An Opera in Three Acts


Act I: The Seduction

Act II: The Pregnancy

Act III: The Labour

Coda: The Child


A Layette for Baby
There are few prospective mothers who do not have the desire to make the outfit necessary for the little newcomer. It is at this time more than any other that a woman turns to her needle. During her restful moments she plies her needle in quiet meditation, fashioning the tiny garments which are so simple and so fascinating. The time and thoughts spent on the preparation are a labour of love and give her great joy.

Labour in the Various Presentations

Day Barracoats
Night Barracoats
Night Gowns
Day Gowns
Woolen Coats
Matinee Coats
Bonnets or Caps
Head Shawl

le souffle
le souffle
voici le souffle
Act I: The Seduction

il murmura mon nom dans un souffle
he breathed my name;

avoir du souffle; il a du souffle (lit)
he has a lot of breath;

(fig) (culot, temerité)
he has some nerve;

murmur moan nom darns un instrument a vent

on entendait un souffle dans l'obscurité
we heard (someone) breathing in the darkness;




hoop frames
tensioning screw
inner ring
outer ring




le souffle du vent dans les feuilles
the wind blowing through the leaves;
the leaves blowing in the wind;

un souffle d’air faisait bruire Ie feuillage
a slight breeze was rustling the leaves;

murmur a moon of air
tender use
damp obscurity

Act II: The Pregnancy

Diagnosis of Pregnancy: Uterine Souffle

This is the soft, blowing murmur, synchronous with the mother’s pulse, best heard low down on either side of the uterus from the end of the fourth month of pregnancy. It is caused by the blood passing from the branches of the uterus, the passage from the narrow into the wider part causing a murmur, just as in an aneurism. If a contraction of the uterus occurs while one is listening to it, it has been realistically compared in character to “the puffing of a goods engine going slowly in the distance”.

pour jouer d'un instrument à vent, il faut du souffle
you need a lot of breath to play a wind instrument;
you need plenty of puff to play a wind instrument;

Avoid any void
slightest puff our breath of air our slightest puff of wind

Inspiration creature
expiration en snuffling blow purr en respiring breath

Inspiration is souffle
puff of wind is due souffle darns pour joy if souffle

Force craterlike
gene inspiration
creatures the breath instrument a vent beguiler d’un dormeur


Act III: The Labour

First Stage of Labour

The onset of labour is marked by the occurrence of periodic pains due to the contraction of the uterus. At first they are slight and may be mistaken for colic.  As time goes on, however, they become more frequent and severe, beginning in the back and passing round to the front of the abdomen and the thighs.  As the pains become more frequent and severe the patient begins in most cases to cry out during the pains, and to seek relief by sitting bent forwards or leaning against some piece of furniture.

a bout

de souffle

d’un agonizing
(he breathed my name)

d’air falsetto bruise
(he has some nerve)

Second Stage of Labour

As the pain comes on the patient braces herself by holding on to some solid object, or pressing her feet against the foot of the bed. She then takes a deep breath and holds it as long as possible. The diaphragm is thus fixed and intra-abdominal pressure brought to bear on the expulsion of the child. As the pain passes off she relaxes the spasm of the glottis and diaphragm and takes several deep breaths.

(fig) elle en a eu le souffle coupé
it (quite) took her breath away;

reprendre son souffle
to hold one’s breath;
to get one’s breath back;

avoir Ie souffle coupé
to be winded;

dear incendiary ventilator
explosive fill blast


Coda: The Child

The first thing a healthy child does after its birth is cry. This expands the lungs and so throws open to the blood their enormous vascular area.

le souffle du genie
the inspiration born of genius;

le souffle créateur
the breath of God;

être avoir vent
cardiac our heart



A version of this text is published in a handmade artist’s book produced in an unnumbered edition, including original photographs by Christine Kennedy. It is available in this form as a Lean-To Edition in 2007 from The Cherry On The Top Press, 29 Vickers Road, Firth Park, Sheffield S5 6UY, UK.

Uterine Souffle uses and adapts fragments sourced from old text books: A Text-Book of Midwifery for Students and Practitioners by R.W.Johnstone (A&C Black Ltd: London 1920); The Big Book of Needlecraft edited by Annie S. Paterson (Odhams Press Ltd: London circa 1925); Collins Robert French-English English-French Dictionary, 1978.
Please enquire by e-mail to

christinekennedy lives and writes in Sheffield UK. Her most recent publication is Nineteen Nights in San Francisco (West House Books & The Cherry On The Top Press, 2007). Visit her page at The Archive of the Now:
back  forward