Charles was waiting by the bedside when the baby squirmed and cried out to be nursed. Ellen woke smiling as Cora helped them get settled down to business. “Have you ever seen a sweeter little girl?” Ellen asked her husband as she stroked the infant’s cheek. “She is all peaches and cream. I know all baby’s eyes start out blue, but I believe this one’s eyes will be the color of mine, don’t you, Charles? I had just about given up on a little girl.” Cora busied herself spreading up and fluffing the cradle.
“She is a beauty. Cora, can you leave us alone? I need to talk to my wife,” Charles told Cora.
“Why shore, Dr. Charles. I need to see to them boys, anyhow. No tellin’ what them fellers is up to. I’ll be downstairs when you needs me.” Cora scurried out with a laundry basket, clearly happy to be dismissed.
“Ellen, now don’t get upset, but there was a little problem with the baby I had to take care of, but she will be fine.” Charles tenderly took the baby from Ellen. “She had a little growth on her privates, and I went ahead and snipped it off. She’s still so little, she won’t ever have to know.” Charles reassured Ellen.
“Oh dear God! What is wrong? Will it ruin her? Is she normal? Let me see!” Ellen was crying by now, frantic to see the problem.
“There’s really not much to see,” Charles told her as he unwrapped the baby and took her diaper off, revealing a tiny bit of bloodied tissue. “This little bit here was bigger than it usually is and I just snipped it off. Except for this, she looks totally normal. She will never even need to know. We don’t want her to feel different. It’s important to keep this ointment on till she heals so infection doesn’t set up. Babies heal so fast she’ll be fine in no time. It could be we will need to let a specialist see her later, but we aren’t going to worry about that now. It’s best if we don’t let word of this out. Children don’t need to be whispered about. This is just between you, me, and Cora, of course. Now, I need to get to work and you need to rest. I’ll let Cora know to listen for the baby and what she needs to do. The baby should sleep for a while.” With that, he diapered and wrapped the baby, handing her back to Ellen. Cora, listening outside the door, heard every word.
Ellen waited till she heard Charles leave, then hastily unwrapped the baby. Like many girls raised in Victorian times, she’d never even examined her own privates in detail, and having only boys, had no great idea of what to expect. On inspection, she did see a tiny vagina between the prominent labia, and the small, bloody incision. She allowed herself to be satisfied with this cursory inspection, though still very troubled. She called out for Cora to change the baby. Cora, an experienced mother and care-giver of many children, immediately noted the unexpected in her new charge, though of course said nothing of her observation to Miss Ellen, her employer.
Though Cora was discreet in her inspection, Ellen knew she took longer than expected to diaper the infant. Ellen pretended sleep so she could avoid Cora’s eyes. As soon as she heard Cora’s steps on the stairs, Ellen collapsed weeping. With the little he’d said, and the volumes he hadn’t, Ellen knew something was terribly wrong with the perfect little girl.