Here I present the love story of Dr. Reginald and Isobel Crawley. This story was inspired by conversations with Pemonynen and R. Grace. It was a real labor of love so to speak. I've always been fascinated by Dr. Reginald Crawley and wanted to create more of a past for him. Additional thanks to R. Grace for all her support before, during and after the writing of this weeper!
Infant Sorrow by William Blake
My mother groaned, my father wept,
Into the dangerous world I leapt;
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.
"Love is worth the risk"
The Crawley baby was overdue in making its appearance. The doctor paced and two anxious midwifes rushed from the room for more hot water and towels. The mother-to-be was lying on the bed, her face twisted in a permanent grimace from the hours of labor. The doctor wrung his hands together, fidgeting nervously. He watched his patient's weak hands cling to the material of the bedding, her eyes closed. In order to occupy himself, he diligently applied carbolic acid spray to cleanse his hands. He approached the women with a very heavy heart that was not nearly as detached as he would expect of himself as her doctor.
However, he wore many hats; he wasn't just her doctor - he was her husband. Dr. Crawley, therefore, had to be both the anxious, expectant father and the calm, competent doctor. He was Dr. Jekyll and he was Mr. Hyde. Although he was more than capable of delivering his own baby, he had also employed two diligent midwives to assist him. This would ensure that her husband could be present too. Reginald wanted to be able to look into Isobel's eyes when their child was born. She was being so brave, his dear sweetheart, but he knew, medically, all too much about the limits of the human body. If this were any other delivery he might have... No, he would have... told her husband to prepare for the worst. It was always a possibility when labor was prolonged, despite the precautions that had been taken. But he couldn't tell himself that. Not now, not ever. He was not going to lose her.
He sat gingerly on the edge of the bed.
"Isobel," he spoke the name tenderly to his wife, lover, and friend. There was no response.
Yesterday his colleague Dr. Graham had asked him if he was prepared for the possibly of having to make a very difficult choice. Would he save his wife or his unborn child? He had been unable to answer the question, for Dr. Crawley wanted both. There was no substitution or compromise. He could not choose, so he had hired two midwives to assist him. They would make the decision because he could not.
And so he waited, never having felt so helpless in his life. Nothing he could do was useful now. All he had left was faith, so he silently prayed. As Dr. Crawley waited anxiously for either of the midwives to return, Isobel's doting husband took over. He learned over his wife and tickled his beard against her face, taking one of her hands in both of his. She barely responded to the contact. Both doctor and husband made note of this, but it was cataloged in different places. Dr. Crawley's observations were processed by his logical brain while husband Reginald's heart-beat increased frantically.
Isobel had never stopped teasing him, in her own way, about his need for conforming within his own astringent guidelines. He was intransigent, she had often said about his most glaring character defect. However, she always ended any critique of him with, but I love you still. It was something he had grown to intensely cherish about her - the way she saw the world's potential. It was something he had appreciated about her long before he knew he loved her. And he did. He loved her so. She had more equanimity than any other women alive. His high opinion of her knew no boundaries. It would be impossible to do without her now.
His marriage had begun as a practical solution. At the time, he hadn't even imagined the depths of the love he would come to have for Isobel. Forty- year-old bachelors are given no handbook for how to deal with these oddities of the heart. He had been stunned to learn of her crush on him. She was almost half his age. But her father asked him if he might look after her, and then he had laughed fondly. "No," he had said, correcting his statement, "My daughter does not need to be looked after. She needs a partner, and I think you are up for the challenge. You were my bright star," he the other man finished with a twinkle in his eyes, for her knew Reginald's fondness for poetry. A well-placed reference to Keats would put him at ease. Some can enter a man's good graces through his stomach, but with Reginald Crawley it was a properly placed poem that best did the trick. And it was with this tactic that his mentor, Isobel's father, had suggested to him abandoning his bachelorhood, in favor of taking a wife.
"And, as my bright star, my most dedicated pupil... if you marry her and give her a proper future, I can feel at ease, having placed my daughter in your path."
Dr. Brazington never sat still, but seemed in constant motion. His mentor was an amazing doctor, however he was also quite the loud-mouth braggart. He was not ashamed to get involved in any situation. No, Reginald thought ruefully, Isobel's father would interrupt anything or anyone to talk of the most intimate, private medical matters, whether the person was interested or not.
Reginald's entire life had been structured around one thing alone, his passion for medicine. But now he had a new adjacent passion. He had a beautiful wife, and they wanted to start a family. Especially since his mentor and closest friend, his wife's father, was in India along with her brother, and would be there indefinitely. They had taken up the call of missionary medicine in India, excited by the prospect of the foreign landscape. So, Reginald had acquired a wife the way some men acquire a suit. Remarkably though, the marriage had been almost tailored to fit him. Their lives easily weaved together. They were a perfect fit.
Throughout his life he had argued, theorized, diagnosed, and fought with many people daily. Of coarse he had. But, Reginald felt for the first time, he now talked to someone. He talked, and Isobel listened. Before, he had been respected, but never loved. He had been alone for so long. Now all that had changed. Isobel was not squeamish about anything. She was bold and fierce and he loved her more with each day. The romantic poetry he treasured so much reinforced to him the journey they were on together, explaining how his love for her could only continue to increase. His favorite poet William Blake wrote that "exuberance is beauty," and Reginald had to agree, as it seemed an appt description of his feelings towards Isobel.
He had been living a dream since he married Isobel, but reality frequently interfered in their lives. It pained them both that her family - her father and brother - knew so little about their struggles to start their own family. Reginald felt rather conservative in that he never wanted to leave England and he would never visit India. So, this meant their family ties were all but extinct. It was all the more reason why they needed to fill their nursery.
Reginald also worried that, in the future, he would die leaving his beloved bride a young widow. If they never had a child he would then leave her all alone. He was plagued with doubt from all angles. But she always brushed off his melancholy. She was a much more practical person then he was. Isobel scoffed at him that he saved all his logic for science and had none to spare for his own pocket. So, perched as he was on their bed, holding her hand, it was unthinkable that she, the bringer of all his joy, could ever abandon him. He could not be alone again, he couldn't bare it. Reginald felt his resolve weakening as he felt her pulse. His eyes were suddenly moist.
The husband that longed to save his wife and the doctor that longed to save his patient were once again reunited. He couldn't lose her. Not now, after everything they had been through to get this far. Oh, this sweet miracle within her! They wanted it so much. So, very much. A symbol of their love - sweet baby they could share. Reginald desired, above all else, to watch Isobel nurture their child. She would make the simplest actions profound: a bath, a burp, a smile. Everything would be transcendent. For his part, he wanted to hold their child and read to it all of his favorite writers, to retell the stories that had always inspired him. And he dreamed of the day he would walk through Heaton Park, one hand holding his beloved wife's and the other clutching their child's. A proud declaration to the world, this is my family. It was not much to ask of life. After all, he was a simple man.
They had just celebrated their fifth anniversary when her pregnancy had been revealed. It was a miracle, for they had already buried two stillborn children. Blake and Florence. A boy named for Reginald's favorite poet and a girl named for Isobel's favorite heroine. Reginald felt his chest constrict just thinking of what might have been. Since then, they were told to also bury the future hope of ever having another child. Every specialist they had consulted in both Manchester and London had told them that Isobel could no longer conceive, and, if she ever did, she would not be able to bring forward to term a completed pregnancy. The odds of survival were very grim. However, his brilliant wife was full of surprises.
Reginald looked at the silver chain that held her wedding ring, loosely draped around her sweaty neck. Her fingers were too swollen to wear the ring anymore. It was a simple piece of sterling silver, no jewels or ornaments necessary. Reginald had watched the jeweler as he had crafted it. The beauty of the ring's creation had reminded him of Isobel. Staring at the ring, Reginald reached out to touch it. He was flattered that she had found a way to always keep it close to her despite the difficult pregnancy. She had told him she would always wear it, and had kept her word. Reginald loved her fiery determination when faced with a challenge. He reached forward, reluctantly releasing one of her hands to gently mop her brow with cool water. When this was completed, he heard footsteps behind him - the midwives were approaching at last, returned from their errand. So, Dr. Crawley kissed his wife's clammy cheek in order to prepare, and reluctantly released her hand. He adjusted the photography from their wedding on their bedside table so that she could see it.
"Reggie," came the weak voice of his beloved.
"Save the baby," she said. Her emotions could be read on her face as still and clear as the photograph, even if her eyes were closed.
He understood her somehow.
"Hush, my own sweet darling," he said to her. Terms of endearment always played off his tongue when he thought of her. She had rescued him, married him, and ended one chapter of his life. Now, it was his turn to save her.
"My bride," he cooed to her, his voice tinged with bursting affection. He must not show his fear, only his love. It would be disgusting if he could not be as brave as she was, after all.
A very thin smile played on her lips. Even now, he could not distract her, it seemed.
"I want you to know my opinion," her voice hitched, "while, I can still say it."
Oh, how he wanted to kiss her! To take her into his arms! Instead, he settled for loving her with his gaze.
Reginald worked very hard to keep his emotions under lock and key; it did no good to express them. His life had taught him that interactions with most people would be disappointing. It was better, therefore, that he lived only in his mind intellectually, and could work clinically with people. He detached himself. It was how he had adapted so that he was no longer frustrated. Or so he had thought. For a red robin nestled in an oak tree in Heaton Park was not beautiful to everyone. Nobody wanted to listen to him describe it's every detail - until Isobel. He talked and she listed, and then the pattern would reverse. When he came home from his day's work at the hospital, she would fondly ask him, "What did you see today in Heaton Park, dear?"
They were an odd marriage of levies and taxes on each other at other times; thank heavens they had found unlimited resources of mutual love for each other. And so, while Reginald would, under normal circumstances, have given his wife the respect her opinions deserved, here he would not. He touched his palm to her cheek softly, feeling her lean into it.
"Isobel," he said calmly. He would be cross with her if she was implying she was giving up.
"No," he said forcefully. "darling, the fight is not over. I want both of you," he felt his voice choke up. "Both," he said firmly. His wife didn't responded, but several tears suddenly fell from her closed eyes.
"I'll try not to disappoint you, then," she said softly.
Reginald wanted to tell her she could never disappoint him, but he was mute, a few tears running down into his beard. He squeezed her hand and raised it to his lips for a kiss.
They had agreed that the baby would be called Grace if was a girl and Matthew if it was a boy. With all their hopes and dreams pinned to the existence of a singe precious child, the name had to be just right. The symbolism of the girl's name was obvious; it was pure and simple reflecting their joy. But there was a duel meaning for their chosen boy name. Matthew ,being Isobel's father's name, was a tribute that meant a lot to both of them, but the origin of the name - "gift of god," - was also fitting, given the circumstances. Whatever fate had in store for them regarding the sex of their child, Reginald wanted them both to endeavor together to raise it. He could not imagine any other possibility. Isobel had the strength naturally, but he only had diligent fortitude. They needed each other as much as the child would need them..
"Reggie," came Isobel's quiet He didn't want to raise a child without her, and sometimes he was terrified that he couldn't - that he would fail and forsake her sacrifice voice braking into his lonely musings, "I'm not afraid of dying, I am afraid of doing nothing."
Reginald felt his confidence boosting as he watched his wife's face. The contractions were finally increasing.
"Darling, its time." The midwives nodded, having themselves observed the good news. There were still so many obstacles to overcome, but the journey was finally coming to fruition.
So Isobel pushed, and, although the birthing process was nearly as violent and bloody as the storming of the Bastille, it was equally liberating. The midwives were extremely dedicated and diligent about the excessive blood loss Isobel was experiencing. Reginald knew he could trust these women, as they knew as much about Joseph Lister's beliefs in antiseptics as he did.
They attended not just to his wife but themselves, washing their hands repeatedly from a carefully placed pitcher and using carbolic acid on everything they touched. Reginald was never made uneasy or nervous in medical situations. He did have a reputation for crying when he could not save a patient despite his best efforts, but today he could save his tears. For he heard the sweet squeal of life, the baby's cries stirring a new kind of alarm in him. Dr. Reginald Crawley lost himself in the moment; he stood absolutely still. The child's screaming was beautiful, operatic in quality. Reginald opened his eyes and saw Isobel through his wet eyes. Their eyes locked together, strained and wet with tears, but so magnanimous. Reginald closed his eyes and said a final, silent prayer.
Time must have passed without his permission, for he had missed the first moments of his child's life. Suddenly, a washed and swaddled infant in white linen was being offered to him by one midwife while the other was whispering to Isobel, continuing to assist her through the last of her struggles. Reginald held the baby in perfect shock. Boy or girl? How had he missed that? He wondered just how long he had stood in reverence, offering up is prayers to the almighty. The tiny weight of his baby felt utterly peaceful in his arms. Their prayers had been answered. Reginald drew in a deep breath. What are you, my own sweet child? He wanted to ask, but he could not seem to make the words leave his lips. Plenty of thin, blond hair, he mused affectingly, bringing his face down to brush his lips across the tiny bundle's scalp. Reginald felt suddenly weak, so he sat down in his favorite chair and held his child. Gently rocking the bundle, he kept an eye on his wife from across the room.
No, medical situations did not make him feel panic or dread. He was more complicated then that. When he felt anything akin to either, it was typically from berating himself for not being able to remember a particular sonnet or poem that would cap his feelings. Reginald searched his mind for something that would express how he felt in this moment. To be a father! To be holding his child! And to see his wife so brave, still fighting. Life was all around him. Life! Not death.
Reginald felt that love had been worth the risks. And he knew, deep in his heart, that the journey was nearing the end. The next stage would be their start from the beginning. He was a father now, Isobel was a mother, and they were a family!
"That's your mama," he said to the bundle in his arms.
"Shall we go see her?"
Reginald carefully walked across the room and perched on the edge of their bed, the midwives still working around him.
"When that I was and a little tiny boy*…" came Isobel's delicate cooing breaking the trance Reginald was in staring at the innocent bundle in his arms.
He smiled at her, broadly and deeply. She may still be in agony, but she would pull through. He had every faith in both medicine and her iron will. She may have produced such a gift of God, but she was one in her own right. The Lord had blessed him many times over. Nothing could stop his wife when she set her mind to a goal; he had all the proof he needed for that. Damn all the predictions! Damn all the odds, all the threats and fears that had throbbed between them. They were here, in this moment, after all. They were all here. They were a family. He was holding their son, a darling little boy, in his arms.
"Matthew," Reginald said holding the baby gently in his grasp. His mind scrambling to speak as his heart released him from the captivity of the moment.
"We have a boy," he whispered. "And his name... is Matthew…"
"Yes," Isobel said fondly. "Our Matthew."
"You did it, darling," Reginald said moving his eyes from his baby to his wife. It was odd to have to share his attention, he mused, although he was very willing to learn and grow with this change.
"No," she said, "we did it." Her tired voice was astonishingly clear.
"That hardly seems fair to you, darling," Reginald felt his smile grow and expand across his face, using muscles long out of practice after the stress of the day.
"I'm not interested in fair. I'm interested in what is right. And this is right, Reginald," Isobel sighed and seemed to finally rest a little as the midwives continued to attend to her.
Suddenly, Reginald had his answer. The nervous tension he felt retreated for he could recall the poem he needed for this moment. He took his wife's hand in his own, bringing it to his lips for another kiss while balancing his sleeping babe in the crock of his other arm.
Love and harmony combine
And round our souls entwine
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join. **
"I love you too darling," Isobel said her eyes closing drowsily.
"I love both of you," she added with a yawn.
"Yes, both of you," Reginald said firmly. He looked down at his son and smiled, the contentment swelling in his soul a feeling he felt would stay with him forever.
"Matthew," he said again liking the way the name sounded coming from this lips.
+Baby Matthew+ I hope you enjoyed meeting him for the first time!
*Isobel is quoting Shakespeare from "Twelve night."
**Reginald is quoting William Blake's poem "Love and Harmony"
On my tumblr page username wdedalus I will have more notes and links regarding to this story.
Thanks for reading! Please review I'd love to hear what you thought of this story!