The story I am featuring this week is by one of my favourite people, Shemmaho Goodenough. A fierce, talented, curious woman in my Sunday Writing Workshops who I have featured in this blog before, Shemmaho wrote this about a time when life and she changed on a dime.
Life is Miracle Enough:
I was getting worried. It was January 1973, and I hadn’t had a period since October. Something was seriously wrong. Because I had the most reliable birth control, a Dalkon Shield, it did not enter my mind I could be pregnant. I never saw myself as a mother. The world was seriously overpopulated, and for the sake of the planet, I would not add another person. I lived three and a half hours from Nelson, where the doctor’s office was, so I planned to stay at my friend Cathleen’s after my appointment. I told the doctor my concern, he examined me, and told me, with a smile, that I was pregnant. I could not take it in. I did not want a child, given the way I was mothered, I might kill it! Expecting her to be supportive of a decision to abort, I was disheartened when I told Cathleen I was pregnant and she was very happy for me. She encouraged me to think it over and see it as a wonderful adventure. Unbeknownst to me, my hormones had already grabbed my psyche, and it seemed this child had chosen me.
By the time I got home the next day, I had decided to carry this pregnancy to term. I did not have a choice because I was pregnant before I knew it, so a lot of things had to change to prepare for this baby. The first obstacle was where I lived. Birchdale was at the end of a four-mile walk through the wilderness or a boat ride down the lake. I loved the beauty and solitude of this place, so quiet and wild. I was going to have to move to a more populated area, because I was the only person there most of the time, except for Eric, an old remittance man from England, and my husband, Bo Graham, who came home from a logging camp on most weekends. He was pleased we were having a baby, but he worked away and could not contribute much to do with the preparations for the birth. I also had to give away my little dog. Someone had given me a very neurotic mini poodle because they knew I would be able to care for it and deal with it. She needed the quiet and predictability I could provide. But this dog’s issues were such that it would not be good around a baby, so I gave her to a friend who wanted her. I was sacrificing my home and my dog in order to keep the baby safe and provide a healthy environment. I also started seeing a psychiatrist to help me prepare to be a good parent to this child I already deeply loved.
Deciding where to make a home led me to Gordon Yearsley. He was an old man who wanted to create a land co-op. He was having meetings with people to buy shares to get enough money for a down payment on a 120-acre piece in Argenta. When I think of it now it is heartbreaking, how inexperienced and idealistic we all were. I started going to meetings and Bo did too when he wasn’t working. We joined and chose a homesite. We moved from Birchdale using a forestry barge to move our stuff, including goats, chickens, and a horse from Birchdale, to the dock at Argenta. We had traded our pickup for a 16’ Starcraft outboard when we moved to Birchdale. I do not recollect how we got another pick up but we did. We also did a lot of walking as well as riding Sophie, my beautiful half-Percheron workhorse who pulled logs and a wagon and was a dream to ride. I still miss her.
I decided to make a tipi to have this baby in. We were going to build a modest log cabin, but there was no hope to get this done before the due date of July 20th. I bought a book which had complete instructions, including measurements and a cutting layout, for an 18’ tipi. An 18-foot tipi is 18’ from the front door to the back. This is the most common size as it’s big enough to live in and small enough to pack up and move with two people doing the work, one person and a helper. I ordered the canvas from a shipbuilding supplier in Vancouver and used a treadle sewing machine strong enough to handle the heavy fabric. I was sewing in early spring, so we could move into it when we got off the barge. I planned to have the baby at home, in the tipi, and alone if I had to. I don’t remember exactly where I was when Ruby Truly offered her husband Hank as a midwife. He had delivered their baby, so he had experience, and a plan was born. My friend Josie Abata was willing to practice the breathing exercises with me. We used a book called Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin. With our plans firmed up and a new community around us, we were ready to birth this baby.
Change is the one thing we can count on in this world, and accepting this unborn child into my life brought more joy and transformation, and started a chain of unforeseen consequences that brought me to where I am today.
Do you like Shemmho’s writing? Well, send her some love by commenting below.
If you would like to join a one-time-only writing workshop Sunday, August 20th online, it’s from 10 am to 1 pm EST. Safe, fun and connects you writing students from around the world, with a coach who makes your writing better. New exercises.
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