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The Secret Healer

By:Ellin Carsta


A scream tore through the night. “Hush now. Here.” The terrified Madlen, barely thirteen years old, grabbed a cloth and pressed it into the woman’s hand. “Use this when all else fails.”

The laboring mother writhed in pain, arching her back. It seemed as though the unborn child was fighting its mother, as her movements became increasingly erratic, every muscle taut.

“Pick up the candle and give me some light!” Clara ordered as she reached deep between the woman’s legs. “A little higher, please.”

Madlen held the candle over Clara’s head, in the hope that Clara would be able to see well enough to finally bring the baby into the world.

“Agnes,” Clara said to the laboring woman, as calmly as possible. “Please don’t push any more for the moment, do you hear me? The baby hasn’t turned yet, and I think its umbilical cord may be wrapped around its neck. If you keep on pushing, the baby will choke to death.”

“Please get it out!” groaned Agnes, completely exhausted. “I need to push; I just want to get it out.”

Clara threw Madlen a helpless look. It had been a long time, and they weren’t making any progress. Another contraction came, and again, Agnes arched her back to push the child from her womb.

“We’ve got to calm her down somehow,” Clara whispered anxiously. She tried to reach inside the woman’s womb again to turn the baby, but it was no use. Agnes was much too tense. Clara couldn’t penetrate the birth canal if Agnes kept fighting her. “She will die if we can’t calm her down, and the baby will, too.”

Agnes seemed to have heard Clara, as she began to cry and beg them not to let her die. Madlen gave her a sympathetic look as she held the candle high so that Clara could at least save one of their lives. Agnes settled down as the severity of the situation sunk in.

“The baby can’t turn. She’s too tense.” Clara shook her head in despair.

Agnes stared at the candle in Madlen’s hand, her eyelids fluttering and the corners of her mouth twitching from exhaustion. Madlen noticed that the dancing candlelight seemed to mesmerize her and slowly moved the candle back and forth behind Clara, who still squatted in front of Agnes’s legs, hoping for a miracle. Agnes’s eyes followed the light, right to left, then back again. Madlen knelt down and continued to move the candle ever so gently, back and forth.

“That’s good,” said Madlen, taking a deep breath. She thought about the calm voices of the priests at Sunday Mass and tried to imitate them. “The light is warm and peaceful; the monastery nuns made these candles and prayed to God that their flames would bring you light and give you peace. You are calm and your legs are relaxed. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” Her lips formed the words of the Mass, as if they’d taken on a life of their own. “Blessed art thou among women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” She paused for a second and saw Agnes’s eyelids continue to flutter. She turned to Clara and, with a nod, gestured for her to keep going. Madlen turned again to the woman and noticed that her eyelids now grew restless. “Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death. May Almighty God have mercy on us. He leads us away from temptation and to eternal life. The Almighty and merciful Lord grants us forgiveness for all our sins.”

Clara shoved her hand inside the woman’s womb and gave the baby a full turn. Madlen tried to concentrate, but it was if her mind had been swept clean of any more prayers or psalms. She swayed the candle to and fro and looked at Clara, who indicated that she should keep on praying. “But I trust you, Lord. You are my God. Our destiny lies in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies and persecutors! Let your light shine upon your servants, help us in our hour of need! Lord, I call on you to not let us fail, because failing would be . . .”

With a rapid, violent movement, Clara turned her arm and pulled the baby, slipping it out of the womb. Agnes arched her back and screamed in agony, as Madlen dropped the candle in fright. She hastily beat out the flames with her apron. Everything went quiet.

Madlen looked anxiously over Clara’s shoulders as she placed her hand over the infant’s nose and eyes and blew into its mouth with all her might. After a terrifying few moments, the child began to cry lustily. Agnes’s lips quivered. She was too exhausted to focus on her newborn. Elated, Clara shrouded the little boy in fresh sheets and pressed him close to her body. Then she got up and showed the child to Madlen with a thankful grin. “You saved this baby’s life with your calming voice and prayers. Now we must take care of Agnes so that we can lay the baby on her breast.”