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Stories of Birth, Pregnancy, and Newborns

Birth ButterflyHow Tempest Came into the World

By Kate Mehrer

I had always wanted to have children, but never imagined I’d be having my first alone in a toolshed. It all started with my surfer boyfriend. We met in Florida, and I enjoyed his company tremendously - not because he was smart or witty, he wasn’t; not because he was rich or prestigious, he wasn’t that either. I liked him because he was dumb as a bag of hammers and he adored me.

My last boyfriend, who I’d been with for three years, was a big-time intellectual hippy. Oh Lord! He had to reason out the environmental factors, the ethical ramifications, and the financial effects (both global and local) of ... every purchase he made, every outing we went on, every restaurant we went to.

When we finally broke up I missed him terribly even though I didn’t want to get back together. You know how it is. I was miserable and, to be perfectly frank, on the rebound with a vengeance.

When I met Les, the surfer, I figured the relationship would be fun, light, and short-lived. Just what I needed. After exhausting the possibilities of all the local beaches, putt-putt golf courses, and scenic make-out points of our town, I was surprised to find I still wasn’t sick of him. Someone suggested the bright idea of going to Alaska to work in the canneries for the summer and Les and I, in our typical aimless way, said ... what the hell.

We arrived in Anchorage, asked around, met some other young people with the same aims, and headed off with them to Thorne Bay, where one of them knew somebody we could stay with for a night. Pretty random? Yes indeed, and that was life with Les. When we got to Thorne Bay and I took a look at the work available, I immediately said, No Way. Working with slippery fish and knives? Staying in putrid, freezing dormitories? I envisioned cutting myself and dying of gangrene within the first week. Les took the job, but I headed to a tavern and got a position as a waitress. There I soon met Fast Eddie, and things with Les were over.

Before long I was living with Fast Eddie in his “cabin”, which was much more cramped than any cannery dormitory could ever be. He called it a cabin and had furnished it like a cabin, to the extent that was possible, but it wasn’t really a cabin, it was a converted toolshed. It had insulation and a woodburning stove. It did have a window, although it was small, but the view through that window was out of this world. This was Alaska after all. When it was warm, we’d snuggle in Adirondack chairs on the deck he had built, look at that view, and swoon. And those warm summer afternoons made that little toolshed seem like the Ritz Carlton.

Fast Eddie and I drank too much, smoked too much, and ran with a fast and loose crowd. Most people don’t think of that kind of life when they think of small towns, but in Alaska, everyone drinks and most people drink to excess. Hard liquor in Alaska is like tortillas in Mexico.

Pretty soon I was pregnant. We were in love, so we got married. We loved our toolshed and our deck and our bar-hopping life, except that the bar hopping had to end with the pregnancy. Fast Eddie became Slow Eddie, and he attended to me as best he could. We both stopped drinking, but kept working in the bar, so we had our friends; we had our support.

I had a doctor, a midwife, all kinds of plans for the birth, but summer turned into fall, then winter, then came the freak early blizzard - me in the toolshed, Eddie at work, and all the doctors, nurses, midwives, caring professionals of all kinds ... who knew where they were? Electricity out, phones dead, roads blocked, and me in labor.  How did I do it? To be honest, I have blocked most of it out, but somehow I did do it. All by myself.

When Eddie finally got someone to bring him home on a snowmobile the next day, there I was, sitting calmly in the rocker he had bought me, enjoying the view with a babe in arms like it was the most ordinary thing in the world. The birth was two weeks early, so you could say he was mighty surprised.

Well, Slow Eddie, who sometimes even goes by Edward now, is still my husband, and we eventually managed to get more spacious digs. We still live in Alaska, with our daughter Tempest, and sometimes, very occasionally, I wonder what ever became of Les.

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