I may have put the cart before the horse as it's not always easy when thinking back nearly 60 years to get everything in the correct time frame but I'm doing my best.
After mum and dad separated, mum had to find work and this she did as private secretary to the General Manager of Boucher's Industries in Osborne Park. She still kept her association going with the Women's Service Guild so she was a very busy lady, At that time she would have been in her mid-50s but her ability with shorthand and typing was still excellent. Mum moved several times living in 3 different flats in Perth before she decided she should buy herself a house so she asked Aubrey and me to look at what was on offer in the North Perth area. We found a very nice house for sale at 518 Fitzgerald Street which was only 3 doors from the house we had rented from 1947-1952 which was 524. Mum at that time was quite happy to continue living in her flat in Perth but suggested that Aub and I move into the main part of the house and she'd let the front two rooms, which were really large, to a young couple and perhaps a smaller room at the back to a single person.
In 1954 we moved into the house and the two front rooms were let to friends of ours, Del and Maurie Hillel, who had been married a few months after us. Mum had a partition erected across the front hallway so they could move from room to room with privacy, while we could still use the front door. Of course they shared the bathroom with us and the laundry which was free standing at the back of the house next to the outdoor toilet. We also had a single lady rent the smaller room at the back of the house with the same share arrangement and it all worked out really well.
While I was working at Browne's I began to feel a little out of sorts and strange things were happening to me that I couldn't account for. I went to see Dr Wheeler (we had begun to see him when I was 15) and he told me I was pregnant which came as a big surprise. He referred me to an obstetrician as he felt I was in danger of losing the baby. I saw Dr Connaughton the following week and he said I was to give up work and rest as much as possible and he thought all would be well. The baby was due toward the end of August. We had not long before that decided to buy a new car, on the never never. It was a very nice Vauxhall tourer but with me now not working we had to hand the car back and we then bought a 1936 Ford Sedan.
I am trying to remember exactly how the news of this expected baby affected Aub and me. I was over the moon and immediately began sewing and knitting and I think he was pleased but how would he be if he had to take second place for a while was worrying me. I was even more concerned when on my 23rd birthday he informed me he was going fishing with his friend Ian (it was a public holiday for the New Year) but I was not invited. I must admit I felt somewhat taken aback and even more so when Ian arrived to collect Aub and I found Ian's fiance Gwen (she was the lass that had caught my bouquet) was going along too. I don't like scenes so said very little then and by the time Aub arrived home I'd cooled down and thought it pointless to say anything but must admit I did feel quite hurt.
Looking back I am not sure we were as happy as we should have been but we battled on without any unpleasantness and I did as the doctor told me and everything went well until the early hours of 27th July when I awoke at about 3am feeling something was amiss. Only 6 weeks earlier Del had a baby daughter so Aub went and woke her to come and check on me. Del said she was sure my baby was on its way even though not due for another 4 weeks. I have no idea what made Aub do this but he drove down the road to Dr Wheeler's, got him out of bed and was immediately told "get your wife over to the hospital for goodness sake". I by then was madly packing a bag and off we went to St John of God Hospital in Subiaco (the same place where I'd had my appendectomy and tonsillectomy). At 5.30am that morning I had a beautiful little baby girl that weighed 5lb 8ozs, was 18 inches long and had very little hair and no eyelashes or eyebrows. She was very healthy with no concerns about her being premature. My obstetrician was a very modern doctor so I walked from the delivery room to my room in the ward where I met my room-mate who had a baby boy which had quite surprised her as she was about 40 and had had no idea she was pregnant. We became friends with her and her husband and saw them quite frequently for several years until they moved to the eastern states and we unfortunately lost touch.
This is Karen at 6 weeks which gives you an idea of how small she was at birth. Had she gone full term of course when this photo was taken she would only have been 2 weeks old and just home from hospital:
I have to add this because I was so amazed at the time and have been ever since. One of the nuns on the maternity ward said to me "You were in this hospital a year or two ago weren't you?" I said yes I had been having my tonsils out and she said she remembered me leaving a small bottle of perfume with the old lady with whom I had shared a room. She recalled the old lady being so pleased at my doing that but when I asked what had happened with the old lady I was saddened to know that she had died a few days later.
My doctor allowed me to have a shower the same day the baby was born and I was told I didn't have to stay in bed except when it was feed time and also when visitors arrived. I remember on about the third day going to the nursery to learn how to bath my little girl. It was great fun and she seemed to enjoy the experience as well. She was just so gorgeous and I just wanted to hold her all the time. In those days ladies after giving birth stayed in hospital for up to 10 days. I received some lovely gifts for the baby as well as very pretty cards and loved to walk to the nursery with family and friends to look at the baby through the glass window.
This with her grandmother (my mum) ... also at 6 weeks. Mum and Karen seemed to form a very special bond from the very beginning which continued right until Mum died in 1985. Karen still feels her grandma very close at times, as do I.
We had decided on 3 names for girls that we really liked: Diane, Karen or Susan. Strangely enough Del and Maurie named their daughter Diane so we decided on Karen Margaret for our daughter. For some reason I used to call her 'kakka' and many of you will know that name stays with her even until this very day.
Mum had bought a secondhand bassinet which was basically a wooden frame (which could be folded up) with a canvas insert the shape of a bassinet in which a large, soft mattress was placed. Mum decorated it with white tulle with lace and pink ribbons around the border and it was beautiful. We had bought (also secondhand) a lovely cane pram. I had made matinee jackets, knitted jackets and even bought lengths of material which I hemmed to make napkins. Aub's mum had made some pretty little dresses, others had knitted various garments and his grandparents had given us a very large perspex pink baby bath so we were well set up to look after our new baby girl.
This is Karen in the lovely cane pram:
I remember bringing her home and getting little sleep on the first night. I would lay awake and listen and if there were no sounds coming from the bassinet I'd get up to see if she was still breathing but if she did make a noise I'd then spring out of bed to make sure all was well with her. From then on I though I was able to settle down and sleep very well. She was a good baby and mainly slept through the night quite well once she settled down.
It was a very wet winter in 1955 and drying the washing was quite a task. Fortunately this house we were now in had a fantastic wood stove in the kitchen. It was very wide with two ovens and across the top there was a rack where you could lay the nappies on paper to air them. If you left the oven doors open not only did they warm the room but you could air clothes in them as well.
Del and I used to walk to the North Perth Town Hall and take our babies to the clinic each week where they would be weighed and measured and we could tell the clinic sister if we were having any problems at all. The nurse there at that time was a very knowledgeable woman and was a great help to both Del and me. Unfotunately Karen suffered badly from colic every evening. I can only put it down perhaps to her being premature but also maybe after me eating my evening meal it just didn't sit right with the baby but with Aub at work we had no other choice other than to eat at night. I made sure I didn't eat anything that could perhaps upset the baby's tummy but the colic continued. The clinic sister made several suggestions including using 'gripe water' which didn't seem to help much and it was just a case of holding my baby and trying to ease the pain for her. It used to hurt me so much to see her little legs tighten up when the spasms happened and I would lay her face down across my knee and rub her back which seemed to help. I was told that when she was 3 months she would be OK and, believe it or not, she turned 3 months and the problem almost disappeared overnight. From that time onwards she was just a happy, healthy baby and I loved her so much.
I am not sure whether the rest of our lives would be all that interesting to anyone but I will continue on just for my own sake. We become a family with me a home mum caring for our baby and hubby at work and in 1956 we move into an old house, just the 3 of us.