Monday, October 22, 2012

Shacks Filled With Babies

Twilight deepened over the Restigouche River, and lights winked on in the small village along its southern bank.  Supper was over, the dishes done, the kitchen tidied.  My mother said, “Come on, Louise.  Let’s go for a walk.” 

I think we lived on Notre Dame Street.  It was along time ago.  But, I can never forget the pervasive smell of the pulp and paper mill across the street.  Something else I can never forget is the shacks filled with babies.

We walked the quiet streets, and my mother pointed out home after home.  “You see that shack, Louise?  Seventeen children live there.  And sixteen there.  And eighteen there.  The man who lives in that two-room shack over there; he has a good job at the mill.  He’s a chemical engineer, but he’s got too many children.  That’s why he lives in a shack.  People can’t afford to have baby after baby after baby.”

We walked on in the warm night, and my mother continued, “But this will never happen to you, Louise!  You won’t be forced to have baby after baby.  You see, the most wonderful thing has happened!  They’ve invented a pill.  Scientists have invented a pill that stops women from having baby after baby.  That means that you, as a woman Louise, can be whom you want and do what you want.  You can go to university, get a good job.  You can stand on your own two feet.  You will never have to live in a shack, because you will never have to have a baby you can’t afford.”

These startling words branded my six-year old mind.  I might not remember the name of our street, but I will never forget the shacks filled with babies. 

Sometime afterward my mother disappeared from my life.   She was seriously ill and had left our village for medical care.  Nana came.  Snow fell deeply.  Snow melted into early spring.  Nana left.  Mom returned in time to bake my birthday cake and frost it with boiled white icing and decorate it with gumdrop balloons.  These events were not startling to me.  I had heard the whispered words Grave’s Disease.

Mom went on to have baby number five and became one of the earliest women in that time and place to go on the pill.   Doctors had told her after baby two, “Another baby might kill you, Sara.”  I knew these things because I had Big Ears and listened to secret conversations.  

I am forever grateful for babies three, four, and five, for they are my sisters.  Lawyer, landman, teachers; pianist, singer, writers; we have not lived in shacks filled with babies.

Now I live in a purple state, where red and blue are duking it out fiercely in the presidential race.  I hear the slogans.  Jobs!  Jobs!  Jobs!  This race is about job creation, not social issues!  It’s the economy, stupid!

It is the economy, stupid!  
I want more for our daughters and nieces than shacks filled with babies.

Roy, Donnie, and me (in center)

Other things echo in my mind, and it makes me wonder,  Could we really go back fifty years?

DCCC-Democrats 2012-Update 07/26/12:  "Joe Coors financially supported the Personhood Amendment that would outlaw all abortions without any exceptions and even outlaw many common forms of birth control."

You Tube Video-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin says 'Rape Victims Rarely Get Pregnant'-08/19/12:

You Tube Video-Buck:Vote For Me Because I Am Not A Woman-07/21/10:

You Tube Video-Rush Limbaugh Calls A Female Georgetown Student . . .-03/02/12;  My apologies if you are subjected to an ad.  You will be linked to You Tube:

You Tube Video-Romney Vows to Get Rid of Planned Parenthood-03/20/12:

Fundy Blue Reads:  For an interesting take on how quickly it all can change, I  recommend The Handmaid's Tale by Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

Think about shacks filled with babies.


  1. Louise, this is a wonderful post on so many levels!
    The beginning read like an opening to a novel and I was hooked to the end.
    It certainly would be a major step backwards if Romney and his followers get in control. Those shacks filled with babies will become commonplace again as we all witnessed when we were kids.

    I guess I grew up in a shack full of kids too....9 kids, 2 parents, grandmother and uncle!!! Even if the pill was around, religious control had a foothold!
    Oh please, I hope Americans have their eyes open.

    1. I'm experiencing a steep learning curve as I learn how to blog. I replied to you with an email, then figured out that I could do it here! The encouraging words were very much appreciated!

      You did grow up in a big household! Big is fun though! Family is the best.

  2. I am so late with this but having read it I have a much better understanding of your world, your family life. Not knowing anything about Grave's disease I googled it of course. Man, I'm so sorry for you all ~~ it's very difficult to hear what friends have to endure throughout their lives. We all have something, I told my cousin this fact one time 20 years ago when my cousin overdosed with drugs. He stared at me in disbelief, how could you think or even say things like that he uttered. It's me, it's how I see life and it's how I am in life. In this case, I am up front while he has everything hidden. Each to their own, I guess.

    So young you were to have the world of 'birthin' babies opened up to you. I have a sneaking suspicion age 6 is not even close nowadays! I have a friend who told me last night that she hasn't said anything to her 15 year old daughter. She doesn't know how to do it.

    Since I have never had a child, I don't know how I would have handled it in the least. Maybe in my next life!


  3. Your Mum, thankfully she lived after being so very ill, and after her last baby, the pill enabled her to live maybe as she would like. Too many littlies, overcrowded rooms, and hardly any modern appliances to make life any easier. No fridge, washing machine, maybe a copper and tubs, and a hand wringer, like my Mum had until I was about 15 or so. Your Dad would have been distraught at the lack of food, basic necessities, for the people there. Again, thanks for sharing this private part of your and your Dad and Mum's lives. Take care, down here a wild weekend is forecast, gale winds, cold temps., and snow.

  4. Hi Fundy, you should repost this blog - hugs Barb

  5. Ah at age six you were already getting inroduced to pharma ideas.


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