365. Labor Rooms I Have Known

So here it is at last.  The last blob to mark my big day when I’m not going-on-80 any more.  I’ve graduated at last.  With 80 birthdays behind me, I am finally going to have to sit down and figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

As I’m writing this, it’s still Labor Day.  I don’t know about you, but when Labor Day rolls around every year, it isn’t the great American workforce I’m thinking of.  It’s all those many labor rooms I had occasion to visit and linger in.

Unless you enjoy pain, the labor room is a place you might want to avoid. Octo-woman can help.  Thanks to her ten pregnancies, she eventually was able to design and utilize many heretofore unknown birth control strategies.

Because you have been such a faithful and generous reader of this blob all year, Octo-woman wants to thank you by sharing some of these important secrets. 

The first method of birth control we shall discuss today is rhythm.  Octo-woman does not recommend it.  Rhythm – also known as Vatican Roulette –  is a sinister method of birth control, which, if pursued carefully, with the studied use of charts, graphs and calendars, can invariably guarantee that you will be pregnant within 30 days.

Take my husband Gene and me, for instance. On the day we were married, we set off on our trip to Miami, Florida where we planned to work and continue our schooling.  Along the way, Gene – ever the avid traveller, always seeking out interesting tourist sites along the way – wanted to stop and see St. Augustine, the oldest city in America.  When we got there, he stopped and was looking at the travel guide. “Look, Patty.” he said.  “There’s a quaint old shrine here that was established in 1565. Want to drive over and see it?”

“I guess so”, I said.  “What’s it called”?

“The name’s in Spanish”, he said.  “It looks like ‘La Madre De La Leche.”

Then came my fateful reply. “Sure, I’m game”.

And so, like a couple of demented turtle doves, we visited and prayed in the shrine dedicated to the mother of the nursing milk.  This is a shrine where for a few centuries now, married people have come to pray for fertility.  Yes, that’s correct – fertility.  In olden days, fertility was considered something to be desired. 

Well, anyway, we can never say we didn’t ask for what followed.  What followed was Mark Peter, Matthew Damian, Lisa Marie, Susan Marie, Gretchen Marie, Teresa Marie, and Judith Marie. And each was accompanied by a marching procession of Bills.

It didn’t take Gene and me long to figure out that we had a little fertility problem and we decided to do something about it.  We decided to limit the size of our family by practicing rhythm.  We kept practicing it, but we never got it perfect. To show you how successful this form of birth control can be, after we started practicing it, I only had six more pregnancies.

By that time, we were living in a part of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood which was known as Rabbit Hill.  They didn’t call it Rabbit Hill because the Easter Bunny lived there.  If you were to look around and observe all those Catholics in all those big old houses, with all those big families, you might assume that nobody was practicing birth control.  But you’d be wrong. EVERYBODY was practicing birth control.  They just weren’t using any methods that worked.

Few people outside of Capitol Hill ever gave us credit for it, though. As an example of how we were censured by the outside world, one summer we took the whole family on a train trip from Seattle to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  At various times, I would escort several of the little persons into the Ladies Room. One afternoon, a young woman was sitting at the mirror combing her hair, and when she saw all those heads coming into view she slowly turned around. 

“May I ask”, she inquired disdainfully, “how you happened to acquire all those children?”

Sizing up the girl’s age, I cleverly understood she wasn’t really asking me to summarize the earthy habits of the birds and the bees.  I didn’t have time to anyway, because Judy was unwinding a whole roll of toilet paper.  

“My, goodness”, I replied.  “I am much more interested in figuring out how we have avoided having eight.”

And I was.  I mean, by then I was rather fond of the seven we had already brought into the world.  As a neighbor of mine once put it, we weren’t exactly down on our knees making novenas for more new babies.  But let’s face it, once they get here, they have a big way of worming their way into your affections.

In the meantime, though, during the ten years I was pregnant, I became increasingly alert to alternative methods of birth control. 

Here, for the first time, they will be revealed.   If birth control has ever been a problem for you, or if you’re a Catholic of the old school, never fear: Octo-woman is here. 

There will be no charge for this service.  It is extended to you graciously by Octo-woman, herself, who is, as ever, keeping the world safe for democracy.  

Here are her tips in list form so it will be handy to tape them onto the refrigerator.


1.  Try never to go to St. Augustine, Florida, but if you have to, be very careful. Stay away from that ancient shrine to the lady of the nursing milk.  Unless you are prepared for what follows, do not go there. You have been warned. 

2.  Another way to limit the size of your family is to set up housekeeping at a considerable distance from your husband.  In the Vatican, perhaps.

3.  Convince your husband that you are a man.  At the same time, convince yourself, that your husband is an invisible man. It should work.

4.  Finally, if all else fails, you might try one other method which was once  described this way:  This lady went to the doctor — we’ll call him Dr. O’Shaunessey.

“Doctor”, says the lady, “My husband and I keep practicing rhythm but I keep getting pregnant.”

So Dr. O’Shaunessey says, “Sure’n you do!”  “Well,” he says, “I guess you’ll just have to try usin’ buttermilk.”

Confused, the lady says, “Well, Doctor, I never heard of using buttermilk.  Do I take it before . . . . or after?”

And he replies, “INSTEAD of.”

Well, that’s it. It might be a good idea to memorize these tips so you’ll always be prepared. And, yes, you’re quite welcome.  I always enjoy being of service to the world that needs me so badly.

Okay now.  The real reason I wanted to sign off on this going-on-80 blob with this topic is because the day we visited that Shrine to the Lady was the best thing that ever happened to us. And that’s the truth.  

Here below – in all its disheveled glory – is the last photo ever taken all together of the Ford Horde. I’m always going to wonder how we got so lucky. And since then, we’ve added two sons-in-law – Sean and Joe. This is the treasury Gene and I were given, and we never got over being grateful for it.Before I sign off today, thank you for reading and contributing to the blobs all year.  It wouldn’t have been any fun without you.

And thank you, grandson Bryce, for launching and using extortion to make me write in it every day. 

If you’re a “subscriber” to the blob, you’ll get emails letting you know if/when I crank out a few more from time to time.  Among other topics, I didn’t start doing the birthdays and anniversaries till the end of October and I missed a few more as well, so I’ve got some catch-up to do.  And I want to “flesh out” some of the earlier ones, yada, yada, yada.

I might also work on a family tree project, and, if so, and I may be begging you for help.  Most of all though I have to face tackling all those dozens of family video tapes I’ve accumulated and failed to edit. (Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus but he has no intention of editing all those videos, givehimabreak.)

So here I go, unbowed, undaunted, and unorganized into my eighth decade.  One thing you can count on is that as the years go on, I will certainly continue to apply Octo-woman’s birth control strategies, because I definitely and categorically do not wish to wind up in another labor room. 

One can’t be too careful, you know. 

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17 Responses to 365. Labor Rooms I Have Known

  1. TT Covey says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDMA!! Love you!! Good job!!!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This post was so funny!!! I read it out loud to Sean and we were cracking up laughing! Thank you so much for this fantastic year of blogging! It has been such a special gift to your family, friends, and the world. Congrats on finishing your year of daily blogging and on turning 80! You are such an amazing and inspiring lady! I will miss your daily blobs but am glad you are going to be moving to a saner blobbing schedule. 🙂 I love you!

  3. Gretchen says:

    Happy Birthday dear mom. Thank you for the laughter and tears we all experienced while reading your blog this year. You are truly a treasure. Now, please take the day off…you deserve it!! I love you.

  4. Linda Lewis says:

    A Limerick to Pat Ford, Octo – Woman the Greatest Ever

    There once was a lady named Pat
    Who really knew where it’s at
    She blogged everyday
    She had much to say
    So in front of her computer, she sat.

    Bryce said to her, “You are quite a lady
    Each day the year before you’re 80
    Write something to cheer
    And make it real clear
    Even if it turns out to be funny and shady.

    Without missing a date, she wrote of glory
    Sometimes they were sad and even some gory.
    For sure you could bet
    A giggle you’d get
    And pictures to tell the rest of the story.

    The birthdays, the weddings, each one she did tell
    Of some funny thing. She wrote it so well.
    Connecting Cousins
    And by the dozens
    With birth year or date. It was really swell.

    She never ran out of cute things to say.
    And even included how animals play.
    She loved each ‘Comment’
    Remarks on the moment
    That’s how she passed each and every day.

    Well here it is day three sixty five
    Happy to be so well and alive
    Please don’t stop now
    Please take a bow
    Rejoice and be glad you did survive.

    So bring it on, the candles and cake
    It’s a day to celebrate, no mistake.
    You’re one living doll
    So stand up tall
    No finer person did God ever make.

    So Happy Birthday to wonderful you,
    My heart is singing, that is so true.
    Wear a smile all day
    Get out and play
    ‘Cause this is the start of something brand new.

    Many adventures to experience for fun.
    You can do anything that is under the sun.
    Turning 80 is grand
    Strike up the band
    So many hearts and friends you have won.

    OGIGO, (Only good is going on)
    Linda Lewis

  5. C Ford says:

    Happy FUN-tastic 80th birthday! I already wished you one last night!

  6. Denise (Fitz) says:

    Happy Birthday, Aunt Patty! Thank you so much for giving me something to look forward to every morning this past year. You are and always have been an amazing woman. I love you.

  7. Lisa Marie says:

    Dear Mom: You are the best, and so is so your blog. Happy 80th year! You are an inspiration. I love you!

  8. Colleen says:

    What a cute blob! I’m glad you and Grandpa started the Ford legacy, I’m so grateful for all my aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins-in-law! And Happy Birthday! Please don’t stop the blobs, they’re so delightful. But please take a break from your daily struggle burning the midnight oil to crank out the next one.


  9. Sean says:

    Happy birthday! So what’s the plan now for the glob?

  10. Natalie says:

    Its been so much fun reading your blog this year grandma, I love you and hope you have a wonderful 80th birthday! 🙂

  11. Joan Fitzpatrick says:

    Happy Birthday, and thanks for the wonderful information and entertainment for the past year. I will miss it. It was the first thing I went to in the morning.

    When I talked to Denise today, I told her that I called you this morning, and you were on your way out for an appointment. She wondered if it was for a pregnancy test.

    Love you.

  12. Gail Trevathan says:

    Happy Birthday Pat. I have enjoyed reading your blobs and am especially glad that when Curt married Suzy you became another member of this very large combined family.
    Gail Trevathan

  13. Chris says:

    What a day of mixed emotions! I’m so sad that the blob is over, it’s like coming to the end of a fabulous book series. I’m so happy to know you’ve reach this milestone and can rest a bit from your creation. I hope you publish the blob. I know many would love to have it in hard copy at our bedside. You are a treasure! Happy 4th anniversary of your 20th birthday!

  14. Gretchen Covey says:


    Thank you for this amazing gift! We love your life stories and family history. We will enjoy these stories for years to come. This ‘book’ will be passed down through the generations. We must get it published into book form soon! Happy Birthday, I love you, Mom!

  15. Zoey says:

    Happy birthday Grandma Patty and by a Serbian custom, I wish You to celebrate 80 more happy birthdays! I really enjoyed this story, and I hope you’ll continue writing after you take a nice vacation, cause it seems to me that You’ve earned it!

    Have a nice day with your family!
    Greetings from Serbia!


  16. Juli says:

    Thanks for a great laugh today….Happy Birthday from the Lortons!

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