Charley’s fourth birthday marked a major turning point in her life. Her mother unexpectedly went into labor. At the age of forty-three, Ellen hadn’t had a menstrual cycle in eighteen months and of late had gained a few pounds. She’d been extremely moody and fractious about her weight gain and loss of sexuality so her husband had steered clear of the sensitive subject
Coincidentally, Charley awoke with a fever and cough. When Ellen’s screaming started, Charles did an exam and found her in labor. Cora took Charley to Geneva’s house. Ellen gave birth to a seven-month baby girl after twenty-four hours of bloody labor. The baby was tiny, but perfect. Ellen was ecstatic. “I finally have a daughter.”
“Ellen, this is our second daughter. Don’t forget Charley.” Charles reminded her.
“I never had a girl named Charley. That’s crazy. I finally have my little girl. My life is perfect.” Ellen was euphoric. Her eyes glittered strangely.
“No, Ellen, Cora took our girl Charlotte to your mother’s house while you were in labor. This is our second daughter.” Charles persisted. I need to send Cora for Charley now you’ve delivered.”
“Cora’s not going anywhere. I need her. I don’t have a girl. Let me rest. Have Cora wake me when the baby needs nursing. I think I want to name this one Charlotte after you since she’ll be the last.”
“Ellen, are you trying to tell me you don’t remember our little girl?” He feared her mind was unhinged.
“This is my daughter. Now, let me rest, Charles.” Ellen closed her eyes. “Don’t be talking to me about another baby. I won’t have you mocking me.”
Charles left the room puzzling over his wife. He’d seen baby-blues before, and heard of madness after giving birth, though he’d never actually seen it. He hoped Ellen would rally after rest. She’d always been high-strung and subject to mood swings, but this was delusional. Surely she’d rally when Charley came home.
Geneva called for him to come see to Charley. As soon as he saw her, he knew she’d contracted measles. “Miss Geneva, I am so sorry to put this on you, but I can’t bring her in the house with a new baby. Can you keep her if I get someone in to help? I’d send Cora but Ellen and the new baby are keeping her tied up. Ellen seems a little confused and I don’t want her alone with the baby.”
“Of course, Charley will be fine here. My help Birdie’s daughter Josie has already said she’ll help us out. What’s wrong with Ellen? She’s always been notion. Her daddy spoiled her so. Is the baby okay?” Now Geneva was really worried.
“The baby is tiny, but I think she’ll be alright. We’ve got her in a basket on the radiator, so she’s warm. Cora’s waking her every two hours to feed and she’s always hungry. That’s good. Frankly, Ellen worries me. She doesn’t remember Charley. She says this is her first girl and wants to name her Charlotte. I believe she will come to her senses in a day or two, but I am worried.” Charles poured his worries out.,
“”One of my aunts was real queer after a baby. She kept saying it wasn’t hers and she didn’t want anything to do with it. She swore her husband had brought one of his women’s babies in. Poor Wilbur sure was hurt hearing her say that. He hadn’t ever been anything but good to her. She finally came around but it was nearly six weeks. Most of the time she did good after that, but she did have a few bad spells over the the years. Ellen will do after her female problems settle down. I sure hope so.” Geneva’s words worried him. He didn’t know if hearing the family history made him feel better or worse.