Wednesday, June 11, 2014

About that Irish infant home story

My great grandmother had 8 children. You know how many lived to adulthood? Four. My great grandmother was a devoted mother but she could not save all her babies. My mother is named after one of those lost infants. My father was named after an uncle who also did not survive. In the days before penicillin and vaccines young children and infants died so often and so fast that the woman with an only child was a nervous woman indeed.

My mother who is 72, remembers having to wear a small but stinky flannel bag around her neck until she was 12 or 13. It was held by a string or ribbon and was filled with the acifidity herb which was supposed to protect her from getting sick. She said the one good thing about it was that all the kids in the country were wearing the same thing so everybody stank together. Putrid as it was, unless you wanted to make your parents very upset you didn't dare take it off outside of a bathtub or when swimming.

 It was also common in that staunchly Baptist and Methodist area to keep little boys dressed like girls until they could walk to protect them from jealous spirits or jealous adult women who might cast a spell. My youngest uncle, born in 1950, didn't get a hair cut until he was three.


With this in mind, I never gave the breathless Irish nuns-killed-illegitimate- babies-and-dumped-them-in-a- septic tank story one bit of attention. If you or anyone you know were taken in I suggest that  you sit down with an elderly person and ask about the "good ole days" or take a walk to an old cemetery and look at the infant section.



Death Crowning Innocence by Watts

5 comments:

Steve Dalton said...

You are correct about the death rate among young children years ago. About twenty years ago, I was at the Finnfest in DeKalb, Il. (I'm Finnish on my mom's side of the family.) I went on a bus tour of Finnish sites in the city. A part of that tour was a trip to the cemetery where many Finns were buried. A large number of those Finns were infants and young children. Nearly all of the children's grave's were marked with a tombstone with a lamb on top the stone. There were quite a few lamb's in that cemetery. BTW, my Finnish grandma died of childbirth fever after having her last baby. Mothers, as well as babies, died young back then too.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thanks for another dose of common sense, Dymphna. It's all too rare these days.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"My great grandmother had 8 children. You know how many lived to adulthood? Four. My great grandmother was a devoted mother but she could not save all her babies. My mother is named after one of those lost infants. My father was named after an uncle who also did not survive. In the days before penicillin and vaccines young children and infants died so often and so fast that the woman with an only child was a nervous woman indeed."

I think 19th C US would if so have been worse than 18th C France.

Dourdan had an infant mortality (newborn or soon after) of 13%.

Of course, living up to adult age, ages when dying are comparable to now.

And one cannot count on penicilline and vaccines permanently lowering infant mortality. Besides, abortion has added a factor.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"It was also common in that staunchly Baptist and Methodist area to keep little boys dressed like girls until they could walk to protect them from jealous spirits or jealous adult women who might cast a spell. My youngest uncle, born in 1950, didn't get a hair cut until he was three."

Like young Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

Never knew fear of jealousy and magic was the background. His parents were NOT staunchly either Baptist or Methodist, but freethinkers.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"BTW, my Finnish grandma died of childbirth fever after having her last baby. Mothers, as well as babies, died young back then too."

Back then : birth, fever on baby or fever on mother, death.

Now : abortion, suicide.

Guess which looks more like God's plan, according to Genesis 3:16?