Saturday, April 9, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 15: Mother nearly expires from child bearing disease until a doctor is persuaded to tie her tubes

I am sure Marilyn felt traumatized by the part she played in the Rattlesnake Man drama. She told me several times that as soon as she reached the 8th grade and had to go away to school she would go back to Salt Lake to live with her Aunt Lillian and would never return to Boulder again!
Her stepfather Morias was a rough old country bumpkin, and I think she was horrified by her mother's years of staying pregnant by him until she finally had a child with severe muscular dystrophy who never made it out of his wheelchair before he died. Her mother moved herself  and her children by Morias to Escalante and Morais was not even allowed to visit, I am sure, until she was past menopause. When he got old and his health broke down, his younger children persuaded her to let him stay there after he sold the ranch, until his death.
Marie, her mother, told me Marilyn only came back once to see her in Escalante. I don't think she ever had any children. Well, I understood because I was pretty traumatized by my mother's inability to keep from getting pregnant too! 
I found out another baby was coming soon after Ann, the fourth girl, had only turned one year old! I knew Mother did not want or need another child this soon. Daddy always cussed when she got pregnant as though it was all her fault. Then he'd finally act resigned and say it had better be a boy then to help him with all that work. Was he going to do put it up for adoption if it was another damned girl?  I thought our dad liked us girls, but that wasn't the way he talked when Mother got pregnant.  
I remember Mother saying something about her diaphragm breaking when she was going to have Linda! It certainly could not have been a very reliable means of birth control whatever she used, but she soldiered on through the pregnancy.

I did not want another baby brother or sister to tend. I thought I might go mad myself with all these kids constantly arriving. You could put a molester in jail but a husband like Daddy who got drunk and demanded sex I feared you could do nothing about. I had heard him demanding his husband's rights. But it sounded to me like he did not have to try very hard to get Mother to take a chance! 

Well, Mother had the baby, another girl of course, which caused Daddy to treat her very badly as usual, Mother reported, but this time she went to Salt Lake to have the child because her very life was at risk. Ann had to be delivered with forceps and Grandpa informed Mother her life might come to an end if she stayed in the country to have another child. Daddy grumbled but was scared into paying the bill for her to go to Salt Lake.  He even took her and deposited her to the hospital she told us before he went out and got drunk.  

Grandpa could not even tell her what to do to stop getting pregnant. If he couldn't tell her I don't know who could. Everybody in the country must have told her what to do to prevent these life threatening pregnancies, but I guess the main thing that caused them she could not end, sexual intercourse, or the marriage itself might have come undone leaving her with five children to raise alone. 
Men in those days could not seem to go without sex even at the risk of killing their wives.  They were like animals, some women said.  My word, some of these old wives tales made us young girls afraid to grow up.  I thought the women should have held their tongues when we were around, so we could keep our idiotic romantic fantasies alive as long as possible before we became disillusioned, too! 
Mother was a big strong woman, but she could not go into hard labor, so having a child required her to visit the valley of the shadow of death five times. I think she was too angry at Daddy to have it by the time she had carried a child of his nine months.  Some women just relaxed and popped their kids out like the cows do their calves, but not her.     
It was already very hard to keep track of Mother despite so many children. She kept the road hot when she could, escaping her unhappy home. She would take the youngest one with her, but I always felt in charge of the ones left at home. Yes, it was going to be a contest as to who had the nervous breakdown first, Mother or me, from too much of her child bearing.
I came home from school one day when we were living in Salt Gulch, the fall after Linda was born in June, and I couldn't find Mother. I knew she was there somewhere because the car was there. I finally found her crying out in back of the house. She said she had gotten pregnant again with her ninth pregnancy in ten years and was having a miscarriage!
Somebody came and took her to Richfield. I guess it was Daddy since he was the cause. I don't know where we five children were deposited, probably with Grandma King. The doctor had to do a D and C and Mother finally persuaded him to tie her tubes. He reluctantly agreed even though she was only 29 years old and he said it was a criminal act. It was obvious she could not control her child bearing situation, so he guessed he needed to make an exception in her case. Some women just were not made to have ten or twelve kids like a lot of women did in those days. She looked strong, but half way through labor she just quit having any meaningful contractions.  I don't think her heart was into having kids to tell you the truth. Daddy being the alcoholic husband he was. She was always uptight and mad at him.  She just could never relax enough to bring another of his children into the world easily.   
Mother came home from the hospital looking considerably happier. And at last we could turn our attention to spoiling the last baby sister. I doubt if I even noticed her up to then we had so much work to do. Like gardening, bottling, washing the clothes with water heated outside in a big tub, making soap, cooking meals, making bread, all that had to go on no matter whether there were fifteen babies or not.
I don't know how Mother survived those years. I know she had a lot of migraine headaches, and she complained about being tired all the time. When I started waking up in the morning exhausted, how could I expect her to be concerned? She had a worse case of fatigue than I did. In the meantime, Mother hired Leah and Fern Coleman at times to come and help us. They were godsends. But they grew up and left home, got married, and somebody still had to do the work. Mother could not wait for the babies to grow up so she could put them to work, and neither could I. 
Just try living in the country for a while with no electricity or running water and a bunch of little kids to raise and men to cook for every day, and you will soon see what broke us down like overworked nags that had been run too hard. I meant to do just like Marilyn, head for the city and civilization as soon as I could and that would be the last anyone would see of me in that godforsaken primitive land.     
But one good thing about Mother's temper, her kids did not dare mess their pants very long. They were too terrified to dirty their diapers once they realized that made their mother very angry. Mother trained her kids by whipping them, only mercifully I have blanked all those spankings completely out of my memory.  The only thing I remember about her whipping me is telling Daddy every day,  yes, she whipped me.  But now that I think of it, she did mellow some with the last three.  They don't remember getting whipped or telling Daddy they got whipped.  But I am telling you, Daddy tried her to the breaking point.  That's why I forgive her, God rest her soul.  
And many men came and went working for Daddy, after Bill left, even as he labored from the crack of dawn until it was dark to keep up with his growing crops and expanding herd of cattle.
Oh I might have forgotten to tell you, Grandpa paid for Daddy to have the Kiely Cure for drinking at the state mental hospital where he was even able to see and visit Uncle Reed. Daddy stayed there a month being cured before the spring work started and Linda was going to be born, and two months after he came home he started drinking again!

1 comment:

  1. A major event for have no more kids.
    She had only five to raise...not 10-15.