Thursday, April 1, 2010

Anne gave birth 10 times...

...that we know about.

My wondering about her birthing experiences persists-- to the point that I have begun having dreams that I am pregnant (let's not tell Tom about that) but, I suspect, that my grandmother knew nothing about Anne's pregnancies and labors because that would not have been discussed. Hence, these stories are gone.

I try below to imagine some what 'might have been':

Option A: Anne could have given birth at home:

Giving birth at home would have meant Anne was joined by neighborhood ladies (as Anne's mom and sisters were not with her) and possibly her mother in law. One hypothesis I have is that John came to American with his mother (Margaret Nolan) and lived in the 1st Ward until he met Anne and they married. I guess this because: (a) I have found an 1850 census entry that lists a possible John Nolan with a correct birth year and place and with a matriarch in house name Margaret; and (2) because John named a daughter Margaret as did John's son, John.

A midwife may have joined Anne for her deliveries. Midwifery was, and is, as you all know, an ancient tradition and Anne would have been aware of it from her days in Ireland. It most likely that as babies arrived in her home in Kilcumnin Point Parish, a midwife attended to her mom and her step mother.

Remember, that with childbirth in the 19th century came a real risk of death; letters and journals of the time are full of worry and fear of dying and leaving behind a child. I marvel at Anne's strength.

Option 2: Anne gave birth in a hospital or at home under the care of medical professionals:

In 1857, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children was founded by Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America. Services were provided in home and at the hospital for no or nominal cost, as detailed in this 1868 summary for the New York Times.

Either way, the strain must have been profound. Take a look at the list - nearly a baby every 20 months -- for 19 years. (and there are a few gaps that suggest, there may have been more pregnancies... yes, if you have not done so yet, shake your head and marvel).

1858: Maurice
1860: Thomas (died as an infant)
1862: Stephen (died as young boy)
1864: John (died as young boy)
1865: Mary -- Mary Ellen Gagan Hughes' mother - Momma Hughes's grandmother
****: could a pregnancy have been in here?
1868: Ellen
****: could a baby have been in here?
1872: Catherine
1874: John -- Margaret West's father - John was a twin - his brother died a few days after birth
1875: Nicholas
****: could a pregnancy have been in here?
1877: Margaret

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