Chapter Sixty-Five: All Through The Night


Her screams were muffled by the bits of cotton jammed into my ear canals. She bellowed out her displeasure at everything I tried to do to sooth her. I felt guilty that I had to resort to this, but I had no choice. All of those elderly women who were deaf…they must have had a child like this…

Face red and scrunched up. The screams pierced like tiny knives and inflicted real pain, physical and emotional, that bored itself into my heart.

How to love you, my baby girl?

Every evening it was like this. Screaming, crying for hours. Food, clean diapers, cuddling…nothing calmed the raging beast.

It was not at all how I dreamed motherhood would be…

The midwife was called. She made an elixir of oil of dill and sugar. I rubbed her bowels with warm olive oil at the suggestion of the cook. Caraway tea. Even rhubarb and magnesia. Nothing helped. Between the hours of 8 and 11 at night, she kept us all awake.

“Give her time,” the old women said. “Eventually it will stop.”

She fed like a greedy monkey during those times. I began to think that I should have hired a wet nurse… but no. I wanted to do this myself. She was my only connection to him. It was my duty, my privilege, my penance.

So each evening I plugged my ears with the bits of cotton and paced the floor with her, whispering and singing.

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

While the moon her watch is keeping
All through the night
While the weary world is sleeping
All through the night
O’er they spirit gently stealing
Visions of delight revealing
Breathes a pure and holy feeling
All through the night.

Love, to thee my thoughts are turning
All through the night
All for thee my heart is yearning,
All through the night.
Though sad fate our lives may sever
Parting will not last forever,
There’s a hope that leaves me never,
All through the night.

Her creamy smooth complexion was now marred with tiny red pustules. The hair, that foreign brown hair, was falling out at the crown, leaving a ragged fringe about the periphery of her scalp that gave her an appearance more like a miniaturized wizened old man than the sweet, beautiful baby girl she had once been. I kept her head covered perpetually with a tiny white bonnet to avoid seeing the hair, or rather lack of it.

My heart ached with sadness for her secret and for myself that I could not take away her pain.

But sometimes, sometimes she looked at me with understanding eyes, piercing the depth of my soul. Then she would give a light, sweet laugh and drift off to sleep. Those moments kept me a slave to her.