Mother’s Day weekend 16 years ago, I was staying in an ocean front cabin in La Push, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. I was 22, six-months pregnant, student teaching history full time at Port Angeles High School, and living with my aunt Tess Gallagher and her Irish partner Josie Gray in Port Angeles, WA, 90 minutes away. My college dorm mates from Whitman College came up for the weekend from Walla Walla, WA. This was before the Twilight Saga, so we walked the uncharacteristically warm sunny beaches, sang songs by a beach fire, and played card games, instead of taking a Twilight tour. We did go grocery shopping in the neighboring town, Forks, that Saturday, where a woman shopping asked me if Sunday was going to be my first Mother’s Day. She congratulated me and wished me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” This exchange with this woman at the small grocery store in Forks still resonates with me today, as it was the first “Happy Mother’s Day!” exclamation ever directed to me, and one of the few I received that year.
During my student teaching practicum, when I told my cooperating teachers that I was single and pregnant, I was asked to try to conceal my pregnancy from the Port Angeles high school students, as it would be a poor example to set for them. Although I disagreed, I had graduated from Whitman two-years early, was finishing a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate, I was passionate about working with kids, and I was confident I could raise a happy baby while making a positive difference wherever life took me, I successfully hid my pregnancy. It too lots of jackets, cardigans and 6:15am “pregnancy belly checks” before I left the house every day for the high school. Since I was out of town Mother’s Day weekend and it was warm, I let my small town guard down and ditched the jacket revealing my expanded stomach, which cued the woman at the store.
I was always taught that I could do anything. I remember passing the Bellingham Herald Building, while riding to summer swimming lessons in the back seat of our Mazda 626 and telling my parents up in the front seats, that I was going to be a nurse when I grew up. My dad said something along the lines of, you might as well just be a doctor, and my mom agreed saying, you would have to be able to clean up vomit if you are going to be a nurse. I planned on being a doctor for years after that discussion. I even had the hospital doctor in Skagit Valley explain step by step what he was doing, when he stitched up my thigh after a fall on a stake at summer camp, years later. I memorized what he said and watched it all.
The outlook of the high school teachers, who didn’t think the students should know I was pregnant, was unlike the “anything is achievable” filter, I learned growing up. I read their attitude as, “Her life is over. Chance of future success gone.”
Since that semester practicum: I finished my teaching program; substitute taught for the district; guided kayak tours; was the Health and Safety Services Director for the American Red Cross Olympic Peninsula Chapter; was accepted into graduate school in a competitive field and program (Communication Sciences and Disorders); graduated from the graduate program; maintained a great career working with kids who need support to effectively share their thoughts by speaking coherently; raised a kind young man who just competed in his first district tennis tournament. Next up… Attempting to be the first woman to swim around Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge Island represents freedom to me because for the five years I lived on the Olympic Peninsula, the Bainbridge Island Ferry was my escape to civilization (e.g., Mariners Games and weekend getaways at April’s and Dave’s in Seattle with activities like organic baby food cooking classes). I hope that if I can swim around the island some young women on the peninsula become motivated and think, I can do something like that too. Yes you can!
Swimming around Bainbridge Island was planned initially last fall, as my final big North Channel training swim. Water temps will likely be comparable to the North Channel, it’s salt water, and the distances between the two swims are approximate. At the time it was planned, I thought even finishing 18 miles would be a success, as I would be more aware of my challenges before the North Channel swim attempt. Now that I’m at the peak of my training, I want to finish the circumnavigation. My body has proven to me that it can handle swimming 20 miles, but there will be currents and tides around the island that I’m not accustomed to swimming in, so it really is a training experiment. I’m going to keep going for as long as I possibly can though! “I think I can” (The Little Engine that Could was one of Tiernan’s favorite books for years!).
The book has already closed on yesterday’s 20 mile Hagg Lake Swim, but I completed it, I feel strong (I swam 27-28 miles last week), and below are some photos from the pre-swim.
Covered in Desitin. Should have somehow gotten some under the edge of my cap as I have a bad “Marv” burn again on my forehead.