Aunt Elsie and Uncle Paul

I was a mere infant at the time my story begins so I sorta have to accept these accounts as true...

Hope and the need for love are an inseparable part of the human psyche.  It was at the beginning of the Great Depression when two sisters and two brothers met and married.  The brothers Krause came from a farm family from Wisconsin and the sisters Pfeiffer came from a Chicago family.  How the country hayseeds met the city girls is a matter of conjecture.  One couple settled in the big city and the other moved near the Krause farm.  The country family is the one that matters here…they were my biological parents.

My mother, Mary, and father, Alberich, were a love story – with a few problems.  Apparently my father enjoyed his spirits a bit too much and too often.  However, he still worked on my grandfather's very large farm with most of the other sons of which at least five stayed working on and living near the farm.  My folks moved a bit here and there, sometimes living in Illinois and sometimes living in Wisconsin.  Eventually they had a little boy, Al, Jr., born in 1935 and a girl, Marina, born in 1937; both very typically healthy farm children. By the time I came along my brother and sister were all of 3 and 4 years old so they don’t remember much.

However, when Mary became pregnant for the 3rd time, she endured a myriad of problems.  This was 1940 and the information about Mary’s pregnancy was passed on by laypeople so we aren’t very sure about what went wrong.   Let’s just say, Mary realized she wouldn’t be going to the hospital for the birth so she wrote to her dearest sister, Elsie, who lived in Chicago with her husband, Paul.  Aunt Elsie was the logical one to ask for help because she had no children while all the other Pfeiffer girls did.   Plus they had a car that would allow them to come quickly all the way from Chicago, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin.  I was born in Silver Lake, Wisconsin: the County of Kenosha.

Again, I can only report what was told to me.  I was told that Mary and Al lived out in some type of cabin structure in the woods.  There were chinks in the outer siding and bugs kept flying in.  Much later Uncle Paul told me about the huge bugs that kept flying in and he kept swatting these “June bugs”.  (I’m guessing they were a type of beetle or cicada).  Meanwhile Mary was in the bedroom giving birth with Aunt Elsie’s help.

At some point, Al, my biological father, came in with a man he said was a ‘doctor’.  The ‘doctor’ went in to help Mary and Elsie.  Uncle Paul said that Al was drunk as usual and kept insisting that Uncle Paul have a drink.  Uncle Paul couldn’t believe that Al didn’t seem to care about Mary or how she was doing.  It didn't take long before I was born.  Apparently once I was born the ‘doctor’ decided that no other medical care was needed so Al and the ‘doctor’ left the house.  Uncle Paul was furious because he didn’t know what to do if anything would go wrong and neither did Elsie.   And there was very much wrong!!

Among other things, Uncle Paul later found out that the so-called ‘doctor’ was a veterinarian – not a regular medical doctor.  But even as a vet, he should have known that in any female mammal there is the placenta (the afterbirth) that needs to be removed after the birth of an infant.  But the ‘doctor’ and Al left my Uncle Paul and Aunt Elsie alone with Mary who had just given birth.  All the other Pfeiffer women had had their babies in hospitals because they lived in Chicago.  Elsie had no idea of what to do and Paul was a city boy from birth.  They tried to help but the placenta remained in my biological mother for 10 days.

According to the OB/GYN who delivered my first child, having the placenta remain in the mother after childbirth is not that unusual.  However, only a very experienced midwife or a doctor would know how to handle it.  While it can become as serious as the placenta growing through the uterine wall and a total hysterectomy is needed, most common is that the placenta can be removed. It’s called a D&C in the hospital or the midwife has to figure out how  to pull out afterbirth.  Since no one bothered to
clean the afterbirth from my mother the remains of the placenta ended up giving her blood poisoning.   My Uncle Paul said
that Mary never did go to a hospital and that she died in Aunt Elsie’s arms.  Mary Krause, my mother, died of sepsis 10 days after I was born.

That was just the beginning of a bunch of problems for me.  I have no information or knowledge of how everyone cared for me as Mary lay dying in the cabin.  As soon as I was born it was obvious that I also had major problems, a full cleft palate but not a cleft lip.   The cleft palate was an opening between my mouth and nose.  This meant I had no ability to suck on a baby bottle.  So they devised a contraption using a wide-mouth canning jar with a long rubber hose through the lid and at the end of the hose they fitted a nipple. That used gravity to get the liquid into me while letting me think I was actually doing the sucking.  I think that was neat and I still have the device that they used to feed me.

All this leads to the idea that I actually wasn’t in terribly good health the day I was born.  I wonder if they had or used a type of
formula to feed me.  I do know that cow’s milk has curds that are too large for easy digestion by babies.  I wonder if the lack of mother's milk is what caused the next problems I had.  I think these are things I’ll never know…

Filed under: Autobiographical

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