When I, Frieda, was a little girl, people didn’t even say the word “pregnant” in polite company. I was probably six or seven when my aunt was visiting, and I called out, “Mother, don’t you think Aunt J__ is getting fat?” My mother’s reaction let me know that I had very definitely said something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was for a long time.
A few things from my early childhood are very clear in my memory. One is the birth of my little brother.
I was three years old and my sister was 18 months. This was 1940, at the end of the Great Depression and not long before World War II started. Daddy woke us up one morning and said he had a surprise for us. I remember thinking it was probably a special treat for breakfast (which would be nearly anything besides oatmeal.) He took us to the bedroom where mother was in bed with a little baby. They said this was our new brother, and his name was David. I asked where they got him, and they said God had sent him during the night. My next question was, “How do you know it’s a boy if he was born in that dress?” Mother answered that he didn’t come in the dress. I pondered this, thinking it extremely strange that God would send us a naked baby.
Later I was told that my sister and I had been breach babies, so Mother had to go to Parkland hospital (charity) when we were born. She was very glad to be able to have David at home with our family doctor in attendance.
In those days, conventional wisdom—and doctor’s orders–were that a woman should stay in bed for at least a week after giving birth. Daddy had no choice but to go back to work or we wouldn’t eat. Fortunately, according to Mother, we were obedient little girls, and she was able to direct our activities from her bed. I remember feeling very grown-up making us mustard and mayonnaise sandwiches every day for lunch. I suppose that was all we had in the ice box that I could manage.
My sister did cause some trouble by locking herself in the bathroom. It locked with a hook, and Sunny must have stood on a chair to reach it. She called me, and I called Mother, who had to ram the door with her shoulder hard enough to pull out the screwed-in hook. Women acquaintances who heard about this occurrence expected Mother to experience grave consequences, but evidently that didn’t happen. Soon she was up cooking for us and washing the diapers on a rub board in a galvanized tub.
(Esther here, I just had to insert that I’m very, very glad some things have changed!)