Forty Years Ago

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The morning started out just like every other hot, August, Michigan morning.  It was hot and humid.  The little cottage was fairly cool since it sat on the top of a little hill facing the lake.  All the windows were open to allow some cooler air into the tiny kitchen as I make coffee and breakfast for my husband and myself.  It was early and I had to make 35 mile trip to Durand to pick up supplies for the little company we owned.

In 1973, my husband and I decided to pour concrete basement walls for a living.  The first summer was a struggle and we barely survived the first winter.  The second summer we were doing much better and actually making ends meet.  Things were actually looking better for the most part, even with the stress that came along with finding out I was pregnant.  I would say, “How did that happen?”  Well, we all know the answer to that, but we were both surprised since I had suffered an ectopic pregnancy in 1972 and my chances of becoming pregnant again was fairly slim.  I had gone to the doctor for another issue and the fact that I couldn’t stay awake during the afternoons no matter how hard I tried.  SURPRISE!  I was pregnant.

Those of you that know me and my husband at the time know how I was feeling.  Bill had been married before and we had been up and down during our three plus years of marriage. Lots of break ups and getting back together.   Note to anyone out there that is thinking about marrying a man that makes his living at playing pool.  Not such a stable life for anyone and a marriage doesn’t have much of a chance, I can advise in hindsight.  Oh, I suppose I knew then, deep down inside.  But I was totally in love with Bill and believed every thing he said for way too long.

When we found out we were expecting and I had promises of him changing, actually giving up the one thing he really was great at (pool) and making a normal life for us, I believed in him.  For the most part all of that was true.  Bill actually started working on a regular basis, the little company was doing well, he was staying out with the guys less and less and he was treating me like what I thought a pregnant woman should be treated.

I was keeping the books and helping with the actual construction of the basement walls.  Many a day it was just Bill and I doing the work because the employees had not shown up for work.  Not actually the job most women would do but then I’m not or have never been most women.  In fact I enjoyed the work, watching a hole in the ground turn into a basement structure of concrete that would support a house one day.  The men on the job, including the concrete truck drivers would make fun of me, a woman pouring concrete.  I would take it with ease and go about my work.  One day the connections between a tall wall and a short wall near the corner where I was overseeing the pour disconnected.  Concrete was running everywhere.  I shouted for the truck driver to stop the pour and jumped off the wall.  Grabbing an extra panel, I jumped down off the wall into the basement hole.  I jammed the panel up against the blown out wall and braced my back against the panel.  I pushed on the dirt wall of  the hole until I got the two panels pushed back into place while Bill hammered them back together.  I was covered from the waist down with concrete.  That was the last day anyone gave me any grief about the job I was doing, I had gained their respect.  I had also gained a bad chemical burn from the concrete soaking into my jeans the rest of the afternoon.

On this morning forty years ago, after breakfast I hauled my 9 month pregnant body up into our old 1966 Ford pickup truck to make my way to Durand.  Bill had left for the job site as they had a basement to pour that afternoon.  I felt really well that morning for what ever reason.  I was past what they thought was my due date.  In fact the Friday before the doctors at the clinic where I was going decided I might be having twins, so they x-rayed me.  No such thing as an ultra-sound back then.  It my relief there was just one baby in my rather huge belly.  I was so big at my last appointment I had printed “Good Year” across my girth as I really did feel like a blimp.   I gained thirty-two pounds, all of it right in the middle of my body.  However, I had a great pregnancy.  Never had any morning sickness.  Never felt bad.  My hair was thick and shiny.  I had fingernails strong enough to drive screws into a wall.  The doctors told me I could work as long as I felt like working.

I picked up the supplies and returned to Durand.  Bill had enough help to pour the walls so I decided to go home and get some things done.  We had invited a couple we knew over for dinner and then we were heading off to the Lakes Drive-In about 15 miles away in Brighton.  If you don’t know what a drive-in theater was, Google it please.  They were great and I still miss them.  Anyway, I cleaned house, prepared dinner and a desert.   I did take a short nap that afternoon.  I wasn’t a nap person but didn’t think anything of it, just a side effect of being way too pregnant.  Bill got home about six, in time to shower and shave before our company arrived.

We had a good dinner, lots of laughing and joking about my ever-growing belly.  I was so ready to not be pregnant any longer.  I felt like if you poked me in the belly with a stick pin I would zoom around the room like a balloon someone had let go with the end untied.   Never the less after desert and a quick cleaning of the kitchen, we all loaded up in our 1966 Chevy  SS and headed off to Brighton.  A stop at the store for some beer for the guys and we arrived at the drive-in just in time for the movie to begin.

For the life of me I have no memory of the first movie.  The second movies was M*A*S*H.  We had seen it about ten times.  But we were having fun so we stayed.  Between the two movies I had made a trip to the ladies room.  As I walked in front of the large mirror I was surprised to see my huge baby bump had moved.  I had carried the baby high, up under my ribs.  To my surprise the baby was now low, down around my hips.   I looked and smiled to myself, “Well, you finally decided to drop, like everyone said you would.  Maybe you will come out this week.”

By the time the second movie was over and it was time for us to head home, Bill had way too much to drink to drive.  I slid into the driver’s seat and tried to get comfortable.  Not an easy task when my belly was rubbing the steering wheel because I had to pull the seat so far forward in order to reach the peddles.  Our friends lived about half-way to our place.  I pulled up into their drive-way and we said our good byes.  Did I mention the Chevy was a two door?  With Bill almost too drunk to ride, I struggled, pulled myself out from under the steering wheel to let the couple out of the back seat.

As I stood upright I shouted, “OH MY GOD!”  Everyone one shouting, “WHAT?” Including Bill that had come to.

“My water just broke!”

I now understand that a very pregnant woman announcing that her water just broke is actually the alarm for a Chinese fire drill.  Everyone freaked out except for me and I was the one with the Mississippi river running into my shoes.  All three were shouting different commands at me.  “Sit down!”  “Lie down.” “We need towels!”  “We need a blanket.”

“I need you all to calm down, for crying out loud!  Please get me a blanket or towel to sit on!”

Someone returned with an old blanket and I placed it on the driver’s seat.  Bill wanted to drive and I refused to allow him, after all I wanted to arrive at the hospital to deliver a baby not for being killed in an accident.  “Get in the car!  I’m fine!”

For once, Bill did what I asked.  I drove us home as I had things I needed to do before I went to the hospital.   It’s funny now, but what was I thinking?


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