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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


The baby

The struggles of motherhood

Cissie and John with their son Jack.

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John didn’t like the thought of ‘Big John and Little John’ or ‘Old John and young John,’ to distinguish who we were referring to, so we decided our son would be known as Jack. It was usual for a baby to lose a little weight the first ten days of his life, but Jack put on nine ounces, bringing his weight up to eight pounds nine ounces when we brought him home. John was still working night shift and I was finding it hard through the night with a crying baby. I was trying to do just as the nurses said, giving him sugar water, not knowing at the time he was really hungry and not getting enough milk. After several weeks I wasn’t feeling well, and the district nurse found I had an abscess on my breast. It was arranged that we would go and stay with Louisa until I was well again, for I’d been very weak and often feeling faint. However, after the doctor saw me, and with the nurse regularly changing my dressings, I soon got well again and we went back to George Street.

We had Jack christened at St Aidan’s while still staying at Louisa’s. My Mam went with us, and was godmother and Louisa put on a nice afternoon tea. John’s mother and his sisters Ann and Florence, and my sister Maggie were up for it. It was the custom then in Northumberland, I don’t know if it still is, that a christening parcel was made up, usually a piece of fruit cake, some silver coins and other eats, I cannot now remember. On the way to the church, it was given to a male, if the child being christened was a girl, and to a female if the child was a boy. It was usually given to a young person. I remember it was a very cold, damp day, and we had gone to the church and back and we were almost home without meeting anyone, then we met a man, and Mam gave it to him. I hope he knew what it was all about.

Another custom was the first three houses the baby visited, they were to get their ‘alms’ and were given a parcel with three things, each representing something. Sugar for sweetness through life, salt for preservation. I think the other thing was an egg. I know they were always the same things, but cannot remember what each meant. I believe it could have been like the three wise men bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child.

I stayed with Louisa about 6 weeks and the nurse used to come. When Jack was quite young he caught measles, we thought from the young children next door; we never really knew. I had to try to keep the livingroom quite dark to protect his eyes, and John being in bed during the daytime, I had to try keeping the house quiet so he could get his sleep.

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