Siu Ching was in the last week of her pregnancy and Chor Lau Heung unexpectedly had to help delivering the baby because Dr Cheong and the girls were detained in an infected town. Featuring Wu Tit Fa who was too scared to help due to excessive blood. Special thanks to the ladies at the MB Paradise, Network 54 and SPCNet.tv who have been reading my fan-fictions so far. Chor Lau Heung 1984 is the property of Gu Long and TVB HK. This fanfiction is dedicated to Michael Miu Kiu Wai and Barbara Yung Mei Ling. I own nothing but my love to them and this series (click here to read all CLH'84 episodes). Click this to read this fan-fiction at my new Jianghu blog.
|Song Siu Ching & Chor Lau Heung (from ep 38)|
Chor Lau Heung looked back at the gate several times before returning to the dining room where his wife was sitting. His very pregnant wife, to be exact, only a week into her due date.
"Stop worrying Chor tai-gor, they'll be fine," said Song Siu Ching, opening a cup of tea and filling it. She looked peachy in her favourite soft pink maternity dress. "Here, have some tea."
"I know," smiled her Brother Chor as he took the tea. "It's just the trip shouldn't take that long for them to return. They said they'd be back yesterday, and now the sun will set in a few hours and they haven't returned."
"Do you think the illness in town is so bad? It might prevent them to come?" as Siu Ching sipped her own tea, her other hand massaging her very large abdomen. She winced a bit when she felt a kick, then she smiled. Chor Lau Heung registered the wince quicker than the smile tho, so he quickly leaned towards her and asked if she was okay. Siu Ching smiled again, looking alternately between her belly and her husband.
"It just kicked me."
The Lingering Fragrance was all sun and stars when he asked if he could feel it. Siu Ching nodded and traced her bulging stomach for some signs. Then she led Chor tai-gor's hand to a spot and let it rest there. A moment later, Chor tai-gor's face lit as the baby kicked again.
"It says hi..." He whispered. He then leaned his head towards his wife's belly and turned slightly so that his ear could hear whatever was happening inside the uterus. "Hello, Baby," he softly said and smiled. "I actually can't wait for the baby to arrive," he said softly.
"Well I hope he or she will wait for Dr Cheong's arrival," Siu Ching said matter-of-factly. "Rosie and Dr Cheong had told me what will happen in a delivery, but I can't do it without them."
Chor Lau Heung agreed. The couple had resided at Dr Cheong Kan Chai's clinic since the 5th month of Siu Ching's pregnancy. Siu Ching always had a healthy constitution, but her petite figure made the first trimester difficult for her. Her health dropped at least twice, making Chor tai-gor supremely worried. As their in-house medical expert, Li Hung Chao (a.k.a. Rosie) finally suggested that they visited Dr Cheong for safety, hence after the 4th month was over and Siu Ching regained some health, Chor Lau Heung, Siu Ching, So Yung Yung (a.k.a. Sue), Rosie, Sung Tim Yi (a.k.a. Sugar) and Wah Jan Jan left for Dr Cheong's clinic. Siu Ching had stayed there ever since, despite Emperor Father's request that the couple just reside in the Palace until the baby was born. Chor wouldn’t take chances with his wife and their first born, and he’d trust no one but Dr Cheong as the best physician in the country. The Lingering Fragrance stayed at the clinic with Siu Ching until the 6th month when a case with the Shaolins demanded his attention. Luckily, the case, involving the stolen Shaolin secret Kung fu manuscript, was quickly solved. He returned to his wife at the end of the 7th month. His wife's serene face and her large belly made him determined not to leave her again until the baby was born. Not even if the Bat Prince was resurrected or something like that. Actually, he would stay to guard his wife if it comes to that!
While Chor tai-gor was away, the girls took a roster to accompany Siu Ching. They’d also take a break every now and then by visiting nearby places for 1-2 weeks. Siu Ching didn't mind, for unlike her days in the Palace, Siu Ching now had become an independent woman who didn't like being waited around anymore. She also realised how boring it must be to just wait for the day when the baby finally saw the light of day, so she didn't mind the girls roaming about. One male servant, one female servant and one female cook boarded at Dr Cheong's clinic, hence she always had some company. Dr Cheong would be called for duty elsewhere every now and then, but then one of the girls would do the roster to stay with Siu Ching.
Then a fortnight ago, as Chor tai-gor comfortably stationed himself in the clinic, the four girls decided to visit the nearest town for a change of scenery. The town is famous for its beautiful river bends, and it was at one of those bends they actually parked the Fragrant Boat. No one usually dared to disturb the boat, but Sue liked to check the boat every now and then. Then unexpectedly, a letter was sent to the clinic to the clinic, requesting Dr Cheong's presence in town. The letter, signed by Rosie, just explained that an epidemic broke in town just as they were planning to return to the clinic. They decided to stay behind to help the local doctor. Rosie found out that the victims shown some mixed symptoms such as high fever and muscle pain, but additional breathing difficulties also occurred. She prescribed woad root, woad leaf, and forsythia fruit for the patients. However, when two elder patients with the history of pneumonia died just an hour into her care, she realised she'd need Dr Cheong's assistance at once. Immediately, Dr Cheong left for the town with the female maid, leaving Chor taking care of Siu Ching with the help of A Fuk, the male servant and Mrs Hung, the cook.
"The letter they sent three days ago said they might have contained the epidemic, and they could be going home soon," said Lau Heung again. Rosie had also explained that Chor tai-gor shouldn't worry too much about Siu Ching's due date for it was predicted in ten days from the date of the letter. Rosie did instruct that the letter be burned to contain any disease transmission, and Lingering Fragrance had to wash his hands properly afterwards.
"It's a bit worrisome that they instructed us to burn the letter tho," commented Siu Ching. "The epidemic must be very bad."
“Most likely,” Chor Lau Heung agreed. He was about to add something when Mrs Hung entered the dining room, inquiring to Mrs Chor whether she should have the dinner prepared now. Siu Ching nodded and added in excitement that they should have the wild fowls Chor tai-gor caught for her this morning. Mrs Hung smiled and guaranteed a nice dinner for them before retrieving back to the kitchen. The middle age lady liked the Chor couple. She’d first met them a few years back when one night a handsome but semi-conscious warrior was brought into the clinic by four gorgeous ladies, accompanied by another injured gentleman. After the warrior got better, Mrs Hung recognised some affinities between this man and one of the ladies, whom she later knew as Miss Song, or Princess Wing Ching, who later married the injured warrior Mr Chor. Mrs Hung considered the Chor couple fine people and admired Mr Chor's dedication to his wife.
Siu Ching rose slowly to follow Mrs Hung to the kitchen to drop additional meal requests. Tho in her early pregnancy she almost couldn't separate herself from roast fowls, she was in the mood for vegetables and tofu these days. When she returned a few minutes later, she found Chor tai-gor sitting inside Dr Cheong's study, reading one of the medical manuscripts available there as he sniffed his snuff bottle every now and then.
"What are you reading?" She inquired her husband.
"Ah, Siu Ching," Brother Chor looked up and smiled before returning his attention to the book. "I just want to know whether the book mentioned anything about epidemics or plague in this region."
"You found anything?"
"Only that this region has been free of plague so far. But I'm still a bit worried." He tucked the snuff bottle inside his belt and massaged the bridge of his nose. Then, his fingers tracing a section of the manuscript, he said, "You see, I -" but then stopped upon detecting someone coming. Excited, Chor dropped the book and went outside, followed slowly by Siu Ching, who found it difficult to move fast now even if she wanted to. Yet, the Lingering Fragrance didn't see the girls and Dr Cheong there. He saw Wu Tit Fa instead.
"Wu Tit Fa? You arrived early!" Chor was happy to see his long friend Wu, tho he wasn't expecting him. Wu Tit Fa had promised to visit his friend in two weeks, purposely avoiding the delivery date for his convenience.
The drunkard Wu Tit Fa snorted. Without even going through the ‘hi how are you mate’ part, he rattled, "Yeah, thanks to Sugar, I spent weeks in the western region trying to find the famous Dancing Lady Wine. Took me a while to realise it was another rotten idea of hers! Hence I returned here earlier cos I want to teach her a lesson."
"You still fell into her traps?!" Chor Lau Heung couldn't help but laughing. Yet, looking at Wu's annoyed face, he then swallowed his laughter. "You need to wait tho, cos she's not back yet."
"I know that," Wu's face turned serious all of the sudden. "In fact, I came here because the girls told me to come here as soon as possible."
At that point, Siu Ching emerged at the door step. She greeted the drunkard before asking, "You met the girls?" and guided him inside. "In town?"
"Sort of," said Tit Fa as he sat down. He then explained what happened. He was passing the wilderness outside the town en route the clinic when he found out people circling the town, barricaded by a small group of soldiers. The troops didn't look scary tho, they were part of the local municipality government and were sent from the municipal capital to contain an infection. When Wu Tit Fa asked what the infection was about, one of the soldiers informed him that a fever-like disease has infected many town residents such that the town was now under quarantine. At first it didn't really concern Tit Fa, but when he was about to turn and find another route to Dr Cheong's clinic, a familiar voice called him from behind the barricade.
"Turned out, it was Jan Jan who called me!" said Tit Fa to the attentive Chor couple. "She was able to reach the outer perimeter because she was one of the medical team that often feeds news to the barricade team. When she saw me, she told me that Dr Cheong and the girls have been assisting the town residents. They couldn’t return to the clinic today tho, although they tot they could, cos the epidemic wasn’t really contained yet. Dr Cheong is also concerned that if they return too early, it will be bad for the baby,” Wu cast a glance at Siu Ching’s large abdomen. “Cos the baby could get infected, you know.”
“That’s actually odd that Jan Jan could tell you so much from behind the barricade,” Chor Lau Heung commented. “She wouldn’t be able to leave the perimeter, right?”
“Actually, she had to write me a letter and have a soldier shooting the letter a tree in the wilderness, so that I could read it. That, apparently, had been the mode of communication between people of inner barricade and outside barricade. She said I had to burn the letter and the arrow afterwards.”
"So it is serious then," Chor muttered with a grave tone. "Just what worried me so far..." Highly perceptive of her husband, Siu Ching asked if that was what had been worrying him. He nodded. "I feared the epidemic wouldn't be so easily contained, hence Dr Cheong and the girls had to remain quarantined while they treat the people. Serious epidemics had happened in foreign lands behind the Silk Road before. Dr Cheong was wise not to return too soon." He then added an afterthought, "Oh yeah, how are our friends doing?"
"Jan Jan said that they were still healthy so far. Dr Cheong brought some pills that deflected the disease off them, but he didn't have much stock. They're now waiting for some medicine supplies from the capital for the towns people."
"In that case, I will write to Emperor Father and Brother to speed up the medicine dispatch then," suggested Siu Ching. She wasted no time in reaching a piece of paper to compose the letter. Meanwhile, Wu Tit Fa narrated some more stories he had heard from the villagers and towns people who were banned into entering the town.
“They said that almost fifty people had died, mostly elderlies and children! More are quarantined because they showed worse symptoms since last week. The relatives of the towns people are worried about the fate of their kins, but Jan Jan delivered health status of those in charge every other day or so.” Tit Fa stopped to lug wine from his bottle. “It’s pretty dangerous, I tell ya. Jan Jan had to wear a mask to talk to the guards. The guards also told me that she or other messengers had to change their clothes as they entered the town.”
Chor Lau Heung looked at him with alarmed expression. “You’re right. It’s dangerous. You could have been exposed, standing so close to the perimeter.” He dragged his old friend up his chair. “I need you to take a hot bath now to contain possible germs. Your clothes need to be washed too! And that chair needs to be sterilised!”
Wu Tit Fa raised a major protest; bathing was something he hated more than women, if that was even possible. Lingering Fragrance, however, was more persistent. “Hey, it’s the health of my wife's and baby's we’re talking about. Take a shower now!” Chor practically dragged Wu into the bath chamber as he asked A Fuk to prepare hot water for Wu. Chor then realised he’d been touching Wu’s clothes, hence he considered that he also had to take a hot bath. Siu Ching laughed as she witnessed how obsessive Her Chor tai-gor could be with her health. She finished her letter, put it in an envelope and entered the kitchen to supervised A Fuk boiling some water. She planned to have A Fuk delivering the letter to the nearest post afterwards.
That was when Mrs Hung asked whether the news about the seriousness of the epidemic was true. Replacing her laughter with a degree of solemness, Siu Ching explained about the current state of affairs. Mrs Hung’s face became pale.
“Madame Chor...” the cook struggled to speak, “my old and ailing mother is in town with my husband and son. I originally thought they’d be okay, since Dr Cheong was going there anyway. But I didn’t know there were dead tolls. Madame, do you think my family is okay?”
Perplexed, Siu Ching shook her head to admit she knew nothing of it. Alarmed, she saw Mrs Hung sobbing helplessly. “Mr Wu said that some elderlies had died... How do I know it wasn’t my mother?” Siu Ching said that Jan Jan would have told Wu if that had happened, but Mrs Hung was not easily calmed. She tried to return to her cooking duty, but when several times she dropped spoons, bowls and even knives, Siu Ching realised that the cook just couldn’t do her job at the moment. Siu Ching was going to ask Mrs Hung to take a break for the day when the cook tentatively asked whether she could go to town right away to find more news. When Siu Ching objected, stating that the sun would set soon, Mrs Hung said it would be full moon that night, hence the road to town would be properly lit. Leaning on the kitchen table, one hand massaging her own stomach, Siu Ching wondered if that was not what she’d do if Emperor Father was ill. She eventually nodded and told Mrs Hung to prepare for her journey. As Mrs Hung prepared to leave, Siu Ching went into the bath chamber to talk to her husband. She had to stop at the door though, for Brother Chor wouldn’t let her being too close to him and Drunkard Wu. Talking about being over-protective!
“You think it’s wise to let her go so late?” asked Chor tai-gor as he stripped off his white clothes for the bath. Generally, Siu Ching would find this scene pleasing to watch, but now she wasn’t even thinking about how sensual her husband could be.
“She looks desperate, so I have to let her go. I think she’ll be okay. A Fuk is staying with us.”
Lingering Fragrance nodded. “Can A Fuk cook dinner? I’ve never seen him cooking before.”
“He can’t, I already asked,” said Siu Ching. “But he can help chopping the ingredients and I will deal with the rest.” Siu Ching used to be under performing in her culinary skill; but since her pregnancy, with almost nothing else to do, she had improved this particular skill whenever she felt healthy enough to roam the kitchen. She was not at Sugar's level yet, but her meals were definitely enjoyable now.
Lau Heung said he’d help Siu Ching after the bath, but Siu Ching smiled and said she and A Fuk could take care of it. She then bade Mrs Hung farewell. She also asked the cook to deliver the letter to one of the perimeter guards. Siu Ching had been equipped with an imperial letter seal for urgent matters, and that very seal was now prominently displayed on her letter. The imperial seal would guarantee the fastest delivery to the capital for Siu Ching. Mrs Hung promised that she’d deliver the letter and some news to Dr Cheong et al in town.
When Wu Tit Fa and Chor Lau Heung finished their bath, Siu Ching and A Fuk were well into preparing the dinner. Siu Ching practically shooed her husband from the kitchen because she knew he’d want to chat with Drunkard Wu. After several failed attempt to convince his stubborn wife, Lingering Fragrance relented. He parked himself in the dining room and had a nice chat with Drunkard Wu over wine. Wu Tit Fa nervously asked whether the baby would be born soon and was visibly relieved when Chor Lau Heung said that the due date was in a week's time.
“Good,” Wu Tit Fa said as he slugged another bowl of wine. “I hate blood.” When Chor laughed and stated that he’d killed some men before, Tit Fa replied with, “but it was not birth blood. I hate birth blood!” When Lau Heung pressed on how Wu knew he hated labour blood, Wu changed the subject by filling Chor’s wine cup to the brim.
Later, Siu Ching and A Fuk came with a nice roast wild fowl dish, accompanied with some fresh tofu and vegetable sauté. She apparently also found time to make some asparagus soup for entrée. They had a nice dinner then some nice chats about their past adventures. It wasn't totally pleasant though, for the night air got warmer as they progressed with the dinner. Beads of sweat started to form on Siu Ching's forehead. "It's getting hot here," she commented as she used her sleeve to dab the sweat beads.
"It might rain later," Chor tai-gor responded as he took a scarf to properly wipe the sweat off his wife's forehead. Wu rose to the window and saw dark clouds drifting to cover the full moon. He agreed that it might rain, which would be great to relieve the pressure. They returned to finish their dinner. A few minutes after finishing their last meal, Siu Ching declared she was tired and thus went to bed. Chor took her to bed to make sure everything was alright before he returned to Wu and his wine. The two friends drank and played chess together until almost midnight before Chor Lau Heung retired to bed and lay down next to his lovely, very pregnant, wife.
A few hours after midnight, Siu Ching woke up. She smelled moisture in the air and thought that rain would come soon. She then felt the need to go to the privy. She had to do that frequently, and the last visit was just before Chor tai-gor decided to go to bed. Struggling with her gigantic belly, she rose and leaned on one hand to stabilise herself on the bed. Then came the next obstacle, which was to go over her husband's sleeping figure. Chor Lau Heung always insisted that he slept at the outer part of the bed instead of the inner part to prevent his wife from rolling over. As the result, he'd wake up every time Siu Ching went to the privy. Lingering Fragrance was a sound sleeper though, hence he'd fallen asleep again as soon as he was sure that his wife was okay.
That was what he did too this time. After receiving an assurance that Siu Ching could handle the privy trip herself, Lau Heung fell asleep again, trying to catch the dream about him chasing a beautiful little girl who looked just like Siu Ching. The pregnant woman herself slowly walked towards the privy, one hand supporting her own aching back. She almost couldn't hold the urge to urinate, hence she partly blamed herself for waiting that long to wake up. Her fear seemed to come true when halfway across the open yard towards the privy she sensed something wet between her legs. Damned, she thought, cos now she had to change her garment before returning to bed. But there was something different in this wetness. The water slushed in a high volume, not in the trickle of urine. Then it hit her: her water broke!
Pale faced, she leaned towards a large stone vase as she muttered her husband's name before increasing her volume. "Chor tai-gor! My water broke. Chor tai-gor!"
Inside their room, Chor woke up with a start. He rose to make sure that he heard correctly, that Siu Ching was calling him. When he heard her the second time, he rushed into the yard in his white sleeping clothes. He found his wife crouching on the yard ground, one hand holding her belly. He leapt towards her.
"Siu Ching!" he said alarmingly as he held her shoulders. Siu Ching's face registered an extreme pain. She gasped. "I think the baby is coming," she then whispered before bending over due to the abdominal pain.
"Siu Ching!" he said alarmingly as he held her shoulders. Siu Ching's face registered an extreme pain. She gasped. "I think the baby is coming," she then whispered before bending over due to the abdominal pain.
“What?!” Blood drained from Chor tai-gor's face. “How come? The baby’s not supposed to come before next week!”
“I might –“ Siu Ching panted, “ – overexerted myself in the kitchen?” She gasped again as another contraction attacked her.
Chor Lau Heung realised he needed help, hence he yelled to Wu Tit Fa's room to wake him up. A Fuk woke up first due to the commotion. The servant then woke up Master Wu. Although the latter one was pale-faced to see amniotic water wetting the ground, he helped A Fuk and Chor hoisting Madame Chor up and brought her into the nearest room, which was the Chors', just as the rain got harder.
Chor intended to guide his wife towards the bed, but as they walked past the sitting area into the bed chamber, she stumbled and said in tears that she couldn't make it to the bed. She just didn't have enough strength. Chor relented and helped her to sit on the floor with her back against the wall, just next to the bed. Then he noticed that her hand massaged her back several times, thus he then sat on the floor between the wall and his wife to function as a cushion for Siu Ching. He then asked Wu and A Fuk to get some towels, blankets, boil some water and sterilise a pair of scissors. As chaos ensued, Chor massaged Siu Ching's back to try to alleviate the pain. "How are you, darling?" He said worriedly.
Siu Ching shook her dishevelled head and grabbed Chor's hand. "Chor tai-gor, I'm afraid... I don't think we can do this alone." Tears stream down her cheeks. "What if we lose the baby? What if...” she jerked her head and, eyes widened, said, “If anything happens during labour, you need to choose the baby over me. You need to promise that!”
Hugging her, Chor shushed her immediately. "Don’t be such a drama queen! We won't lose the baby. I just had a dream that I was playing with a little girl so, you know what, I think we will make it." He wiped his wife's wet face with his sleeve before casting his most adoring smile at his wife. That smile slowly calmed her. Chor turned to see Wu and A Fuk returned with some towels and blankets, which they later arranged around and under Siu Ching's body (with difficulty, this one was).
"Can we call Mrs Liu?" Chor asked afterwards, referring to the midwife who often assisted Dr Cheong with birth. At that time, thunder split the sky. Summer rain hammered down the clinic, alleviating the intense heat. Chor winced. "A bit difficult now, I suppose."
A Fuk agreed. Mrs Liu's house was almost an hour's walk towards the town. "The storm is too dangerous now, Sir. But I will go later at when the rain stops."
Chor Lau Heung nodded. "I suppose you never helped with any birth before?" Chor tried again. A Fuk shook his head helplessly before returning to the kitchen to supervise the hot water. Realising the gravity of the situation, Lingering Fragrance turned to Drunkard Wu who was retreating to the door after helping out with the towels. The drunkard immediately shook his head and waved his hands in a massive "no" gesture.
"Oh no, mate, you're not going to ask me to help with the delivery! I once saw a woman giving birth on the street and I almost gagged due to the birth blood! I couldn't taste wine for weeks afterwards!"
So that was why Wu Tit Fa hated birth blood. Still, it didn't solve the problem. "Then who else should I ask for help?!" Lau Heung was getting desperate.
“Well...” the drunkard wavered before he saw his friend’s expression. "Wait! Don't you even know what to do with a baby delivery?" asked Tit Fa incredulously, to which Lau Heung stuttered. Eyes bulging in disbelief, Tit Fa added, "Dear Heaven, you gotta be kidding me! You're her husband!"
"I was counting on Dr Cheong and Rosie. How the heck should I know in advance about the epidemic? I'm not a clairvoyant!"
"Well I thought the smart Chor Lau Heung always comes prepared!" volleyed Wu Tit Fa.
Lingering Fragrance was about to retort when his wife gasped again. She doubled over and writhed in agony. Chor Lau Heung felt his heart break to see Siu Ching like that. He reached for her, held one of her damp palms, and asked what he could do to help.
Siu Ching inhaled before answering, "One, you could stop fighting with each other. Two, get warm and cold towels for me. Three," she bent over again before hyperventilating and continued, "Chor tai-gor, I think you need to check how far I am."
Both men became pale-faced as they realised what the third thing meant. Muttering something about warm towel and safeguarding the gate (not sure against what), Wu Tit Fa dashed off the room in a lightning speed. Chor Lau Heung was the only one left to do that, and given that it was his wife that was going to give birth soon, he was actually the only man other than Dr Cheong socially eligible for doing this. He laid Siu Ching on some thick layers of blankets that functioned as a cushion, took off her damp pants with difficulty and checked the opening. Although he had no idea what to look for or expect, he did see the opening revealing something hairy.
"I see hair... But the opening is still very small." When his wife asked how big it was, he indicated half of his forefinger. Panting, Siu Ching whispered, "So we're almost midway then..."
Chor Lau Heung realised that, in order to make this delivery a success, he had to be in charge. Siu Ching had to guide him too, cos only she knew what was happening in her body. He spent the next hour assisting his wife going through the contractions. More like, he allowed her squeezing his hands until blood seemed stopped flowing into his hand due to her extreme pressure. After several excruciating contractions, Siu Ching started to look spent. Instinctively, Chor placed himself behind her again to provide more cushioning and breathed with his wife as she went through contractions. He also massaged Siu Ching's lower back and pelvis every now and then to relieve some pressure. This strategy worked cos Siu Ching became more relaxed but not too relaxed to lose the contraction. She became more focused. Chor checked the opening every now and then but kept returning to hug his wife from the back. He also gave her plenty of water to drink, wiped her face and neck with damp towel to cool her down and placed warm towel on her lower stomach and around the perineum to alleviate the pain.
This was where Chor Lau Heung received help from Wu Tit Fa and A Fuk. Wu entered the room several times to deliver warm and cool water buckets, but he always dashed off again too soon. A Fuk didn't even show his face. He told Master Wu that he found it improper to see Madame Chor sprawling like that on the floor with only her thin undergarment (Chor tai-gor had to take most of her clothing off due to her sweating), hence A Fuk decided to just make sure the towel, blanket and cool and hot water were well supplied.
Several painful contractions later, the rain finally stopped. Wu Tit Fa soon entered the room and saw the stained blankets on the floor and Chor's clothes soiled by the labour liquid seeping through the opening. The drunkard looked like he almost threw up. He swallowed several times and looked in another direction before telling Chor that A Fuk said he'd go to fetch the midwife now. Chor immediately gave his approval.
"Are you coming with him?" Chor asked before bending over as his wife had another contraction. "Breathe, Siu Ching, breathe..." She gasped and then screamed loud, saying it was so painful. Careful not to add more pressure, Chor Lau Heung lightly hugged his wife's back again, wishing he could have the pain instead, or at least absorb her pain.
Pale-faced Wu shook his head. "I'll stay here to deliver water," he weakly said, though it was clear that he'd prefer to fetch the midwife himself. As Chor Lau Heung thanked him and guided his wife with another "Breathe!", Wu Tit Fa slipped out of the room...and successfully vomited outside.
An hour later, as cloud drifted away to reveal the first light lit the eastern sky, Chor checked the opening again to see that he could see the baby's crown properly now. He told Siu Ching about this. His wife nodded and with a raspy voice confirmed that the baby would come very soon then. He returned to hug Siu Ching and massage her spines again. "Women usually push when it's almost time, right?" He asked her as she gasped upon another contraction. "Breathe, Siu Ching, breathe..." Then, tucking a strand of her damp hair, he added, "Your contractions are getting very frequent too. Don't you think you need to push now?"
Siu Ching shook her head and whispered, "I don't feel like it yet."
Chor tai-gor thought about the labour manuscripts inside Dr Cheong’s study, realised he definitely had no time to even go there to fetch one (let alone searching for the right passage), and decided he would adhere to whatever Siu Ching’s body told her to do. He nodded. "Then let's just listen to your body. Just push when you want to." He breathed with her several times before she whispered that she wanted to push. As Lingering Fragrance held her damp palm in support, she pushed then rested as she inhaled and exhaled. The rhythm was repeated several times. Sensing that his wife was getting in tune with her body, Chor just went along with her. "You're doing great, Wife, you’re doing great..." he whispered to her ear in between pushes.
Then as the dawn came, Chor checked the opening again. This time, he saw half the head almost passed the opening. "The whole head is almost here! The baby's coming, Siu Ching!"
Siu Ching nodded, but didn't do anything. She just closed her eyes as if drifting to sleep. Worried, Chor asked what happened.
"...I just want to rest a bit..." whispered Siu Ching almost inaudibly. Chor Lau Heung nodded. He had no idea what to do, but he trusted that his wife's body would tell her the next step. He debated whether he supported her again from behind, but – upon casting another glance at the crowning head – he realised that he had to guard the opening just in case the baby came out any time. Positioning himself in front of the labour opening, he said, “I’m here now, guarding our baby. You do your push whenever you’re ready.”
A few moments later, Siu Chung grabbed his hand, breathed in and gave another push with an exhaled groan. And another, with an even louder groan. She felt that the next push would be the final one, but she had no energy to say it. She could only wave her hand, but somehow Lingering Fragrance got what she meant. As she pushed once more, he caught the baby. After sighing her relief, Siu Ching took another deep breath and pushed again, ejecting the placenta out of her body. Shengs of blood sloshed down with it, staining her husband’s hands, clothes, and the surrounding blankets and towels. At that time, the baby cried. It was a girl.
"It's a girl! Siu Ching, it's a girl!" The blood-stained Lingering Fragrance shed tears of happiness as he saw the pink little beauty on his hand. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was. How lucky they were. He gently brought the baby girl, still attached to her placenta, to her mother. "She's beautiful... Thank you, Siu Ching, thank you..."
At that time, Wu rushing in with visible relieve. When Chor asked Wu to sterilise the already sterilised scissors, he nodded, glanced at the pink baby, glanced at the pool of blood on the floor, became white as a sheet, and left the room. Chor Lau Heung returned his attention to his wife. Siu Ching was staring at the pink miracle in front of her and felt all tiredness and pain were worthwhile. She sobbed and laughed at the same time as she hugged her baby. Chor tai-gor's baby. Their baby.
"Our baby... We have a baby girl..." She sobbed as Lingering Fragrance very carefully wrapped his strong arms around his new family.
The door opened again with Drunkard Wu returning with the sterilised scissors. He carefully gave his friend the scissor while looking at the ceiling (instead of the floor), then took a good few steps back well outside the blood perimeter. As the placenta stopped beating, Chor Lau Heung cut the umbilical cord from the baby and placed the placenta and the umbilical cord respectfully in a clean bucket. Lingering Fragrance then smiled as he placed the baby back in Siu Ching's embrace. Chor then looked alternately between his best friend and his new baby girl. "Uncle Wu, meet your niece...Daughter, this is Uncle Wu."
Wu Tit Fa stood still, but he willed himself to look past the pool of blood into the wrinkled alien that was his best friend's baby girl. He'd seen some newborns before, but he never thought of them as gorgeous. However, something was different with this baby girl. Chor Lau Heung then said they need warm water to bath the baby. Wu nodded and returned very quickly with a bucket of warm water and some fresh towels. He didn't do anything but staring at the new father and daughter as Lingering Fragrance washed his baby. But as his friend placed the cleaner baby on her mother's breast once more, Wu felt that a little baby girl was not a bad thing after all. In fact, they could be rather cute. In fact, for the first time in his life, Wu thought that little girls could just be the most beautiful things on Earth. Then he suddenly realised that Siu Ching was about to open her last layer of clothing to feed the baby. "Wait, you're not going to suckle the baby now, right?!"
The tired mother had only energy to cast an incredulous look at Wu. Wu had no choice but to leave the room again, but before he left, he looked past the blood to the baby girl this time. Watching Wu's retreating back, Chor chuckled. "I think he wants a baby girl. I don't blame him. Having this girl, and you, is my ultimate bliss in this world..."
He kissed his wife and then helped cleaning her as she suckled the baby. It was a difficult task due to the pool of blood around them. At one point, he had to bath Siu Ching to reduce risk of infection. As Chor tai-gor cleaned her body with warm towel, Siu Ching said was she very happy with their baby girl.
"I never want to go through it again though, it was brutal," she whispered. Chor smiled and kissed her forehead before replying, "If you say so, then one baby girl is also enough for me."
The midwife arrived almost an hour later. She helped Master Chor bathed the mother and baby thoroughly as A Fuk changed the bleeding blankets, towels and clothes. They later moved the mother and baby girl into the closest room available, which was Yung Yung’s room. The room where the Chors stayed had to be cleaned and sterilised properly before the mother and baby could sleep there again. Chor Lau Heung then stationed the more relaxed Wu Tit Fa to safeguard the mother and baby for the midwife had to assist A Fuk making porridge for Siu Ching. Lau Heung took a quick bath before returning immediately to feed his wife. He could only feed her five spoonful of porridge though because she kept nodding off. Smiling, Lingering Fragrance let her sleep after kissing her forehead. He then placed the baby girl next to mum. He then watched his wife and baby sleeping until the midwife returned to take over his duty. Chor then rolled a blanket at the corner of the room and slept there until around noon, when Mrs Hung returned from town with good news that, although her mother had been critically ill, Dr Cheong managed to save her life.
“I’m sorry I had to leave you two alone with the labour, but it seemed you two had it under control,” Dr Cheong Kan Chai commented three weeks later as they finally returned to the clinic just as Siu Ching finished her afternoon breast feeding. The couple smiled at him.
“I couldn’t ask for a better husband,” said Song Siu Ching before exchanging a romantic glance with Chor Lau Heung who then kissed his wife’s forehead. “I couldn’t ask for a better wife myself,” he added later.
“Hey, don’t forget me!” Drunkard Wu said, pointing at his nose. “I also did my part!”
“Yeah, what, with the gagging?” Siu Ching giggled as she held her baby vertically against her chest such that the baby’s chin rested on her shoulder.
“The towels and the water! And the scissors! Those are important!”
“Ah right,” patting her daughter’s back, Siu Ching swallowed her giggles. “True. Thanks for those, truly.”
Wu snorted. At that time, the baby girl burped her lunch. “Hey, hey, are you sure you’re holding her correctly?” Uncle Wu moved closer to inspect the mother and baby daughter. “She’s burping!”
“So are many babies need to do that after a meal, you silly,” Wah Jan Jan laughed as Siu Ching rolled her eyes and commented that Wu Tit Fa never got that fact straight despite having lived with the baby for three weeks. Jan Jan chuckled as she approached the baby girl. “She’s so cute, Siu Ching. So happy we finally met our niece.”
“Our first niece...” cooed ‘Sugar’ Tim Yi as she lightly touched the baby girl’s apple-rose cheek. “What’s her name? You never told us in the letter.”
“Ah, sorry,” Chor Lau Heung apologised. “We’ve been so busy with A Ying, we didn’t even remember to tell you her name.”
“A Ying?” So Yung Yung raised her eyebrows, to which Siu Ching nodded.
“Chor Lau Ying, meet your aunts and Dr Cheong,” she cooed her daughter.
“Lau Ying...Is that Ying from "smart" (穎)?” guessed Yung Yung.
The Chor couple nodded. “Also to honour the late Mr Ying,” added Siu Ching with thoughtfulness. The late Inspector Ying Man Lei died protecting the Emperor from the Bat Prince, and Siu Ching had missed his friendly counsels and company ever since. “I promised myself that I would honour him with something very personal, and Chor tai-gor agreed.”
Those around them nodded in agreement, followed with a moment of silence to remember Mr Ying’s heroic deeds. Then baby A Ying broke the silence with her loud cry. Her father laughed.
“Look at her!” he said, shaking his head. “She cries just because she thinks people don’t pay attention to her anymore. Just like her mother,” he leered at his wife who blushed and bit her own lips as he took the crying baby from her. He then walked fast-paced around the room with A Ying above his head like a flying bird, cooing her to stop her from crying, while Uncle Wu repeatedly told him to be careful cos “babies are not birds; they don’t fly.”
“Hah...who would have thought that Drunkard Wu has soft spots for baby girls! I thought you don’t like women,” commented Sugar, to which Wu Tit Fa replied with, “Hey, baby girls are not women! Baby girls are the most wonderful things in the world... aside from a good jar of wine! They smell nice too!”
They all had a good laugh before Yung Yung observed how natural Chor tai-gor was with A Ying. “Chor tai-gor is really good at handling her,” she said, to which Rosie chuckled and said that the Ladies’ Man Chor Lau Heung always had his ways with girls. Siu Ching laughed.
“I actually prefer it that way. Chor tai-gor is much better at handling her at night than me. That way, I can get my night sleeps!”
Lingering Fragrance chuckled as he lowered his daughter for she had stopped crying. He still paced here and there just to lull her to sleep, though. “Actually, yeah, she can be a handful at night sometimes. You really need good stamina and constitution to be parents, apparently.”
“With this experience, Mr Chor, I don’t think you want another child?” asked Dr Cheong as he checked Siu Ching’s pulse just out of habit. “Madame Chor seems to have recovered from her labour now, but I’d suggest that a gap of one or two years will be good, if you still want any.”
Lingering Fragrance actually blushed as he answered, “It’s Siu Ching’s call, Doctor, not mine. She’s the one who will carry the baby for more than nine months.” Glancing at his wife lovingly, he added, “I can understand if one is enough for her.”
“Actually, about that...” Siu Ching tentatively spoke as she approached her husband. “I think I don’t mind a second one. Not soon, but in a few years’ time.” This statement actually stopped Chor Lau Heung on his track as he cast a surprised yet happy look at his wife. “You mean that...?” he whispered.
“I do,” Siu Ching softly said as she locked gaze with her husband. “Because I have the best husband in the world, thus our children will have the best father in the world too.”
Lingering Fragrance slowly smiled at his wife. Wu Tit Fa used this chance to practically snatch Baby Ying from her father and cooed her. The four aunts immediately chased him around the room, stating that he was too clumsy to hold a baby hence he should hand her to them. Their merry-go-around was soon terminated though, for Baby Ying decided that having grown-ups chasing her around was no fun, hence she cried again. She used the full capacity of her lungs to scream, such that Uncle Wu just gave up and shoved her back to her father. As per usual: babies are cute when they’re not crying. When they cry, you’re glad that their parents are close by.
Although Chor Lau Heung rolled his eyes heavenwards, he was actually glad to have his baby girl back with him. Swaying back and forth this time, he hummed a tune that soon stopped A Ying from crying, to the amazement of Dr Cheong and the aunts. Siu Ching herself, as she rested her head on her husband’s shoulder, thought she had never seen such a beautiful scene before.
For those who didn’t read my other fan-fics or Wikipedia, “Lau Heung” literally means “Lingering Fragrance”, hence when I wrote Lingering Fragrance, I was referring to Chor tai-gor. I purposely “prevented” Chor tai-gor from reading any pregnancy and labour manuscripts because I want him to guide Siu Ching with his intuition than based on what the ancient knowledge had to offer (and cos it’s difficult to find ancient Chinese midwifery documents for me to read). Thus for the technicality of labour in this story, I consulted Bebe, my dear friend who just delivered a baby at home two months ago, about technical aspects of birthing with midwives at home. I also checked several websites about cervical dilation, natural push, back-massage during labour and perineal warm packs (here and here). My friend Bebe used the lotus birth for placenta management (when the baby still carries the placenta until it drops on its own), but since I don’t think it’s really practical in this story (infection and all), I used the second-best method, i.e. delayed cord clamping (cutting the placenta after it stopped pulsating). This story is dedicated to Bebe (and Baby Arman, Daddy Bowie, and Lil Aslan) and all pregnant and labouring mothers everywhere. I salute you, Ladies! Also, check this lovely message board for other MB (Michael-Barbara) fanfictions!