Anna screamed. The labor pains had been frequent and intense for over an hour. She was soaked in perspiration, as were the two woman attending her. Kassia labored desperately, massaging the young woman’s abdomen, attempting to get the baby turned to emerge head-first. Miriam stroked her daughter’s brow and spoke soothingly to her.
“He is coming,” Kassia said. “Push as hard as you can.”
Anna leaned back against her mother and screamed again. Kassia could see the baby’s bottom and prayed silently as she worked to turn the child, knowing that one so small as Anna would be torn horrendously should the baby come out backwards. Only the anesthetic effect of the black cohosh extract of the buttercup flower enabled Anna to withstand the pain of the final push to bring her child into the world. Exhausted she fell back into her mother’s arms.
Tears streamed down Kassia’s face and Miriam watched in helpless dismay as Kassia removed the umbilical cord from around the baby’s neck. The little one, a male child, had been strangled in the womb. Kassia continued to clean him and was preparing to wrap him in his birthing cloths when the placenta was expelled. With it came a copious flow of blood. The walls of the uterus, thinned by the potion which had enabled Anna to push her baby into the world, had torn and hemorrhaging now ensued. Kassia struggled to stanch the flow of blood, but in vain, while Anna’s mother looked on and prayed and wept, feeling her daughter’s life slip away as she held her in her arms.