“God help me!” came Mama’s muffled cry through the closed bedroom door.
Madonna Adalieta, Santina’s mother, had gone into labor at daybreak and Trotula, the midwife who lived in a hilltop cottage outside the wall of the village, had just arrived with her basket of herbs and fragrant ointments. As she was ushered to Mama’s room, Santina tried to follow her.
“You can’t go in there,” said Lauretta, her plump older sister, blocking the door.
“Why not?” twelve-year-old Santina Pietra wanted to know. The groans from the bedroom were frightening her, and she wanted to make sure Mama was all right.
Trotula, who carried herself like a great lady even though she was a woman of modest means, paused to look kindly at Santina. She was the niece of old Ninetta, who had delivered babies in San Gimignano for as long as anyone could remember. “I’ll take good care of your mama. I’ll let you know how she’s coming along.”
The heavy bedroom door banged shut, separating Santina from Mama and the mystery of whatever Trotula would do to bring the new baby into the world. Santina slid to the floor and might have stayed there all day if Margherita, Mama’s maid servant, had not led her away.
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