Sunday, January 29, 2012

1958 Robb Joins the Family

Dr. Gregory White, GP,  Comes to Our House

Dr. Gregory White was now our family doctor, GP. Greg was cousin Maryann Collins Kerwin's brother-in-law. He delivered their 1st born babe, Thomas More Kerwin at home. He has a reputation now. Women are requesting he deliver their babes in their homes. So Greg was known as the home birth doctor. He was on the staff at Loretta Hospital, too.  We decided to asked Greg to come to our home for delivery. His office was in Franklin Park which was nearly 20 miles away and took more than 30 minutes to drive. Even so he generously consented. The afternoon, June 18, I began to have labor pains which were moving steadily along by 4 PM, dilating hard by 5:30. We called Dr. Greg who came promptly from Franklin Park to our house on Springfield Avenue. It happened conveniently to be a Sunday. I have notes: “Daddy bathed and fed the children stew, had them brush teeth and assemble in the living room totally absorbed in a Disney story." Dad, Dr. and I were intensely involved in birthing, in our bedroom just north of the living room. All the doctor requested was a pan of boiling water- no needles, no medications. Greg and Bruce were having such a nice visit. At one point in time Greg said to Bruce, “Would you like to catch”? Today Bruce gets so elated as he describes this moment. He saw this hairy scalp and in just one more instant this babe was in his hands, in his arms.He had experienced the miracle. By the time Disney had ended we had our lovely baby boy laying beside me on our double bed. Robert after Robert Stewart his paternal grandfather and William after his maternal grandfather. He was lovely and beautiful. Nobody rushed in and removed him from my side. They lay Robbie on clean diapers across my chest. After a bit of cleaning up Daddy, cradled Robbie in his arms, and carried baby Robbie out of the room  to share so the children could have their first look at their new, baby brother, Robbie.  Today he shared, “This was an ecstatic experience such as I had never experienced previously”. Upstairs neighbor, Mary Eckstein, was taking care of JoanMary, 17 months old, in her apartment. These are the notes I saved: “Daddy changed her, gave her a bottle in her crib, heard the boys say their prayers all in 11 minutes and was back to assist Greg. Baby looks like everyone in the family-- Kevin’s lower lip, Michael’s mouth, Pat’s dark hair and nose. He’s very bright eyed and alert from first moment’s entrance. Nicely filled out, chubby hands particularly. Put to breast immediately which he took to quickly and vigorously sitting in our rocking chair in the living room. Slept well the first night in bed with mother and daddy. Bruce and I had announced babes arrival over the phone to grandparents. Noisy airliner passed overhead just as Gran and Granpa were called causing us to raise our voices and Robbie sounded off for his grandparents. Mary Eckstein visited before Robbie was 1 hour old.  Robbie slept well all day being wakeful and fretting from 2 to 3 in the afternoon. Grandmother Bergin and Uncle Jim visited for a couple of hours. Bruce did grocery shopping, washed clothing all day long, prepared meals, changed and cared for his 4th son, mailed insurance policy, cared for the other children. Mother brought chicken soup, asparagus, chiffon cake, and fresh strawberries. Children asked so many questions. Brought in visitors to see their new brother. Robb’s cord fell off in 3 days following an uncomfortable period as it became so dry and stiff as wire rubbing his tender skin when on his tummy.”
Robert William Stewart   A Few Hours Old
 How Big His Newborn Clothes Seem to Be on His Tiny Body

Our little Robbie suffered no trauma at all, neither did I nor his father. Would this ever be so again? 
Here is a clip of  Mary, Greg’s wife saying it like it was:
“We always said, back in those days, that the three main obstacles to successful breastfeeding were doctors, 

hospitals, and social pressures. I think the desire to breastfeed was always there along with the conviction 

that ‘breast is best.’ We were not promoting a product that people had to be convinced about. But very few 

young mothers knew anything about the ‘how to.’ Women had forgotten the wisdom of previous generations.”

By the time LLL came along, new mothers did not have the support of family or friends, let alone 

doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Mothers who tried to breastfeed on their own in the early 1950s were almost 

destined to fail.”

We kept the bassinet tight to our bed where Robbie spent his nights sleeping and in our bed when breastfeeding. This was great! Gave me rest I could certainly use. Absolutely no problems at all. The secret of success all along had been in approaching all as natural physical phenomena. June 29  he was baptized at St. Brunos Catholic Church just 2 blocks from our house with Tom Sullivan and MaryAnn Kerwin, godparents.
Then a month later Johnny Sullivan was born July, 1958. I know Elayne would now breastfeed her baby though I do not know what guidance she used, perhaps it was with the League as well. 

They were living in a small southern Illinois town,  Worden. 

One of the joys of nursing a baby is the freedom and mobility it provides. This same summer, having the nice Volkswagen Microbus, we decided, as a family, to    accompany,  Bruce on his annual Air Force Reserve 2-week Tour of Duty. 

There had been talk of camping between the Kerwins and us. We had the excuse to just do it.
We purchased sleeping bags, found a nice gas camping stove,  cast iron grill, lantern, water jug, ice box, tent, large canvas, and all the gear for family camping. Resurrected Bruce' Air Force nest of pans. 

His tour would be at Dover Air Force Base, Dover, Delaware. Once there the Air Force would accommodate family in their barracks. This was a 2-day trip east. Quite an exciting, new experience  traveling on the super highway and the Pennsylvania turnpike. First night out was a great initiation. We camped en route, set up tent, ate, bedded down for the night and then it poured down rain. Perhaps, if more seasoned campers we would have done things  in anticipation of the forecasted probability of pounding rain and pools of water. As it was we suffered through this long night learning experience. Water was in the tent, around the tent, everywhere, soaked sleeping bags. We parents at any rate spent a miserable night. I was nursing my babe. I don’t suppose the water, the wet, mattered to him a bit. Joan Mary would be whining and the older kids trying their best to cope and handle this awful 1st night out experience. 

On arrival  at the Dover Air Base we jumped from the bus, free at last. The day was so hot and very humid. The air was filled with mosquitoes hungry for blood. We carried our stuff down a long barracks hallway to our given quarters, totally dejected. How would we survive as a family with the little children in such an atmosphere? Soon Bruce learned from a companion about a lake near the base, though not too close, which had Cypress trees, even growing in the water, which kept the lake and the beach free  of those mosquitoes. We took advantage of the opportunity to camp there while Bruce commuted the distance, 50 miles,  to and from the base. What seemed some kind of hell turned into a   great  follow up camp experience, much preferred to what the base could offer. The water was brown but Bruce learned quickly it provided a wonderfully refreshing swim following a hot, muggy drive. Not only were we free of mosquitoes there was a built in play ground for our kids and all this nice, warm water to play in. Another memory here at the lake  was the barrels of water filled with live crabs  cooking over campfires. The crabs were moving about in the boiling water, bouncing their shells against the metal barrels as they were being cooked live for  folks’ dinners. This was our camping initiation to be followed by many in coming years.

Back home again on one of our family Sunday excursions out of Chicago into the western suburbs in our quite new VW Microbus we came to a small town, Winfield. On the hilltop stood this picturesque, red brick, St. John’s Catholic Church with a steeple, with bells. A creek ran through at the foot of the hill. The town was off the main drag. The site was like a drawing on a greeting card. Further along Church Street at the corner of Beecher Street, we spotted a For Sale/ For Rent sign on a 2 story, aged Victorian, frame, asbestos shingled covered, home. Upon inquiry the owner was agreeable to renting this home to a family as large as ours. He was anticipating in the near future when the property sold the dwelling would be destroyed and replaced. All of us were delighted. Not only a church and school in walking distance but a 2 story home, nice screened in porch for cold and rainy days, huge yard, green trees in a lovely, quiet town with the whistle sounds of a commuter train passing through at intervals. Made for this family. We immediately initiated a move to Winfield, IL.  Our 1-year lease with Mr. Soprich on Springfiled Avenue was about to expire. We would not renew. Much of  our life in this town would revolve around this Church.  

This was Fall of ’58. Dad would take turns in carpool to Nalco with a couple of their very willing employees who lived westerly. 

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