Lavinia’s birth: “the voice of the newcomer”

On May 2, 1839, William and Clarissa Goodell, aged 47 and 42, welcomed a new baby girl to their family. Their only other living child, Maria, was 12. Clarissa’s advanced maternal age and previous, difficult childbirths were cause for concern. So William hastened to send his father-in-law details of Clarissa’s health, the new babe, and the family’s joy to assure him that all was well.

May 15, 1839

Dear Father,

 . . . On Thursday morning, May 2, at about half past 3 o’clock, the Lord was pleased to bless us with another fine daughter, who is doing well thus far, and her mother is comfortable, and in a fair way to recover in safety. Thus, when we feared evil, the Lord has covered us with the mantle of his Goodness and mercy.

. . . I went for the physician (Dr. Coventry) in the night about ½ past 12, and in about 3 hours was cheered with the voice of the newcomer. We had calculated on sending for one or two ladies who live in our neighborhood, but the nurse and doctor did not seem to think it needed to disturb them, and the event found it unnecessary. Maria slept in an adjoining room and slept soundly till morning, before she learned anything of the news. So you see we had little ceremony on the occasion . . .

The babe was washed in pure water and dressed before daylight, the doctor having left previously. After breakfast, the whole of our little family assembled in Clarissa’s chamber for reading and family worship, which has been continued every morning and evening since. You will see by this one circumstance, the contrast between this time and when Maria was a babe.

In the course of the forenoon the doctor called again. Called on Friday and Saturday, making 3 times besides the first night’s attendance, and then told us to call for him if needed—which we have not done, tho’ I have once or twice consulted with him . . .

Clarissa has felt no symptom of the faintness and palpitation that formerly afflicted her—except once, slightly. This was the second or third day, when she had some headache and nervous excitement. It seems her milk was beginning to come in, after which she felt better. She has taken no medicine except a little castor oil, a little valerian tea, and some herb drink once or twice—no other anodynes—no opium—no paretonic—not even camphor, except a piece of gum to smell of, and a phial of camphor and lime water.

So you see we have not needed the “except for medicine” exception in our renunciation of alcohol. Not the least particle have we had in the house, not even for bathing of in the form of a tincture, for many years. Clarissa has plenty of milk for her babe. For a time we thought it would become necessary to procure an apparatus for drawing it off . . . But the growing appetite of the new boarder promises, for the present, to save us that trouble . . .

Little Miss is tolerably good natured and quiet. Sometimes turns night into day and day into night, but is beginning to correct that bad habit. Her habit of keeping her eyes open by candlelight made them sore for a time, but she is getting over it. We call her eyes blue, but they are so dark that Mrs. Collins and Mary Campbell were inclined to vote them black. She is a round, plump, solid looking child—weighed 8 ¼ pounds the day she was born & seems to be healthy and sprightly. We think of naming her Rhoda Lavinia—Rhoda was my mother’s name.

We feel that we have abundant to be gratified to God for his mercies.

I should like to write on a number of other topics, if I had room and time, but must hasten to conclude. Our love to all our relatives and friends.

Affectionately yours,

William Goodell

Read a transcription of William Goodell’s complete letter describing Lavinia’s birth and first days here. We have altered punctuation and paragraphs in the excerpt above to make it easy to read on the web. CB

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