Twenty-Four: Welcome To Equestria
Pumpkin tried to be brave. Buttermilk had panicked, and had begun fighting to run away. It was everything Pumpkin could do to keep hold of the frightened, bucking and shrieking unicorn. The yellow foal had managed to get loose from between Pumpkin's forelegs; the only grip she had on Buttermilk now was by the mane, low on the crest, almost to the withers. It wasn't the best of holds, but Pumpkin didn't dare let go to try again. If Buttermilk ran off aimlessly, perhaps to be lost out in the desert beyond the town, she would never forgive herself.
Buttermilk had been frightened by Pumpkin's water breaking. A prodigious amount of liquid had come out of her, pouring onto the ground; far more than she had imagined when Caprice had read to her from A Mare's Guide To Foaling. Pumpkin also felt fear, because she remembered the that the following paragraphs from the book indicated delivery at any moment after such an event. She had from zero to thirty minutes before she would begin giving birth, and she was afraid to even move for fear that it would start.
This wasn't how she had imagined all of this happening. In her daydreams, she had seen herself in a lush green valley with flowers all around, Alexi and Caprice close by, the book close by, and Aurora there too, just in case. The teal unicorn Aurora had discovered a talent for healing one day. Ren had fallen when trying to hammer a strut on one of the pavilion cottages; she had mended his leg with magic and gained a cutie mark in the process.
Pumpkin was alone, between cottages, in the early afternoon, and nopony was around. She wasn't sure how far she was exactly from her house; she had been paying too much attention to Buttermilk's tantrums. The village wasn't that large, but right now, with a panicky foal in her teeth and a dripping, wet behind, in the beginnings of labor, the place seemed gigantic. "HE'O! HE'O! ITH ANIHONI HYERE?" Pumpkin yelled from around her mouthful of mane. "HEL'K! HYAN SYUMHONI HEL'K ME?!?"
Little Buttermilk was frantic; the yelling had not helped her calm down. Suddenly the first contraction hit. The book had said that mares experienced massive contractions that could expel a foal in mere minutes once the process started; the book was a goddamn liar. 'Massive' did not do this experience justice; the word 'horrendous' would have been so much more appropriate. Pumpkin winced, her mouth open with shock. Buttermilk tore away from Pumpkin's grip racing off in an unknown direction; by now Pumpkin's eyes were closed from experiencing something that the scrawny wimp called 'pain' could only dream of being.
No, this wasn't precisely pain, as such. It was more the feeling of being turned inside out like a rubber glove. 'Rubber glove!' thought Pumpkin, what an absurd, useless thing! What would something like that even be used for? She started to laugh, hysterically, at the thought. Maybe it was an udder cover, except it had three too many nipples on it! Maybe gloves were for cows to wear oh Celestia here it comes again oh Luna what the flying buck am I supposed to...
There was now something sticking out of her, pushing her tail aside. It was big. Very big. Pumpkin felt like she had a log sticking out of her hindquarters. Actually, it felt more like a tree. She had an entire tree in her ass! Pumpkin was laughing again, or rather her body was; she wasn't actually feeling anything akin to humor right now at all. If her body wanted to laugh, let it, she was worried about other things at the moment.
Lay. Down. That's what the book said. If she tried to deliver standing up, her foal could fall to the ground and be injured. She didn't want that. She had to lay down. Down on her side with her legs extended. Pumpkin tried to lay herself down, but she found her legs were locked. Great. She struggled to unlock them. It was difficult because she could only try between the contractions; when those hit her the world started to go black and she couldn't move or think anymore. As the agony faded for a moment, she scrambled to lay down in the dirt. She would never make it in time all the way to the grass beside the dirt pathway.
Damn that book. It had said she would know a whole day in advance; it had said she would feel uncomfortable and... actually she had been feeling kind of bad. Dammit, now she couldn't blame the book anymore, but what did any of that really mean anyway and oh Celestia here it comes again oh Luna why wasn't she screaming she really should be screaming because then somepony might come and oh yes now THAT'S good screaming you just keep that up body because I have to concentrate on this mighty redwood currently occupying my oh...
That last contraction had done it; Pumpkin felt the last of it pass, pushing her tail aside. The pain was gone now; just like that it was gone. She felt distended, exhausted, bedraggled but... the pain was finally, blessedly gone. Dr. Pastern had been right! Pumpkin had once heard her mother tell her about having gone through eighteen hours of labor. She couldn't imagine suffering almost an entire day of what she had just been through. The very thought was too much to bear. Ten minutes had been enough. More than enough.
When she had caught her breath, she began to drag herself around to face her newborn. There were things she needed to attend to, things she had prepared for. Behind her, in the mud made from her own fluids, partially covered in a pale membrane, was her foal. It was vastly larger than she had ever imagined. Her child was easily as large as Buttermilk had been the very first day she had met her. How had all that ever fit inside her? It was impossible!
Breathing. A newborn foal had to be able to breathe, and the membrane was an issue. Pumpkin did the only thing she could; she began pulling and tearing at the translucent sac with her teeth and lips. She licked it away from her foal's nose and mouth, the thin taste of something not entirely unlike blood on her tongue. The tiny, sky-blue creature moved a leg; bubbles frothed out of its nose. Liquid drooled out of it's mouth for a while, and then it gave a little gasp.
Pumpkin began pulling and licking away the last of the membrane from the azure coat. Tiny hooves kicked weakly; her foal was breathing and moving under her administrations. As she worked her way down she saw that she was still connected to the newborn; an umbilical stretched from the tiny blue belly on back between her legs and under her tail. What had the book said about all that? Right, just leave it for now, let the last of the blood stop pumping on it's own. Fifteen to twenty minutes. Yeah, that was it.
"Hello! Help!" Pumpkin said weakly. This would have to happen during the one part of the day nopony was in their cottages. If only Caprice was here, if only anypony was here! Pumpkin returned to licking and comforting her foal, trying to take in what it was that she had brought into the world.
Sky blue he was, with a dark blue mane and tail. Midnight blue. He looked like a big berry. A big blue berry. Blueberry! Pumpkin smiled. That was her favorite berry, she loved blueberries. Blueberry it was! My little Blueberry. My little tasty treat. Not that tasty right now, perhaps, but nevermind. This is our first moment together, Blueberry. Welcome to the world. Welcome To Equestria. I am your mother, Pumpkin. I am so very glad to meet you at last.
Blueberry opened his eyes. They were the color of cherry blossoms, pink with shades of peach towards the pupils. They were lovely. Pumpkin began licking Blueberry's still wet face, drying his muzzle, his nose, his ears, cleaning him as best she could. She felt so tired. Finally she had to lay down for a while.
She lay on her side, facing her new foal. He looked at her, then around, never quite focusing on anything for long. Quite understandable, really, the delicate little creature had never seen anything before.
It was then that Pumpkin noticed that Blueberry didn't have wings. She had expected her foal to have wings. Caprice had found a chart in the foaling book of Equestrian genetics; Pumpkin had just assumed that her offspring would look like her. But then again, the father had been human. Maybe that made a difference. Maybe the conversion serum had changed the fetus inside her separately from her own conversion. If so, Blueberry could have become anything.
What was Blueberry? No wings, so he wasn't a pegasus. That was kind of sad; Pumpkin had wanted to share flying with her foal. She licked the locks of mane away from Blueberry's head to check for any tiny button of possible horn. Nothing.
Blueberry was an earth pony.
That was OK. That was fine. That was wonderful. Her little Blueberry. He would grow up to make the flowers grow and the fruit ripen on the vine. He would have a wonderful life, here with all the kind ponies. He would run with her through the trees, when the Horsewood had grown. Blueberry would grow up right alongside their very first forest.
Her old daydream, from the Bureau, came back; running through the trees with her own foal. Now that foal was Blueberry.
Feeling a little more energetic once more, Pumpkin raised herself to look at the umbilical cord. The ropy-slick tube of flesh had stopped pulsing, and lay quiet now, no blood moving through it. Blueberry was beginning to become restless; she needed to deal with this before the newborn colt attempted to stand, which the book had indicated would happen fairly quickly.
It was not at all easy, this giving birth; it was messy and grotesque and strange. But it was life, and it was real, and she had to take care of this.
Pumpkin moved so that she could get a good angle on the cord. About three inches was what the book had said. A little less than a hoof. Pumpkin lowered her head and brought it close to her little colt's soft blue belly. Gingerly, she took the cord in her mouth, doing her best to make sure that the teeth facing the foal were three inches, as best as she could reckon, from his tummy. Then she bit down as hard and definitively as she could.
The squish of soft, living flesh filled her mouth. The cord flopped free from her jaw, and landed on her colt's belly, a pink and white stub. Pumpkin dropped the other section of the cord, the portion that led back into her own body, and spat out a chunk of it that had been left in her mouth. The metallic taste of blood was strong.
She checked the cord on her colt's stomach. It was not bleeding; her teeth had crushed the open end entirely. Good. Next she checked the cord leading to herself; this was oozing, but the blood was not pumping out, just draining. That was alright. Good enough. It should be good enough. She really didn't want to bite the thing again.
It could be any moment now. Or it could be eight hours from now; eventually she would have another powerful contraction or two, so as to expel the placenta. This could not be rushed, and it was dangerous to even think of trying to pull it out of herself.
But this was a problem; she had a long tube of flesh hanging out of her, and it wasn't like she could go for a stroll. She knew she had to be careful that nothing, be it something on the ground, or her own hoof, should tug on that cord. She had to wait for the placenta to be naturally discharged.
"Hello? HELLO?" She called out again. She looked around, trying to figure out how close she was to home. Laying in the path, she wasn't sure. Wait, that had to be Boeing's cottage. And that one over there, with the red flowers painted on the canvas, that wasn't far from her pavilion. She was close. At least it seemed like she was close. If only somepony would come by. They were doubtless all out doing things; working in the gardens, or on the forest, helping with the rock farm, or just enjoying the day.
Blueberry began to kick, trying to get the feel of being a pony, of having legs, of being alive. Pumpkin turned to him and continued to lick the residue of his arrival off of him. She nuzzled him, gently. He was on his belly now, his severed cord flopping on the moist earth. Pumpkin hoped this wasn't bad. Equestrians never seemed to get sick or infected. Maybe it would be alright.
Blueberry tried to stand. He immediately fell down. Pumpkin felt like she should try to show him how; with effort, she tried to stand up herself, being ever so careful to keep the dangling umbilical cord away from her hooves. Finally she raised her weary body and locked her legs in place. Never had she been so grateful for that ability as now; she did not think she could have remained standing if she had needed to rely on her own muscle power alone.
The cord dangled out of her; it felt cold and wet and awful. Nothing for it. She would just have to be brave. Untold generations of living creatures, in Equestria and back on old Earth, had coped with this, so she could too.
Blueberry tried to stand again, this time he flopped on his side. Pumpkin wanted to help so much, but she dared not unlatch her legs; she was just completely exhausted. "Come on, you can do it!" Her voice was soft, not just because she was trying to be gentle, but also because she had so little energy. "You can stand, I believe in you my brave little colt."
Shining pink eyes focused on her. The tiny sky-blue foal tried again, and this time succeeded, standing on four wobbly legs. Blueberry made a plaintive sound, almost a mew, and stumbled towards Pumpkin. Seeing her foal yearning for her brought tears to her eyes. "Come on, come here! Blueberry, my little Blueberry!" The tears ran down her muzzle, she could taste salt through her wide smile.
Blueberry made a few more jerky steps, his delicate little hooves leaving tiny marks in the moist earth and dragging sections of the drying membrane that had recently covered him. The stub of his umbilical cord dangled underneath his belly. Blueberry was close, now. Pumpkin lowered her neck and began licking and grooming him, kissing his head and babbling about how beautiful he was.
The azure foal began licking her in return, covering her face in kisses. Then another contraction suddenly ripped through her awareness, the world almost fading to black. A few additional squeezes followed and she heard a wet floppy smack hit the dirt. If her legs had not been locked, she surely would have collapsed from the contraction.
Pumpkin curved her neck to look behind and below her. A horrifying wet lumpen mass of pink, red and white tissue glistened on the ground, it's sagging flesh was the origin of the long, severed umbilical cord. Pumpkin breathed out a long sigh of gratitude; she was free from the placenta now. No complications, no problems. The process was essentially complete. She could expect a few hours of lesser contractions as her internal organs reset themselves, but the worst was over.
Pumpkin Licorice had successfully given birth, on her own, all alone, in the middle of a dirt pathway. Her foal was a sky blue earth pony colt, and he was healthy and strong. A surge of triumph went through her; she had handled this all by herself. Then exhaustion hit her once more, and her head sank on its own, and she found herself half dazed, her son licking her face and eyes once more.
Pumpkin became aware of her udder now, it was swollen and straining. It felt a little like having a full bladder. Sort of. She felt drops of milk beginning to drip from her. Colostrum. It was colostrum milk, the most important milk her foal would ever drink. The first 24 to 48 hours only; it contained all the biological instructions to program a lifetime of immunity to disease. It was vital that Blueberry take as much in of this most precious of milks as possible.
She did not need to worry; her little colt was already there now, she felt his tiny mouth trying to grab onto one of her nipples. He was under her belly, his head between her thighs. Clumsily, he managed to grab her right nipple in his mouth. She could feel her udder contracting, all of its own, milk streaming out of her, into her foal. Caprice had made a point to her of how important it was for a newborn to get colostrum into them.
Pumpkin let her head hang, she was so tired. It was good, everything was good now. It was going to be alright. Her foal, her own precious Blueberry, was hungrily feeding; he was getting his lifetime supply of protection from the world right this moment. Caprice would approve of her. She had done everything right. Oh, Celestia, but she was tired.
They found her that way, Alexi and Caprice, when they had left their cottage. They had fallen asleep on the cloud bed - it was just so comfortable that a nap was inevitable. They had been awakened by hooves scratching on the front door; opening it had revealed Buttermilk, alone and terrified. The little yellow unicorn was panting; she must have been running about for some time, somehow she had found her way home all by herself.
Knowing that Pumpkin would not willingly abandon her niece, Caprice and Alexi had leapt to the obvious conclusion; they began searching for Pumpkin, and had discovered her some distance away; down a path between a small cluster of the colorful pavilion cottages.
Pumpkin was asleep, still standing with locked legs, her tiny blue foal beside her, sniffing at her thighs and burping. His face was covered in thick, yellowish first-milk. He bleated at them as they approached, courageously trying to defend his mother against the unknown threat of not-mother.
It took quite some time to assist Pumpkin back to the pavilion cottage; they helped her onto the cloud bed; Alexi had pushed it the way flat to the floor to make getting onto it easier. Blueberry curled up on the cloud, close to his mother's stomach, nuzzling and sniffing her, pressing his soft, light blue body into hers. Pumpkin was snoring now, something she normally never did. Caprice gave her a kiss on her ear and tiny Blueberry a tender lick across the head.
Later, they brought back a basket overflowing with tasty goodies for her to eat; the entire community was excited and beyond eager to help.
The very first foal in the Village Of Summerland, Summerland County, Equestria, had been born.