Outside the small brown vavine numana (Papuan women’s house), just beyond the civilised world, it was a cold rainy evening.
Standing 20 metres high on the plateau of Rako, the vavine numana was set some way from the village of Babaka. Within, a young pregnant woman, Tarubo, laboured in the pangs of childbirth.
Tarubo was assisted in her labour by two elderly midwives, Laka and Pokana.
Tarubo felt intense pain as she gave birth to this, her first child. She remembered that her elder sisters and cousin sisters had gone through the same and now it was her turn.
She gasped and pushed her muscles tight, relaxing the pelvic floor as advised by the midwives. The instructions seemed easy but were not.
Laka and Pokana were experienced in traditional midwifery skills and had helped many mothers in the past.
They held their hands on Tarubo’s shoulder and comforted her. Tarubo continued in extreme pain as she felt the child coming forth.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Tarubo gave a huge cry.
In the twilight the sluicing rain produced a whooshing sound as it crashed through the leaves of the huge gautupu trees. But above the sounds of rain and birds and insects a loud cry was heard in the vavine numana, there was a cry.
“Heh heeh heh! Behold, a male child is born!”
The mother’s exhaustion was silent but the sound of the baby’s cry could be heard in the village.
The midwives wrapped the new born child in a cloth and gave him to his mother. Now it was an evening of happiness. Tarubo’s birth pain faded as she held her own son to her bosom.
In the light of the kerosene lantern she looked into his eyes and saw her own strength and status as a mother and woman.
Tears of joy formed in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks as she comforted the boy to ease his cry. The child rested comfortably with his mother.
The next day unfolded on the horizon, the sun casting its damp rays. The moisture from the last night’s rain still rested on the leaves, dropping to the ground and vanishing into the earth.
The rooster crowed - kokkarako ko – and there was movement in the vavine numana.
Tarubo awoke to eat a small meal already prepared by the midwives. Then her new born son opened his eyes as his first daylight penetrated small holes in the bamboo wall.
It was then realised that he was no ordinary child. He had blue eye irises and his face glowed as with a sparkling radiance.
Tarubo was astounded by the baby’s eye eyes. She called to Laka and Pokana.
“Both of you, come see my child. He has blue eyes and a glowing face!”
There was some anxiety in her voice.
“Come and see,” she said, holding out the child to the midwives.
The two elderly women walked closer and looked in surprise. In their vast experience they had never seen such a child. Then the child with blue eyes and a glowing face smiled at the three women. He was so beautiful.
Laka looked at the baby again. Her intuition told her this child was special. He must have an exceptional role in the village.
“Oh, our boy, you have blue eyes and a bright face,” Laka whispered into the boy’s ear. “You are a special one.”
“I think the baby is a very extraordinary child,” Pokana affirmed.
Tarubo looked at her son again. She lingered on the midwives’ words and tried to understand what the blue eyes meant. She tried to recall ancestral stories of what might make this child, her child, special.
“If the child had a message for Baraka village, what would it be?” Tarubo thought.
In her deepest mind, she felt she and her husband, Pala, had a huge responsibility to take care of this child.
They must enable him to grow safely to full maturity to he could fulfil his purpose to the village.
“The deities of the ancestors must have chosen us to protect this child,” Tarubo whispered.
“Shall we tell Pala?” Laka asked.
“Yes, sure, I know he will be so excited,” Tarubo smiled.
“Pokana, please stay with Tarubo and the child,” said Laka. “I’ll go to man’s house and tell Pala.”
Laka kissed the child and, still looking at him, asked Tarubo, “Any word for Pala?”
“Tell him we will stay on the plateau and ask for some yams.”
Laka walked out of the vavine numana to the edge of Rako plateau and looked down on Babaka village below.
It was early morning and the people were awakening and preparing for the day’s activity. Dogs barked in the melting mist.
Laka followed the path downhill towards Babaka and soon disappeared behind the gautupu trees. In the vavine numana, Tarubo and Pokana sang ancient songs to the child and watched him sleep peacefully.
Part 2 tomorrow