Maybe it was a premonition of dire things to come that made his wife, DeAndra Campeau, hire both a nanny and a wet-nurse when she went back east to have her baby. She had been having intermittent pains since she had been three months pregnant and the doctors advised complete bed rest. She insisted that she would not have her baby in the primitive conditions of the semi-wild west of the mid-nineteenth century and she arranged for the long trip back to Philadelphia from northern Nevada.
Still trying to get his supply business established in Carson City, Dominic had reluctantly agreed to help his wife arrange a trip back to the city of her parents. She would be welcomed into their home, where she could rest and relax as the baby grew within her belly. As much as he knew he would miss her, he also agreed that it was probably the best thing she could do for the safety of the baby.
Dom worked long and hard to expand his little business, primarily serving the hundreds of prospectors that were still flooding the hills and mountains of Nevada. There were several ranches in the area that steered their business his way but he would have been hard-pressed to make do without the prospectors. Gradually the town itself began to grow and he added a storefront to his warehouse, forming the first general store in the small town. There was no doubt that his business had become profitable; could he keep it that way was the question.
Although he hated to leave the operation in someone else's hands, he had trained a young man in the weeks just before the baby was due and turned the keys over to him when he caught a Central Pacific train east two weeks before she was due to deliver. With changes to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific and later to the Pennsylvania Railroad and layovers at several stops along the way, he arrived just two days before the expected date.
What he found when he arrived at his in-laws' home was the worst of his expectations. His wife, heavy with child, was bedridden and in constant pain. She was almost as pale as the white sheets that covered her bed. Instantly concerned, Dominic sat beside her bed and held her hand the rest of the afternoon.
The following morning, she said, "Dominic, I have something to say to you, my love. I want you to listen to me carefully. Please do not interrupt until I have finished. Then if you have something to say, I promise to listen."
"Dominic, I have a very strong feeling that this will not turn out the way we both would like for it to. I think there is a high probability that I will not live through it. I hope that is not the result but, if it is, I have made some plans. I have hired a nanny, Miss Kyleen Gallagher, to watch over our baby and teach him what a young child should know. I have also made arrangements for a wet nurse, Rachel Petroski, to attend to the feeding of our child for as long as it takes until he should be weaned. After that, I will expect you to help her find other employment that is befitting a nice young woman. I want you to treat the two ladies with respect that they deserve."
"Now, if my feeling comes true, I hope you will mourn my passing for a respectful amount of time and then I want you to move on with your life. I would expect you to find another woman to bestow the same kind of love that you have always shown to me. You are a very loving man, Dominic, and it would be remiss if you didn't find someone else to love after I'm gone. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, but... "
She squeezed his hand. "No buts, now, Dominic. It may not happen and, if it doesn't, we will go on with our lives normally and I know we will all be happy. But if it does happen, I want you to be prepared for it. And most of all, I want you to be happy. I love you, Dominic. Always remember that."
He bowed his head, trying to think of someway to comfort his wife. But she was the one that was serene, in spite of the obvious pain. And she was the one comforting him. He held her hand, too choked up to speak. All he could do was nod his understanding.
Late that evening, DeAndra went into labor. The doctor was fetched but he determined that she had hours to go yet before her time. They had arranged for a midwife to attend DeAndra and she arrived during the doctor's examination, made herself comfortable and brought a basin of cool water and cloths to bath DeAndra's forehead during her ordeal.
The doctor's prediction was true and hours passed before the contractions were close enough that the midwife sent a messenger to fetch the doctor again. She had kept Dominic busy retrieving chipped ice to keep DeAndra's lips moist or holding her hand when she had another contraction. When the doctor arrived, he agreed that it was about time; by then it was late morning.
The doctor explained to DeAndra what he needed her to do, but only on his command. With a sheet draped over DeAndra's propped up legs, only the doctor and the midwife could see what was happening. The doctor kept telling DeAndra to push periodically; finally telling her just one more push would do it. When the pain came, she pushed, squeezing Dominic's hand so hard he felt a bit of her pain. But the doctor held up a wrinkled, red-and-gray covered bundle, cleared the passageway, and smiled at the little plaintive cry coming from the little creature.
Suddenly Dominic realized that there was no longer any pressure on his hand. He looked at DeAndra and knew that something was wrong. He yelled for the doctor but had a feeling that it was already too late. And it was. His wife of seven years was gone. Dominic wondered if she had even lived long enough to hear her son cry for the first time.
The next eight days were a nightmare for Dominic. Later that same day, he met with both Miss Petroski and Miss Gallagher. Miss Petroski was a large twenty-four year old woman of Polish descent. She had been nursing babies since she was a teen, having to take over the duties for her own mother when she died giving birth to her ninth child. She seemed to love Dominic's new son, Joseph, especially when Joseph eagerly latched onto her big teat with just a little coaxing. Rachel showed no embarrassment for displaying her bare breast in the presence of Joseph's father or his in-laws.
Miss Gallagher was another matter. She was older than Rachael, probably about 30, Dominic guessed. She was a heavy woman, clothed in a heavy wool suit over a white frilly blouse and an untold number of petticoats. Her legs were completely covered by her skirt and petticoats but her feet, occasionally peeking out from under all the cloth, were encased in heavy lace-up boots. Her hair, which appeared to be long, was pulled back severely and rolled into a bun at the back of her head, partially covered by a white lace bonnet. Her face might have been pretty but she constantly wore a serious frown that precluded any semblance of a smile.
Miss Gallagher took charge of the baby, arranging diapers and blankets so they would be efficiently at hand when needed. She cared for the baby whenever the wet nurse was not on duty, an arrangement they worked out between themselves at the baby's internal clock. Dominic was grateful for their take-charge attitudes, although he would have preferred if the stone-faced Miss Gallagher was a little friendlier.
Dominic concentrated on funereal arrangements for his wife, DeAndra. His in-laws already owned a plot of ground in a family cemetery and on the third day, the entire family (except for his newborn son, attended the sad funereal.
The next two days, it was all Dominic could do to get out of bed and go through the chores of daily life. The sadness was overwhelming. He would have preferred to take his little entourage and get on the road back home, to see if returning to the known environment of their home would return things to something more closely resembling normalcy. Yet the railroad schedules did not allow for an earlier departure. To help pass the time, he requested that Miss Gallagher accompany him on a shopping trip to a large department store in Philadelphia so they could purchase things that his son might need in the next year.
Finally, with trunks of clothes and goods for both Miss Gallagher and Miss Petroski as well as several bags for his son and his own clothes, they made their way to the train station in time to catch the PRR westbound to Chicago. Dominic purchased tickets that allowed them the use of a roomette, a tight little compartment with two pull-down bunks and a chair. The lower bunk made a bench seat when not in use as a bed. Although the bunks had drop down curtains when they were opened out, Miss Gallagher looked suspiciously at Dominic when she and Rachel used the bunks at night and Dominic slept in the chair. Even though she understood that he could not afford the cost of a second compartment, she did not think it was circumspect for a man to sleep in the same compartment with the women.
During the long days of the train ride, Dominic strode up and down the aisles of the railcars, ashamed that his body betrayed him when Rachel bared her breasts to feed his son. Although he admitted that Rachel was an attractive woman, he knew that, in his state of mourning, he should not be thinking about having sex with another woman. Pacing the corridors was the only way he had of getting thoughts of her out of his mind. Still that didn't keep Miss Gallagher from staring at him sternly and he had the distinct impression that she knew exactly what he was thinking.
.... There is more of this story ...