Stephen Bowman switched off the generator, swiped his brow
with a handkerchief, and straightened his spine. Not even
nine o’clock, and the July day was already sweltering.
Since dawn he had milked, fed, and watered the animals and
turned them out to pasture. The milk was now stored in the
cooling room, awaiting pickup, and he was ready for
He headed for the house, his stomach rumbling. What might
his fraa have made this morning? Buttermilk pancakes
swimming in maple syrup? Mushroom omelet covered with melted
cheddar? Maybe a thick slab of ham with an over-easy egg on
He entered the kitchen to find a box of corn flakes on the
table, along with a banana. The pot of coffee had grown cold
on the stove.
After thirteen years, he knew his fraa well. Hope usually
only served a cold breakfast when pressed for time, or when—
Stephen bolted toward the front room. “Hope?”
His wife of thirteen years sat in the rocking chair with her
sewing basket at her feet. Sweat beaded at her hairline. The
tiny white kapp she’d been crocheting lay abandoned in her
“When did the contractions start?” He tried to keep his
voice calm so as not to frighten his daughters. The three
girls sat on the couch staring at their mother and holding
Hope said nothing for at least half a minute. Then she spoke
through gritted teeth. “A few . . . hours ago.”
“Why didn’t you send Josie to the milking parlor for me?”
His glance flickered to his eldest dochder, who peered up at
him through thick lashes.
“Thought I had plenty of time to finish this kapp and pair
of booties.” Her speech improved as the contraction
“You know what the doctor said. Things move along faster
with each new bundle of Bowman joy.” Stephen chucked his
young¬est child under the chin. Little Greta’s green eyes
sparked as she giggled.
“True enough, but I still thought I had enough time. No
sense dragging Jane Beachy out too soon.” Hope’s voice
returned to nor¬mal, and her fingers released their grip on
the chair. “She has her own family to tend.”
“Midwives are accustomed to being called out at all hours of
the day or night. At least she’s not sleeping at this hour.
I’ll leave now to fetch her.”
“May I ride with you, Daed?” asked Josie. She scrambled from
her position on the couch to land on the floor near Hope’s
feet. “I could help Jane carry in things.”
“Nee.” Stephen gave her kapp ribbon a pull. “You stay and
help mamm get things ready.” He felt himself blush.
Discussing babies-on-the-way was not a proper topic between
father and daughter. “You understand God is bringing us
another boppli?” He peered at one pair of rounded eyes after
“Of course, I do,” she said, as though mildly insulted.
“Ya,” replied the younger two, heads nodding. “Mamm said so.
Bruder this time?” asked seven-year-old Emily.
“We’ll soon find out.” He buzzed a kiss across his wife’s
kapp. “I’m off. Put down your sewing, Fraa. I believe you
should start moving in the direction of our bedroom. But
don’t pick up a paint¬brush to give the kitchen a fresh
Stephen smiled at the memory of a woman in their district
who decided to paint a room during labor. Things happened so
fast she gave birth in their bathtub, assisted solely by her
eldest daughter. By the time the midwife arrived, the mother
had been bathed and was resting comfortably, with her new
son sleeping in the crook of her arm.
Suddenly, Hope grabbed his sleeve, her brown eyes huge.
“I’ve prayed all morning for this one to be a boy.” She
turned her face up to him.
Stephen patted her hand. “We shall be grateful for another
healthy child, whether boy or girl.” He gazed at his family,
then strode from the room. Within minutes Stephen hitched
his fastest gelding to the buggy and raced down their lane.
Not much traf¬fic crowded the country roads, no speeding
cars that could panic a skittish horse. And so far, no buses
with tourists leaning out of windows snapping pictures.
He used the time to say his prayers and count his blessings.
God had smiled upon the Bowman family. His wife and
daughters were healthy; he’d inherited a fertile, productive
farm from his father, and his large herd of Holstein cows
supplied an abundance of milk. Even the new bulls had drawn
decent prices from the veal producers, providing necessary
cash to pay taxes, medical bills, and buy diesel fuel.
At thirty-five, Stephen Bowman was content.
But a son would be nice.
It would be good to have help with the harder farm chores.
Although Josie could already plant a straight row of corn
and pick more than her weight in beans in a day, he didn’t
want women rid¬ing dangerous equipment. Some chores like
plowing, harrowing, and harvesting remained men’s work.
Growing up, he’d witnessed firsthand his father’s challenge
of having only one son. His sisters eventually married and
moved to other parts of Lancaster County or to different
states altogether. Stephen remained on the farm helping his
daed until a heart attack took him to the gates of heaven.
Would an early death be his destiny? Only God knew the
future, and whether this coming child would be another girl.
He didn’t feel comfortable praying for one over the other.
Still, a son would be nice, Lord.
He whispered the words against his better judgment and added
a hasty, “But Thy will be done.”
Turning into the Beachy yard, a red-cheeked Nathan Beachy
hurried to greet him. “Come for Jane, ya?” Nathan shielded
his eyes from the glare of a hot July sun.
“We’d be obliged if Jane could lend a hand, if she’s not too
busy.” Both men spoke in even tones as they marched quickly
toward the house.
“Fraa?” called Nathan. “Stephen Bowman has come.” They
waited less than a minute before the experienced midwife
bustled down the stairs into the kitchen.
She carried her black satchel, a diaper bag, and a sleeping
infant. “Time has come, then.” Jane issued a statement
rather than asked a question. “Our kinner are dressed and
fed,” she said to Nathan. “They should be fine while you’re
in the fields since the oldest aren’t back to school yet.” A
shy teenager peeked around her mamm. “No telling when I’ll
be home.” Jane kissed his cheek then hurried out the door
with Stephen at her heels. Flanked by his brood, Nathan
remained on the porch, waving.
“Might be home sooner than you think,” murmured Stephen,
once they’d climbed into his buggy. With another man within
ear¬shot, it would have been embarrassing, but he didn’t
mind discussing the delicate topic with a professional
Jane pivoted toward him. “Why? How far along is she?”
Stephen shook the reins and released the brake. “Can’t say
in terms of minutes between pains but from what I could
gather, I should have fetched you at first light, if not
The midwife picked up the seldom-used crop and slapped it
lightly on the horse’s broad back. “Git up, there,” she
com¬manded. “Save the meandering for the trip back. We’ve
got a boppli on the way!”
Stephen Bowman felt his excitement ratchet up a notch to
match her enthusiasm. Another one of God’s miracles was
about to take place, right in his own family.
Hope experienced a moment of panic when the door closed
behind Stephen. She was alone with three little ones with a
fourth about to make a grand entrance.
I will never leave you or forsake you ...
God’s promise gave her strength as she struggled to her feet
and dropped her crocheting into the basket.
“Come, Josie, we must prepare. Emily, Greta, I want you to
stay in your room. You may play or read, but do not come
downstairs until Josie calls you.” Hope touched each of
their cheeks tenderly. “Mamm will be fine.”
Emily hugged her around the waist, then took Greta’s hand
and scampered up the steps. Greta glanced back at Hope but
left obedi¬ently with her sister.
“What should I do?” asked Josie. Her dark eyes glowed with
the eagerness of new responsibility. At twelve, the girl was
ready for all but the most delicate portion of childbirth.
“Fill both kettles and the soup pot with water. Then bring
them to a low boil. Jane will need plenty of warm water to
bathe the boppli and me.” She walked gingerly toward their
ground floor bedroom, her belly feeling impossibly heavy.
“First, help me put the rubber sheet on the bed and set out
the towels. And we’ll need blankets to keep the baby warm.
Jane will bring whatever else is needed.”
By the time the next contraction stole her breath, the
birth¬ing room was ready. Josie went to prepare the kitchen,
while Hope climbed into bed, covering herself with their
oldest sheet. “Won’t be long now, Lord,” she whispered.
Hope squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on not
scream¬ing as a contraction hit. Just when she was about to
call Josie to help, Jane Beachy bustled into the room, her
sleeves rolled up and her hands still wet from scrubbing. A
grin stretched across her face.
“Did you figure to pull this off alone to save yourself my
fee?” Jane said. “Nothing doing, Hope Bowman. Nathan and I
plan to use that money to visit Paris, France, in the
springtime.” She pulled long gloves up to her elbows.
The joke distracted Hope from counting breaths. “Please
don’t make me laugh until this is said and done.” Josie
retreated from the room, and Hope positioned herself for
“From the looks of things, you won’t have to wait long to
appreciate my sense of humor.” Jane rushed to prepare for
the final stage. “You cut this one a bit close to the wire.
Did you think that I charged by the hour?”
Her quip almost sent Hope over the edge. She had to wait
sev¬eral minutes to retort. “Remind me to come to the birth
of your next baby. Between now and then I will save up a bag
And so, together the two longtime friends brought a life
into the world. The newest little girl to the Lancaster
Hope swallowed down an initial pang of disappointment when
Jane announced, “Looks like we have a fourth daughter for
the Bowman family. All ten fingers and toes with plenty of
hair—she looks perfect to me.” A loud wail signaled a strong
pair of lungs as well. “I’ll get her cleaned up and warm and
be back in a jiffy.”
Jane disappeared from the bedroom, leaving Hope alone.
“Thank You, Lord,” she whispered, “for the smooth delivery
and another healthy child.” She didn’t put words to her
dissatisfaction and hoped God would overlook her discontent.
This is nobody’s fault but mine.
Jane bathed Hope and helped her into a fresh nightgown, then
she took the baby into the kitchen to examine, weigh, and
bundle into a warm quilt. Hope could hear Jane instructing
Stephen and Josie on their tasks for the next few days. When
she returned to the bedroom, Hope reached for her hand,
forcing a smile. “Danki for all you’ve done.”
“All in a good day’s work.” Jane pushed damp hair off the
new mother’s forehead. “You’ve been blessed, Hope Bowman.”
“Ya, but not as much as you and Nathan, with three sons.”
The words escaped Hope’s mouth before she could stop
herself. She felt a hot flush rise up her neck into her
Jane bundled the laundry and tidied the bedroom. “Ya, sons
are helpful, but who’s to say what your next one will be?
The next dozen or so might be boys.” She winked and plumped
an extra pil-low behind Hope’s back.
Hope pressed a palm on her still-swollen belly. “Let’s not
talk about the next dozen quite so soon.”
“I’ll be back tomorrow to check on you. The paperwork has
been filled out except for the baby’s name.” In a rare
display of affec¬tion, Jane leaned over and kissed Hope’s
cheek. “You and Stephen put your heads together and come up
with something gut.” Then she bustled from the room.
But Hope had no chance to wallow in self-pity. Just as she
fin¬ished feeding her infant, her best friend Rosa Hostetler
marched into the room with a broad smile stretched across
her face. “I heard from Jane Beachy on her way home you
might have someone new to show off.”
“Goodness, word travels fast.” Hope pulled back the coverlet
to reveal a pink face. “Meet the youngest Bowman dochder.”
She lifted the baby for inspection.
“May I hold her? Oh, she’s just perfect. I’ll bet she’ll be
a cheer¬ful boppli too.” She took the infant in her arms and
strolled around the room explaining doors, windows, and
vases of flowers as though the newborn was ready for
“Let that boppli sleep. You can start the lessons next
week.” Throughout Rosa’s fussing, the littlest Bowman
“What do you suppose you’ll call her?”
Hope’s smile faded. “I’d selected David or Joseph—names of
strength and fortitude. I was so sure this one would be a
boy.” Unbidden, tears streamed down her face.
“Ach, the next one will be.” Rosa kissed the infant before
settling her into the crook of Hope’s arm.
As Hope tucked the blanket beneath the tiny chin, her tears
fell unchecked. “You don’t understand,” she whispered.
“There’ll be no boys for me—not after what I have done.” The
words strangled in her throat. “God is punishing me just as
He punishes all who dis¬obey Him.”
Rosa perched on the edge of the bed. “I doubt He would
pun¬ish a sixteen-year-old girl. You had no choice.” She
slipped an arm around her friend’s shoulder.
Hope shook her head violently. “We always have a choice. I
could have refused. I could have run away. Now because of my
shame, I’ll never give Stephen a son.”
“Hush,” Rosa demanded. “Stop those tears. You don’t know
what God has planned. No more worrying. You must have
Faith. Hope looked into Rosa’s eyes. The woman had lost so
much. She had been married for five years without the
blessing of a child. And then, two years ago, her husband
Uriah had died and left her alone. Alone and struggling,
both financially and emotionally.
And yet here she was talking to her best friend about faith.
About trusting God, no matter what the circumstances. If
Rosa could have faith, Hope certainly could.
She nodded and swallowed hard. “You’re right. There’s no
place for wallowing in self-pity. You’ve given me the
perfect name for our new little one—Faith.” She brushed a
kiss across the downy head. “And faith is what I shall