Book 2, Chapter 32
The woodshed is bigger than Theo remembered, and Miriam is pleased to see that it has enough dry wood to make a fire. Theo goes on a short walk while Miriam tends to Julian. Imagining the sterility, tension, and lack of privacy in a hospital, he finally understands Julian’s desire to give birth in secret. Theo also realizes that Julian did not want the government to be involved with the birth, because she truly believes Xan to be evil. Theo now admits that her position is not unreasonable, though her stubbornness has cost two lives. Theo wonders how the God that Julian believes in can possibly be a God of love or of the weak. He realizes that Julian’s faith creates distance between them but hopes that they may overcome it through love. Hearing Julian cry out, he rushes back to the shed.
Julian is getting ready to push, and Theo quickly prepares a fire. He kneels by Julian’s side and holds her hand. Throughout the labor, Theo feels a profound sense of connection to Julian and Miriam, though he wishes with all his heart that the child were his. Eventually, Julian gives birth to a healthy son. Theo accidentally spills their water, prompting Miriam to offer to get more. Theo warns her that she will have to pass through an open field, but Miriam responds that she must take the risk because they need food and water.
In this chapter, Theo finally realizes that he was wrong to scorn Julian’s wish to have the baby in secret. He now understands that giving birth in private allows the process to remain sacred in a way that it never could have in a hospital. Indeed, Julian’s labor is an eye-opening experience for Theo. Whereas he previously felt excluded by the two women, during the actual birth, Theo feels closer to them than ever before. These feelings of utter closeness allow him to see only the beauty of childbirth and let the messy reality of it go unnoticed. Though Theo spent much of the book judging and criticizing the decisions of Miriam and Julian, he has finally realized that he may not know better than they do.
There is a feeling of impending doom throughout this chapter as the group knows Xan is closing in. They have achieved their goal and birthed the baby in secret, but they know they will soon be found—as shown by their decision to light the fire. When Theo spills the water, he seems to sense that this is a fatal error rather than a simple mistake. Miriam’s selfless offer to go fetch the water further demonstrates how much Julian depends on Theo. Meanwhile, Theo’s emotional goodbye to Miriam suggests that he understands she might not return from her errand.