A Scream in the Night

Carol with her parents, Louise and Parker Leonard of Brewer, Maine ~ circa 1950

Carol with her parents, Louise and Parker Leonard of Brewer, Maine ~ circa 1950

I just heard a “vixen scream”, the sound of foxes mating outside my bedroom window. I am amazed, because even after a half century of knowing what this sound is, it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and makes me hyper-alert. Now I know that when I hear that bloodcurdling scream, the mating foxes are locked in a backwards “copulatory knot” which can last for over one hour. God, I would be screaming too.

But now this haunting sound makes me smile as I remember the first time I ever heard it. I was a twelve-year-old, prepubescent girl and for some reason I had fallen asleep on the padded window seat in my family’s sun porch instead of my bedroom. It was the middle of the night and the jalousie windows of the sun porch were open. I sat bolt upright as I heard the unmistakable sound of a woman screaming in intense pain. My heart was beating like a drum and I felt a little nauseous. Then I heard it again! It definitely was a woman in terrible trouble—maybe even being strangled.

I could barely breathe, but I slipped on my sneakers and slid out of the side door of the sun porch, and ran across the lawn, then through the long field toward the sound. It was very dark but there was enough of a slight new moon to make landmarks eerily identifiable. It sounded like it was coming from the little pond that I had named “Cherry Pond” for the first spring blossoms of the wild cherry trees surrounding the water. I had no idea, obviously, what I would do exactly when I found the source of the terror—I just knew I had to help this struggling woman.

When I got to Cherry Pond the screaming stopped. I sat quietly with my heart pounding in my ears and waited, shaking uncontrollably. When I heard it again, it was so close by that I also heard a soft “whooping” sound accompanying the terrible scream. Ah, so it was animals. With tremendous relief, I lay back on my back in the tall dry grass and stilled my heart and listened with wonder at the horrific, primal sounds. I had not a clue as to what was going on—but the emergent nature of it all had dissipated. The tension drained out of my lips and fingertips. I watched the clouds scudding quickly across the small crescent of the moon, a “fingernail moon” as my mother called it. Eventually, the screams stopped and I didn’t hear them again.

The next day, my mother was unloading our fabulous new 1960’s avocado-colored dishwasher. I told her about the screaming and about going to investigate in the dark. She was accustomed to her oldest and most feral child running around in the woods and streams unfettered.

She said, “Carol, did it ever occur to you to be afraid?”

I answered honestly, “No, actually, I thought it was pretty cool sounding.”

She stopped what she was doing and gave me what my siblings and I called “The Look.” Then she sighed and continued putting dishes away.


Now as I lie in my bed, I am in wonderment of where my life has led me since that night. Little did I know then that my entire life would be enmeshed in the primal sounds of women, of women crying out in the night in their agony and their ecstasy as they brought forth new life. New life…as, in due time, the mother vixen would soon be licking the blood and the fluid off her newborn kit. New life…and that there would be a thousand women and a thousand times I watched the moon as they cried in fear and in joy as their bodies and souls made that sacred journey. New life…and that I would be so honored to witness this miracle over and over again.

I believe my path was preordained in the moon on the night that a brave young girl ran toward the scream.













Carol Leonard

About Carol Leonard

Carol Leonard is a midwife, a writer and a licensed beaver trapper. She was the first midwife licensed to practice legally in New Hampshire and has attended close to 1,200 babies born safely in their own homes. She was a co-founder of the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) representing all midwives in the US, Canada and Mexico. She was elected as the second president of MANA. Carol is the author of the best-selling memoir, Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, A Midwife’s Saga, Bad Beaver Publishing, 2010. Carol is currently building a 400-acre farm in Ellsworth, Maine with her husband, Tom Lajoie. Her blog BAD BEAVER TALES: Love and Life in Downeast Maine, chronicles their informative and funny journey building their dream homestead on 400 acres of wilderness in Downeast Maine. Carol and Tom are also raising about a hundred beavers there that they argue about on a daily basis. These blog posts will be a collection of tales not just about Bad Beaver the place, but stories that meander around in her life, past and present—at the same time, Bad Beaver is where it all leads. As a writer friend says, “These stories from Bad Beaver are, at turns, brave, beautiful and just plain badass.”