The Ninth - It's a Girl!
by Ruth Hammond Barrus
"She needs a doctor, that's what she needs," mumbled old Sister House. "It isn't right for a woman to suffer so for her young ones. I'm getting too old, anyway, to be a midwife to women like Sister Hale. She needs a doctor, that's what she needs!"
But Sister House knew that the closest doctor was in Salt Lake City, forty long, dusty, buggy miles away: besides, doctors don't have time to bother with women and babies. She knew she must hurry; but the dread of the agonized scene awaiting her slowed her movements, and time and preparation became nightmarishly out of balance.
Finally, she placed all necessities in the buggy and started toward the Hale home. The cold air from the distant Wasatch Mountains swept over the monotonous, harvested land. Trees were naked and quivering; and even the greasewood and rabbit brush had lost that look of defiance of elements, and seemed waiting for the thick winter covering of restful snow.
This after-fall and not-quite-winter scene fitted too perfectly her present mood. She must not enter that home feeling so dejected. Her thoughts sought refuge in more pleasant fields. She thought of the sensitive English girl, Sarah Annie Clark, who had come to her home in 1861, after walking a thousand miles across the plains; of Sarah's determined effort to obtain work so that she might help finance the parents' journey to Zion from England. She recalled the happy double wedding of Sarah and Alma H. Hale and his brother, Aroet, and Louisa in Grantsville on December 24th, 1861.
Aroet and Alma! Sister House's thoughts took another direction. They were two splendid young men! Orphaned at Winter Quarters at eighteen and ten, they got teams and supplies together and crossed the plains - they and their sister, Rachel, seventeen, and brother, Solomon, seven. Those children did as their father had directed them to:
"Stand by the faith," said their father (late Bishop Jonathan H. Hale of Nauvoo)." And continue on with Brother Brigham and Brother Heber to the Rocky Mountains. It is God's work and we must not fail. Do not be persuaded to turn back, even though our relatives insist upon it. Go with the church and God will bless you and preserve you."
Yes, they surely had followed the counsel of their father, Sister House continued to reflect. The children had settled first in Salt Lake City in 1848, and then in 1853 Aroet and Alma had been directed by Brother Brigham to help colonize Grantsville. As she rode through the streets of Grantsville, she noted the changes that had come to their small settlement because of the labors of Aroet and Alma, and others like them. She recalled the labored task of removing greasewood and rabbit brush, and the construction of log cabins. Later they built strong adobe-brick homes for their fine wives; but these same wives died within eight months of each other at childbirth, each leaving three children.
Again her thoughts flashed back to the double wedding, the second wedding each for Aroet and Alma. She thought of the love these young brides gave their husbands' motherless children. Then there was Alma's third marriage, a polygamous marriage, with Sarah's younger sister, Ellen, and the seven children by that marriage. She marveled at the unselfish way in which Alma managed these two families, and at the mutual love and respect the families enjoyed. Ellen was located on a fine farm just out of Grantsville. There were no half-sister, half-brother affections; all enjoyed the full love and encouragement of each other.
As Sister House neared the home of Alma and Sarah, she realized how much time had gone by since that double wedding. Sarah was awaiting the birth of her ninth child. Her ninth child! She prayed for skill and knowledge that she might succeed better this time to shorten the scene of suffering ahead. She dreaded the sight of the agonized face, and lips bleeding from the efforts to control pain-drenched sounds. Hours and days might go by before that suffering could end.
The horse stopped - these thoughts must also stop, she commanded herself. With determination, Sister House put a smile on her face and vigorously walked to the door. The anxiously awaiting family drew encouragement from her determined activity; and as she took the trembling, gripping hand of Sarah Hale, there came into the room a sense of courage and strength. Sister House knew that her strength must have a double edge - a moral strength to sustain Sarah Hale, through the long hours ahead, and a physical strength to do the job that nature refused to do in behalf of Sarah.
Night came and went; the day passed, and it was night again. Alma was coming up the steps with the Elders. Surely, thought Sister House, the Lord will answer the pleadings of these good men. The hands of Alma, Aroet, and Patriarch Benjamin E. Barrus were placed on the hot brow of Sarah Hale, and a blessing was given her that she might live and bear this child. As soon as the hands were removed from her head, Sarah went into painless unconsciousness; then Sister House commenced the task that nature refused to do. With her own hands she forced the birth of the ninth child of Sarah and Alma - and it was a girl, a frail, black-haired girl!
She knew that this news would bring a smile to the tired, now conscious mother. There were now four boys in the family, and this baby would make the fifth girl, but the fourth to live. What a joyous release from tension was the news that mother and baby were alive.
As Alma gratefully shook the hand of his brother, Aroet, goodnight, Sister House heard him say:
"Sarah and I decided that if the baby were a girl, we would name her after you and Louise, and we would call her "Aroetta Louisa Hale!"
Sister House looked at the small bundle in her arms, and smilingly wondered how such a big name could fit such a small infant.