Selengei had chosen the name during the wet season, many months before. This one was to be a daughter. She would call her Adia, a gift from Ngai—for this baby would be a precious gift, her first-born. Already fourteen, Selengei had attended many births and yearned for the time her own baby would suckle at her breast.
Now as she felt the insistence of her unborn baby’s head, Selengei knew she must push harder. Down, down, down! Her mouth stretched wide, tusks arcing to the heavens. Only Ngai would hear Selengei’s silent screams from atop his mountain throne. She thought of nothing then—not of the others who stood and soothed her—only of her baby. She pushed again and her birth water rushed out like the great river Karura. The swill of water and blood washed over her feet as she stepped carefully over her baby. The girl-calf lay curled and silent against the earth.
Selengei prodded the infant, first gently with the fingers of her trunk, listening for the breath. She pressed one foot to the baby’s shoulder, rocked her, and then—as she knew she must—began to kick, harder, then harder still. If her baby did not stand, she could not suckle. Selengei’s heart surged with anguish. Tears slipped down her wrinkled face. The others drew closer. Selengei slipped her trunk under the baby’s head and lifted the sweet face toward her own. She kicked at the dry-season dust. She kicked, and the others—daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers—kicked until all were certain. Until the baby Adia lay covered in dust.
Selengei’s baby was stillborn and so her sorrow swelled and churned. Again, she remembered the river, Grandmother Rukiya leading the herd across the shallows, Selengei’s mother—then the others—coaxing baby Selengei on that very first crossing. Then year after year, Grandmother leading them further, further, beyond the crashing falls.
Now Selengei held the infant closer. As she lifted her gift to Ngai, Selengei wept, her keening rising, rising along with the others’, until the swollen river spilled.
Dina Greenberg earned a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from University of North Carolina Wilmington in May 2015, where she served as managing editor for the literary journal Chautauqua. She also holds a Master of Liberal Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied bioethics and creative non-fiction.
Her interest in the spiritual component of trauma led her to pursue research into post-traumatic (dis)tress among returning combat veterans. She has designed and facilitated narrative workshops for military family and service members as a means of healing the psychic wounds of war.
Dina’s articles, poetry, essays, reviews, and short stories—many encompassing the themes of trauma, illness, and healing—have appeared in publications such as Bellevue Literary Review, Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine, The Warwick Review, and Barely South.