Sunday, January 8, 2012

1957Baby JoanMary Joins the Family

Bruce met a fellow student who was practicing photography. Because he knew Bruce had a family he asked to come to our student housing and take some pictures. These are some. There are more.  
Kevin Paul 1 year old

Michael 4       Kevin      Patrick 2 1/2
Daddy With His 3 Sons
Add Mother- The Whole Family
Bill and Mary, our teacher couple,  planned on a June wedding in 1956. After their engagement I recall Mary and I talking together in Mother’s kitchen at Tullybrackey, as she was anticipating what it would be like to be married. We discussed many issues sitting on the stairway off the kitchen. This time I shared that  the bedroom is the most important room in one’s home so keep it a nice, pleasant room. And always take baths before bed. Well, at least I was sharing the sexual relationship a tiny  bit, wasn’t I, turning away from those Victorian days of yore. Movies continued to show married couples sleeping in twin beds and rarely do we see them bathing. Many the times things in my family were discussed on the same back stairway off the kitchen. What stories it might tell. 

Mary Couglin had been employed in a classy dress shop in Harvard, her home town, for some time, perhaps from high school days and while attending Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. She planned a nice, vogue wedding. July 21 [Our father’s birthday]. We took time out for the lovely wedding at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Harvard, IL followed by a reception at Lake Lawn in Delavan, WI, a neighboring community.   After marriage Bill and Mary lived in a rental apartment. Perhaps I drove dad’s Ford for I clearly remember visiting Mary in their apartment in Arlington Heights.
Mary and Bill at Wedding Reception, Lake Lawn, Delavan WI July 21, 1956

Mary and Bill Honeymoon in Florida

I never knew the precise story of a time when my sister met Tom Sullivan. They were at Marquette. He was an only son and had like Elayne spent some time in a novitiate. My hunch is they were dating about this time. 

Fr. Terrell, now friend and our chaplain for CFM, knew of a Specialist. Could have been a red light,  a Catholic Doctor educated in Catholic Universities.  Terrel had advised me to visit him for he would give me information on my female sexuality which I had questions about.  He delivered all his patients at Mercy Hospital, near south side.  This situation seemed right for me. I couldn’t see how I could manage the Quincannon/Harvard situation again while living afar. I had a small family to care for and no one was going to step in and rescue me. Then 4 or 5 months later I was delighted to be pregnant once again.

Mary planned on taking care of little Kevin for a few days to give his mom a bit of ease which was well received. Mary seemed to enjoy Kevin’s visit. As the early childhood teacher she  set about teaching him little things. I recall her telling me how she had him place his small shoes together, side by side beneath his bed so they would be right there for him to find in the morning. My hunch is he had good care and didn’t miss his family too much.

La Leche League had been birthed and I had some contact with my cousin, MaryAnn, now married to Tom Kerwin. She was among the initial women founders of League. 
LLL Founding Mothers  Cousin, MaryAnn 3rd from left
I am older, 29. I’d already birthed 3 babes. I’m thinking I know much more about this than my younger cousin. [Dumb, dumb, dumb- this is the help I’d been wanting]. I think Thomas More Kerwin was already born. Yes, November 1955. In this League photo above Tommy is standing in front of MaryAnn and she is holding the next child on her lap. She tried to steer me toward the information they had  learned thus far. I had almost reached my due date so I  convinced myself I could manage this time quite well thank you. I totally dismissed the vital importance of contacting this sharing community of moms. I’d read Bundesen’s book again. I’ll pay attention to things I hadn’t previously. I had my small 4 ounce bottles with the special covers. I would use them only when  the baby seemed unsatisfied. I would see no purpose in using anything but cow’s milk for supplement if I needed to, this being a dairyman’s child. I simply cannot recall ever having cans of Carnation or Pet milk around the kitchen. Our husband, wife pediatricians later wrote out a formula for us using Pet Milk. I found this in my baby notes.   Day of delivery arrived. I was in a large room with many beds, dormitory style. When I advanced to proper dilation I was brought into delivery.  City doctor knew no more than country doctor. These doctors were not inclined to share their methods with young moms either. We never talked of choice of delivery, of anesthetic. This was my specialist 5 years later using  similar methods from which he hadn’t grown from. Unlike Quincannon, this specialist gave me an injection or something similar and I went out like a light. Most likely the same treatment I received from Dr. Forrest. I don’t recall much pre-labor pains. [Again like Michael Moore described]. Much later I awoke. I was told I had a lovely baby girl and all was well with her and with me. When would I see her? I planned on breast-feeding and my doctor knew this. Eventually, in the morning, they brought our baby, Joan Mary, for me to hold a bit. A girl. If the baby were a girl this was our chosen name. I should have been overjoyed. I was directed to put her to my breast for a short interval. After which once again the baby girl was whisked away to a nursery. Four hours later they brought her to me again. This was specialist care?? Even my duckling, Hunker, followed me the moment he hatched from the egg. Nature connects child to mother and mother to child from the moment the offspring draws its first breath. Was my baby saying, ‘Who’s my mother’? As they say in LaLeche doctors are not taught in medical school. This was crazy-making. Whatever medication I had to remove pains seemed to have an effect after birthing as well. It is truly hard to believe. I felt alone, sad, confused, awkward with my little girl and vice versa. Did she know me? In nature the young know their mother. We were separated. We know now both she and I did not ‘bond’ immediately. 

She required that initial physical warmth perhaps to a greater degree than the previous babes since I would be dividing myself among the four children. This was a step backwards, not forwards.  How could she know? I experienced none of that holy elation I’d experienced with Patrick and Kevin. Rather I teared up and cried. I never had previously done this. Is this what describes ‘the baby blues'? Oh, yes, America surely needed a La Leche League for mothers, for babies, for father’s, for families. Once again I missed out. What could have or should have transpired simply did not. And yet to this day our Catholic Church doesn’t get it. Few instances do I see the young family’s needs being tended to. My opinion is they haven’t a clue what is even needed. There is no dialog, no listening. Oh, yes protect in the womb and I certainly agree. Then what? This is where many of the answers could be found.

My breastfeeding situation dwindled in no time. Giving cow’s milk, which I ‘smartly’ used as a supplement when Joan was yet hungry, it turned out was easier, quicker for her to become satisfied.  League calls this interval ‘supply and demand’. I was supplying her with cow’s milk not mother’s milk and in no time she was weaned. Joan Mary cried much more than the boys, it seemed to me. I had to shun the idea this was so because she was a girl. I believe now the straight, rich cow’s milk, with it’s higher  proteins and fat, was difficult to digest and very often left her extremely uncomfortable as with Patrick. Besides she must share her mothering time with three big brothers.
Children in these barracks seemed to pass infections backward and forward, round and round, especially through the cold, damp winter months. The number of times strep infection surfaced was incredible. Kevin would have these atrocious head colds. I can see him sitting in the high chair in misery. Its a wonder they didn’t become penicillin immune.  Another thing about Kevin is he would wake up in the night. Pat used to do this. I would  go to awakened Patrick, pick him up from his crib, stand there and cuddle him, coo to him. Got so he liked this and required that I stand there in the darkened room, tending him until he tired. Each time I tried to lay him down he’d come wide awake. We had established a habit. So when Kev began his wakefulness I just kept the rooms totally dark. I’d take him from his crib. He’d wander around and often after quite a while, 1/2 hour, 1 hour, he’d eventually figure out nothing interesting was going on so he might as well return to his bunk. Far better habit. And he soon outgrew this phase. 

Gran Stewart in Conversation with JoanMary
JoanMary and her Daddy during House on the Hill Visit

We celebrated every birthday with small clusters of  the neighbor children living in this compound. I routinely made applesauce cupcakes piled high with butter cream frosting. We had candles, sang Happy Birthday, blew them out, played children games, and sang ditties from Romper Room all together.
Kevin with Friends Play in the Sand- Cheri, Greg, David
Patrick and His Friends Ride Their Trikes on Kenwood Avenue
Kevin, Michael, Patrick Seated on Park Bench on Midway

                                                                           I called this trio ‘my ragamuffin boys’.
Things were getting tough for this family. Boys are very hard on their pants knees. I was constantly patching them and passing down patched pants. Crew cuts made things easier. And canvas shoes were preferable to the white leather they wore which needed to be polished Saturday nights for Sunday wear or even their scuffed blacks and browns. Suspenders solved the belt problem. Hippie clothing wouldn’t be vogue until they were in their teens. Holes in socks and clothing were no-ons, were shaming. These societal requirements contributed a great deal to our stress. I was so proud of our boys and struggled to have them look their best out among the populace. Sometimes, as above, getting outdoor and going places, doing things was priority. How I love our little boys! Gran would say, ‘Precious’. What’s not to love here seated on this public bench? 


  1. Mom, I am wondering if your bewilderment and depression after my birth also had to do with:

    - Post-natal depression. You were fortunately spared the experience with your earlier 3 babies. In those days, it wasn't talked about or recognized as much.

    - Because you weren't breast feeding, you weren't getting the hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) that relax the mother and make her feel more nurturing toward her baby.

    - Plain exhaustion from having 3 little children. In addition, my brothers awoke at all hours of the night, and Dad studied at night at the desk near the bed.

    - You were learning to spread your love among 4 children and a husband. You would eventually get better at spreading out the love throughout the family, but you had to go through a learning curve. You may have been sad and angry at yourself that it wasn't an easy transition.

    - You had to come to terms in your heart that your anticipation of what you thought a baby daughter should be was only a fantasy.

    - Lingering grief about the miscarriages that happened in the 3 years between Kevin and me. From my own experience, I know how a miscarriage can break the heart.

    I am sorry you went through this. I feel for you because I am also a woman. You must not blame yourself. You did the best you could.

    Joan Mary

  2. I did breastfeed through the early month when the goody things are all there. Seems what we might be pointing to is an additional factor in post-partum depression occurs when the mother is not fully cognizant when giving birth. And what a spark to it all happens when the father is there, too. The medical system denied what nature intended.


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