected to see the maid bearing another tray full of food the next time her bedroom door opened, but it was her mother who carried in the tray. “Mother, why didn’t you send Harriet to take care of that?”
“I wanted to see for myself how you were doing. How are you feeling?”
“Tired. Dizzy. Hungry, but I think I’m still suffering from indigestion. How is it possible to be both ill and hungry at once?”
Her mother put the back of her hand against her forehead, which was cool and dry. “What does it feel like?”
“The indigestion? It feels like something’s trying to kick it’s way out of my stomach.”
Her mother’s eyes lit up. “May I feel it?”
Abigail nodded. She had already undressed when she came to lie down, so there was nothing but the thin cotton of her nightgown between her stomach and her mother’s hands. She felt another jab and her mother’s face filled with joy. “Oh, darling, you’re pregnant.”
Abigail was stunned. “I am?” she said after a moment.
“When was the last time you had your monthly?”
Abigail tried to think. “I – I’m not sure. It’s been a while.”
“When did your stomach start to swell?”
“A few months ago. No matter what I eat or how little, it just keeps growing.”
Her mother beamed. “Darling, you are with child.”
“Are you sure?” said Abigail.
“I’m sure it’s not indigestion. It’s your baby kicking. He’s a strong one.”
Her mother shrugged. “Let us hope so, at least. We need to get you ready for your confinement right away.”
“I’d say you only have a few months before the birth.”
“A few months?”
“Just lie back and eat your supper. I’ll take care of everything. Have you written your will?”
Her mother looked at her bulging stomach and back to her face, then smiled in a way that Abigail guessed was meant to be reassuring. “Just in case.”
Abigail felt dizzy again and had to lay back against the pillows, having suddenly lost her appetite.
“You’ll be fine. It’s just a precaution.”
Abigail nodded, but the dizziness didn’t subside for a while.
To be continued…