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(Vatican City, 1690)

In the wee hours of the morning, as contractions came faster and faster, Fia, sweating, said between clenched teeth, “Doctor, I don’t think everything’s okay, my baby!” The old doctor poked and felt her stomach with concern. He, too, felt in his gut that the baby may be in danger.

“Push M’lady, push with all your might!” Bearing down, crossing the red threshold of excruciating pain into an altered state of consciousness, she pushed, feeling as though her body would break open and pour out her life all over the bed.

The doctor and his assistants looked at the black haired head beginning to crown, yet the skin had a bluish tint as the old man commanded again, “Push!”

Maria, holding her hand, looked at her mistress with grave concern as she prayed fervently. Having attended many a birthing in her time, she knew Fiammetta was at the limits and that if the baby did not come soon, they might both be lost.

Almost time to go

Floating strangely free, Fia looked down from above at the writhing woman. With detachment, she watched the bedlam as the lady struggled to deliver. The woman, screaming in pain, looked strangely familiar. Gliding over to the the morning light filtering through a slit in the drapes, she thought, it’s almost time to go. Then her attention felt drawn towards another woman below. She thought…Maria?

Suddenly, she felt the pain come again as her body pushed. Looking down with glazed eyes at her bulging belly, Fia realized she needed to obey the desperate voice of the doctor or risk losing everyone. With every last ounce of her strength, the love of Tim’s life pushed, feeling her flesh tear as her child was born. Grabbing it, the doctor pulled it out, unwrapping the umbilical cord from around its neck quickly.

Falling back onto the bed, Fia lay exhausted with a faint knowledge that both their lives hung in the balance. “My baby, my baby,” she said weakly, trying to move, but barely able to turn her head. Holding the bluish-grey child upside down, the old physician tried to pat the infant into life, but – nothing.

Please, I want to see my baby.

Massaging his little diaphragm, the doctor checked for breath. His heart sinking, knowing what the probabilities were, he tied off small boy’s umbilical cord and lay the infant down in a swaddling cloth. The child wasn’t dead…yet. But in his experience, the small boy had been deprived of life by a cruel twist of fate that choked him with his mother’s own body wrapped around his small neck three times. During the journey through the birth canal, it constricted, cutting off the flow of blood to his head. Even if the child survived, he’d most likely be an invalid, dying of some common disease in his first few years.

Maria, hand aching from the vice-like strength of Fiammetta’s grip, cried softly. She knew the truth.

“Tim, where is Tim?” Fia moaned, half conscious.

“He is coming Fia, he is coming, we sent word as soon as you said to.”

“Tim!” Fia said, then fainted.

The doctor came quickly, checking her pulse, patting her cheek now, too. “M’lady, stay awake, don’t let yourself slip away from us,” the old man said, as he commanded his assistants to apply damp cloths. “Maria,” the old doctor said sternly, “keep her awake, I must tend to the child.”

Where is my baby!

Moments later, eyes opening wide, Fia tried to sit up, saying, “My baby, where’s my baby!” before she fell back into the bed again.

“Don’t worry about your child, it is well,” one of the doctors assistant’s said. Maria looked at him sternly as that white lie soothed Fiammetta like cold water to a thirsty man.

“I want my baby,” she murmured. Body aching all over, her legs still on fire and shaking, she thought, my baby. The servants put more blankets on her. A few minutes later, barely managing to roll towards Maria, Fiammetta pleaded, “Why aren’t they giving me my baby? Why isn’t it crying? Maria! what is happening, why haven’t they given me my child, I want to hold my baby!” she said as she began to sob quietly.

I did everything I could do

Jumping from the lathered horse, his feet carried him so fast through the halls, Tim barely felt them touch the marble floors. Crashing through the big double door to Fiammetta’s apartment, four of the doctor’s servants caught him, restraining him, before he made it through the smaller door, to her side. Screaming issued from the other room, her agony ripping like talons through his soul. All of sudden it stopped, and he waited. Crying, wasn’t there supposed to be crying!? “Fia!” he yelled as the men’s feet slipped on the floor. “Let go of me!” He yelled, thrashing about.

The door creaked open, as the old doctor came out, craggy face sorrowful and drawn, Tim roared, “Tell me!” as he feared the worst.

The old man came near, laying his hand on Tim’s shoulder saying, “Your lady Fiammetta is as well as can be expected. But your son, I did…I did everything I know to do…”

“What!? No!” as he dropped to his knees in agony.

Bending down to the fallen monk, the doctor said, “The infant is still alive, but barely breathing. The cord was wrapped about his neck, there was no way of knowing. It was a difficult birth,” the physician explained, knowing full well that his words did no good at all.

“Unhand me,” Tim growled as he shook himself, “else I will kill you all with my bare hands!” The deadly quality in his voice made the four holding him loose him quickly. Standing, straightening his robe, he said, “Take me to see my son while he yet lives.”

Quietly sobbing

As they all stood aside, Tim swept past them and into the ornate room, where Fiammetta lay quietly sobbing. Seeing him she said, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry…” as she shook her head weakly.

“Fia, my angel, I love you.” Then Tim looked at the infant in her arms. So cherub-like, so small, the only son of his loins, he gently touched his small head, caressing it. “May I hold him?” he asked. Fia handed the infant to the big monk, who cradled him lovingly.

Tim bowed his head, doing the only thing he could think to do, saying, “Father in heaven, you know what kind of man I am, and that I am not worthy of your grace or mercy. But this little one, he is innocent and I come before you to beg for his life. You are almighty and if it be your will, he will live. Please, my Lord, do this one thing for me: Let him live.”


All at once, as if an unseen presence entered the room, the feeling of sorrow lifted. Fia stopped crying as her eyes widened saying softly, “Do you feel that?” Tim looked up and around, sensing it, too. A deep peace pierced the sorrow as the child coughed three times, then began to cry aloud. Looking down at the wailing infant, Tim wept.

Giving his son back to Fia, he held them both as the old doctor rushed in, imploring Tim to move aside so he could see the miracle. His assistants came around, two women pulling Tim gently away to allow the doctor room to minister. After a moment, there were tears in the old physician’s eyes as he realized the child was okay.

Moving back into a corner, feeling life seep back into his soul, Tim looked up, still feeling God’s presence. As his only son continued to cry, he knelt down, knowing for the first time in his life, the God he professed to believe in. You are real, Tim said within his heart, you showed mercy to my son.