In my late teens into my early twenties the last thing I wanted to be was a mother. In rebellion against all things conventional, especially Mormon conventional, I swore I was never having children. Living among girls, with whom I had nothing in common, whose only goal was to have children had turned me in a different direction. I thought of myself as an athlete, not a woman. I swam, rode my bike, hiked, back packed, and skied, always with guys. All I wanted to do was be outside and be doing something physical.
Then in the fall of my twenty-second year, something changed. I can’t tell you what exactly, but I wanted a child. I think as much as anything, I wanted someone to play with. My husband and I were living a pretty lonely existence in a one-room apartment set aside for employee housing in Snowbird, Utah. At Snowbird our problems were different from the problems I had faced growing up in Salt Lake City. At Snowbird we weren’t different because we weren’t Mormon, we were different because we were married and we didn’t smoke pot. This was the ‘70s. We were in a cultural no-man’s land.
Once I decided to have a child, it happened fast. In no time at all, Tim was on the way. I remember those nine months of pregnancy as some of the best in my life. I had a clear purpose. I was housing a life. Not that that didn’t also made me super nervous. It did. This was back in the day when very few people even knew the gender of their unborn child, let alone if there might be some potential problem. So I worried. I worried about drinking diet soda, about gaining a lot of weight (which I did), about lots of little things. But then I didn’t worry about other things that some people might find completely careless. I skied until the end of the season when I was almost nine months pregnant, and I worked the day before Tim was born. I didn’t change my lifestyle just because my body looked different. While we waited for Tim to come, he swam laps punctuated by the kind of kick turns you see when half the water splashes out of the pool when the legs smack hard against the water. My whole body moved continuously, violently under the control of baby power for months.
Finally, the day came. My water broke very early in the morning on July 15th. Because we lived about 30 minutes from the hospital, up a canyon, we headed to the hospital. When I got there, the nurses did not believe my water had broken because I was not in labor. A quick test showed that I knew more about what was going on than the nurses did. I wanted to go back to work, but the nurses said, “No.”
The baby was ahead of schedule – we were two weeks away from the due date. So we weren’t ready. This was the perfect time to take a trip to Penney’s to buy diapers – old fashioned cloth diapers — and then spend some time at the zoo. The zoo seemed to me to be the right place to kill time waiting for a baby, so that’s what we did. It was a pleasant enough place – outdoors, popcorn, animals. I liked zoos a lot better then than I do now. Maybe it was because I was really still just a kid myself. Watching the polar bears swim back and forth in their small pool was mesmerizing. I loved it. And the silly monkeys who chattered at me, made me laugh. In a year or so I would be back there, in that same spot sharing this joy with Tim.
I had been told to come back to the hospital at 3:30, even if I were not in labor. As it turns out, by then I was in labor. Again the nurses told me that I was not and decided to induce labor. It’s amazing that someone outside your body can tell you what’s going on inside your own body – especially when it’s something as elemental as having a child. This is not a subtle experience that sneaks up on you unaware. Every now and then I read a newspaper story that claims that a women did not know she was pregnant until the child came. Sorry, I find this totally unbelievable. Carrying another life is not something that can be ignored. But the nurses, because this was my first baby, assumed I could not tell when my water broke or when I was in labor. Just let me say, that if what was going on was not labor, there was going to be a real problem later on. Finally, they conceded that yes, I had been in labor, but the monitor wasn’t hooked up correctly. They could be excused. The hospital was buzzing. I guess lots of people decide in the fall that it’s a good time to get started on a baby. It makes sense, a nice July birthday in snow country is rational planning. Anyway, everyone was running. It just happened to be the doctor’s birthday too, the same doctor who had delivered Tim’s dad, and he had to work overtime delivering four babies that evening.
Tim came. I made it through. I can remember screaming and yet telling myself inside my head that I really shouldn’t be. But then the fun began. Tim was my playmate. Healthy and beautiful, we started skiing together in November, Tim in a pack on my back. Another perhaps careless disregard comingled with intent worry evidenced by our long distance telephone bill to the doctor in Salt Lake whom I called for every little thing.
But more importantly Tim has changed my life. Of course anyone who has ever had a child knows that it changes your life. And some of the ways, waiting up until the wee hours of the morning hoping your most precious person is okay (this was before cell phones), watching him leave home – are painful. But Tim has been my joy, my mentor, my constant. He has asked all the right questions. Made me think, made me proud. And I can look back and be grateful that I changed my mind in the fall of 1974.