1969 and I am having a baby

November 1969, Ponteix Union Hospital, delivery room. My legs are in stirrups, my husband Terry is in the waiting room (or maybe the pub), and there is an enthusiastic and supportive young LPN-in-training supporting me.  She is so excited, since this is the first time she has been present at a birthing.  

As soon as the baby starts entering the room, Dr. B asks the LPN-in-training to leave.  Her eyes go wide, and I feel the loss and support of this young woman as she rushes out of the room.  Then in comes a nurse, a nun, who is steady and matter of fact.  

It had been a long labour and Dr. B is telling me to work harder, he is saying he is going to have to use forceps soon.  Now I had been warned about problems with forceps use from my neighbours, so I doubled down on my efforts as my 8 lb 2 oz baby girl, Kari-Lynn Grace entered the world. 

Kari-Lynn was the only baby in the small hospital at the time, and when she was in the nursery with a window in the hallway, she could be viewed by all, and almost everyone would stop in awe and gush over her.  They couldn’t believe she was only a few days old.  

This was a time when mom and baby stayed in the hospital for a good week, which was the case for me, but I was certainly ready to go home before then.  

We left Ponteix in our green ’69 Chev half-ton on a gray and mild November day. There was some rain and light snow as we headed north off the highway on the few miles of dirt road to our home. We were doing a lot of swerving, and I was anxious about getting stuck.  Me, holding the baby, no car seats or seat belts, and of course no cell phones.    I recall feeling anxiety, not just about the roads, but being out in the country, on my own, with this baby.  

We were met in our yard by my parents, who over the years spent so much time with Kari-Lynn and her sister, Nicole.  That Sunday, my mom, Ruth, loving picked up Kari-Lynn as she put her in the warm water in the pink plastic dish pan, showing me how to bathe a baby.  My parents’ delight over this baby is still palpable.  Both girls were a big part of their life.  

Given my personality, and my enthusiasm for Dr Google, I feel grateful that I was young and naïve when Kari was born and couldn’t search the internet for problems with babies. My mom and my mother-in-law were great sources of information and support, and well, between them they had birthed 18 babies.  

So, Kari and her sister had four grandparents and many aunts and uncles, and country neighbours nearby, that loved seeing and spending time with them. I visited often with my sister-in-law, Linda, who lived only a few miles away.  Of course, she couldn’t wait to meet Kari-Lynn.  When she arrived with her little ones, Michael and Lisa, I was sitting in the brown padded rocking chair in the living room, holding Kari.  I was feeling anxious, as she was fussy.  I had checked her diaper to make sure there wasn’t a safety pin poking her, and when I knew that was ok, and nothing else was calming her, I started to feel a bit helpless.  Linda picked up Kari-Lynn and tried to soothe her and said, ‘she is a little miracle’ and ‘you know, she might be able to feel that you are anxious’, which led to further conversations.  Now what better support can you get than that?

Over the next few years, I’d drive that Chevy truck, no power steering or brakes, still no seat belts, north on the grid roads to Linda’s house.  Her and husband Roger would often tease me about how they could see me coming miles away stirring up the dust as I sped down the gravel road. 

Now Linda is a practical person, into knitting and quilt making – just look at those quilts – and all kinds of things that hurt my head.  And she’s solid, and even though we go long periods without connecting, partly because she really dislikes the city, there’s a bond.  

Linda’s encouragement and support has always been there, long after her brother and I divorced.  Through both my more crazy and wiser times!  Within the last few months, her words  ‘I have treasured your friendship all these years’ and ‘keep up your writings, you have a talent for that’ have meant a lot to me. 

So, lots of things have changed since 1969, but what stays is there’s nothing like the support and encouragement of the women in my life. 

Yes, it’s 1969 and I am a young mom, living in the country.  My high school friends are off in all directions, Margaret is hitch hiking back and forth to Saskatoon where she is attending university, Liz is travelling Europe and spending time in a cave in Greece, Grace (where the Grace in Kari’s name comes from) has returned to her family home after secretarial school.  And it has been the season of drugs, drugs, drugs, Woodstock, riots, Viet Nam, huge strife in Ireland, the Beatles last album, a shifting world.  My young 19-year-old self is absorbing this, holding my precious baby in my arms and holding emerging feminist thoughts and thoughts of more justice in the world.  

So, lots has changed since 1969.  And then, not much.

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Quilts made by Linda Duclos.