James wrote this letter to his family in Plymouth the day after the birth of his first child, daughter Maud Spooner, in Concord. His wife, Frona, had been quite ill through the pregnancy and birth and continued to suffer greatly in the following days. This letter is emotionally charged and almost frantic, both with James’ anxiety for his ill wife and sickly child and overwhelming joy and pride regarding his newborn. He shares troubling news of Frona’s health issues interspersed with gratitude for her mother and sister, who are helping her through them, and gushes about how much his daughter resembles his loved ones and how well-behaved she is.
Concord Friday Oct. 26. 1860
My Dear Mother
I take the first moment of leisure after a comfortable night for Frona & I & the baby to tell you the good fortune & bad that we have had. Frona had only got to the beginning of her suffering when I wrote before. The child was born at half past 4. From that time till half past 11 am, Frona lay like one dying with faintness, with no strength for the birth of the “after” & dreading to have any assistance, & it was not until Mrs. Wheeler came & nerved her up to it that she consented to have her mother’s help about it. Mrs. Wheeler is a daughter of our good neighbor Mrs. Rice & she is worth her weight in gold. She talked so good to Frona that she told her “What you say seems to come from Heaven” — Frona never fainted before.
When it was over her Mother fainted & had to be carried away from the bed. For a long time the chances for her life seemed so doubtful that we were all overjoyed when it was over & we feel that the danger is now past. Yet she is very weak, unable to stir without assistance. Her face looks like ivory—white & glassy & yesterday she looked just like a corpse. She cannot get it out of her mind yet & sleeps but little & is feverish — She has been in a terribly nervous state & her voice & what she said was so unnatural. Last night Em. & Elvira (a cousin) stayed with her & I tried to sleep in another room. I had been awake 3 nights before, kept awake not by Frona but by my own nervousness, & yesterday I was, or should have been, sick if I had not been so excited.
The baby — is all Spooner they say, but whether she looks most like Esta or I or Father or little Ephraim or Grandma or Aunt Margaret I certainly cannot tell, but she does look just like every one of them & like almost everybody else besides & makes up faces like Frona. Has brown hair & blue eyes & a little flat nose running down like Esta’s & mine. Her mouth turns down at the corners like Esta’s & her cheeks hang down with fatness. Her feet & hands are extremely pretty & her arm is so cunning fat around. I expect her Aunt Esta will take possession of her & drive off everybody else. She is as good natured as she is chubby & slept almost all day yesterday except two or three choking spells. She was born with a cold & once in the middle of Frona’s sickness she strangled with phlegm & turned black in the face & they all ran & left me alone with Frona & I didn’t know but she would die before they got back — The baby had to be carried downstairs, but fortunately the weather was still & mild. Em. sat up with Frona last night. The baby needed watching & was troubled with choking spells & a cold in its nose which would wake it up & it would cry so good naturedly & go off to sleep again. It don’t want to make any trouble at all — It sucks its thumb but its only food has been a little molasses & water. I have had to watch it & cover its arms while writing & to turn Frona & fix her easy every two minutes. She has very hard pains now & the sweat starts on her forehead & then she is easy & thinks she shall go to sleep. We have a little open fireplace & burn wood, & it is so pleasant, a large pleasant chamber with three windows, Frona’s bed, a cot bed, & a little crib for the baby. Frona has every possible care from her mother & Em. Her mother is worth all the Drs. in Boston, & Em. is so devoted & so good & kind. She could not give up the baby to anybody else last night & I am so thankful Frona is here with them. But I wish you could all see Frona & the baby. She sends her love to Grandpa & Grandma & Aunt Esta. Grandpa Paine says he never saw a little baby look so much like anybody as this one does like me.
Father Smith is very much pleased. Isn’t it too bad he can never see his little grandchild. How he will miss Frona who was always round him. Poor old man. I wish you could see him, Mother, & you will certainly before long.
Give our love to all & Cousin Sally
James & Frona & Maud Spooner.
I hope Father is well.
The baby weighed 8 ½ pounds but I can’t help thinking they made a mistake, I guess she weighs about six.
Mother write us with a letter of advice.
Little Buttercups looks very different today from what she did yesterday & she isn’t handsome yet. Little flat nose & eyes so far apart. I hope she will have her mother’s good sense & kindness & judgment & prudence & symmetry of character & her father’s taste! Frona says “you little homely sweet little darling beauty.” Frona has slept half an hour & now has the baby in bed. No milk for it yet.