Part 5: A Little Sibling

It was in this very parlor that I woke up one morning. My grandmother had woken me up and told me that I now had a little sister. Probably my father had carried me into the room, because in the night with my mother the labor began.

Then I was shown the pink bundle of sister born only a few hours ago. For my mother, life with two children became even more difficult under the miserable living conditions. Where was she supposed to put the baby to sleep after lunch? In the chamber one staircase down at the end of the dark corridor? There she would have lost all control over the child. So, a second-hand crib was procured and crammed into the storage room under the tiled roof. For the night, the baby slept as usual in the four-poster bed next to my parents’ marital beds. Now my mother only had to open the wallpapered plank door to check on things.

One day, Hannchen was by now a good half year old, she did not report at the usual time after her nap. Because everything remained quiet, my mother thought nothing bad. Time passed, but Hannchen remained silent. My mother became suspicious, opened the boarded door, and froze. In the crib lay not her chubby, fair-skinned child, but a shiny black one: Hannchen had emptied the shelf next to it, on which all kinds of household utensils were stored, through the bars. A tin of black shoe polish caught her eye. She had spread the black cream evenly over her face and bed with childlike eagerness. How much of the shoe polish she had eaten could not be determined. In any case, after the thorough and not entirely painless bath, she ate her porridge and took the bottle with great appetite. Despite intensive subsequent observation, no damage to her health could be detected.

At that time it was common for children to be born at home. Obstetricians were the midwife and the mother of the pregnant woman. In the kitchen, the father-to-be provided hot water and kept watch just in case. If the worst came to the worst, it was usually too late, because the only doctor for two or three villages lived far away and was difficult to reach. If the newborn died, and many died in those days, it was sad, but not tragic, because most people already had children. But woe betide if the woman who gave birth did not survive! Then the father was left alone with a few half-orphans. Sometimes even the mother died in childbirth and the newborn survived, that was the worst of all cases.

If we children were sick, for example had measles, rubella, or mumps, then all the children were put together in a room in quarantine. The doctor or the community nurse came, and medicine was administered. When the scare was over, the children were released into the world. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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