To say my first-born son is strong willed is kind of like saying Godzilla was a big lizard and to be honest, I think he has been that way since the moment he became self-aware.
He arrived 13 days late and even then, they had to go in there and get him. He wasn’t coming out for love or money! Though now I understand I likely could have coaxed him out with a bacon cheeseburger down my shorts!
We waited for days… we did all the things you’re supposed to do when you’re just plain OVER waiting for that kid to come out… We went for long walks, drove the car on bumpy roads, had sex, tried jumping up and down… (just a little!) We even had “The Salad” …Twice!! (In Los Angeles, there is an Italian restaurant that has something on the menu called The Salad and it’s well known to bring on labor in pregnant women…
Walk in pregnant and they know why you’re there. It really does work and it did bring on contractions (both times) but that kid just didn’t want to come out.
My water finally broke early in the morning on a Friday. We went to the doctor and she sent us home with instructions to be at the hospital within the next 12 hours, sooner if active labor started and to eat something before we went. It was a quiet day, not really any contractions to speak of but, knowing we needed to be at the hospital by 5p (and knowing LA traffic) we headed out around 4pm. But it was FRIDAY… in the RAIN… LA people react to rain the way we Florida folk would react to snow. They completely freak out and forget how to drive! To get to the hospital from the Valley we had to take the 134 freeway through the pass to Pasadena but there’s no carpool lane. And THAT is when the contractions started in earnest!
Ever been in a major traffic jam? Know how you kinda creep along with the same cars beside you? Yeah, it was like that… So there I am, in full on labor, in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic, in the pass, creeping along the freeway, and trying like hell to look normal to the car next to me! I seriously wanted to make a sign that said, “All you people get out of the way, I’m having a baby here!!” But to be honest, I don’t think it would have helped. As it turns out, there was really no rush to get to the hospital because my son still had no interest in making an appearance.
We were settled in to a room and the waiting began in earnest. I really wanted a natural birth, had planned for a natural birth, didn’t want to hear about anything other than a natural birth but… after eighteen hours of pretty unproductive labor, we were still barely at 4cm. Since my water had already been broken for so long, the doctor decided we needed Pitocin to try and move things along. No help there. After six hours of that we were “maybe” another half centimeter dilated. And that’s when everything changed.
The doctor came in, looked at my numbers and said, “Yeah, it’s time we get this baby out of you, we’re going to take you for a C-Section now.” It was the last thing I wanted to hear! Rob and I felt we needed a minute to absorb this new information but the look on her face said it didn’t matter, this was happening; now. What she was trying not to tell us is that both the baby and I were in trouble, heart rates, blood pressures, things were going in the wrong direction and they needed to get the baby out fast.
I don’t remember a lot after that. I don’t remember leaving my room or going in to the operating room but I do remember the anesthesiologist with the brilliant blue eyes looking down at me and telling me it was going to be ok. I remember hearing the doctor say clear as day “Oh my god” when they opened me up and I remember that there wasn’t crying when they pulled the baby out. Finally, there was crying and they brought the baby to where I could see him. We hadn’t wanted to know the sex beforehand and now we knew we had a son. And then he was gone in a flurry of activity. My body was filled with meconium and he had swallowed it and needed attention. I was bleeding too much and the meconium was all over the inside of my body which, among other things, was creating some very serious problems. The calm blue eyes told my panic stricken brown ones not to worry, everything was going to be ok, and then he was gone.
I wouldn’t fully understand the danger Eli and I were in until much later but, when I finally woke up in the recovery room, the incision into my abdomen literally went from hip bone to hip bone. Apparently, they had been pouring pans of fluid into my body to flush out the meconium before they closed me up. At the same time, they had been pumping IV bags of fluid (and I presume antibiotics as well) in to me as fast as they could to help get me stabilized. So, by the time I woke up I felt like an over filled water balloon! The nurse asked me to wiggle my toes but, when she pulled back the blanket off my feet, you could barely even see them! I have always had long narrow feet. I think they look disproportionate sticking out from my scrawny ankles but now they looked like tree stumps! Puffy ankles and even puffier feet! They looked like giant dinner rolls and you could barely even see my toes! There was no way I was wiggling them. After a while though, she decided it was enough proof I wasn’t paralyzed if could move my feet and we were moved to a room where I could finally hold my son.
Recovery from an emergency C-Section after a full 24 hours+ of labor is long and slow. My body had been through so much and getting out of bed for anything was an ordeal. Even just rolling over was a big deal. My husband was amazing though. He was there to take care of me the whole way. Eventually they let us go home and there we were, alone with a baby. Holy shit!
We lived in the back, downstairs corner of a four-unit apartment building with an identical one across the courtyard. It was January in LA and we generally kept the windows open if the weather was nice. But now I was certain that every time he cried a neighbor was going to call DCF on us! After a while though, I started to get the hang of it and I started to get out a bit. I decided to join a Mommy and Me class at our temple. It was a lot of fun and great to meet other moms who were going through the same things. The women in this group became some of my closest friends while we lived out there.
And then there was Michael…
Michael and his partner had just adopted their son and they had decided he would be the one to stay home until Patrick was ready for school. And I, having started my new Mary Kay business while I was still pregnant, was just getting started. This meant that both Michael and I had time for play dates. We would meet regularly, kids in strollers, to sit at McDonald’s and drink coffee, to walk in the park or, as the kids got older, to monitor them on the playground. Michael and I understood each other well. He understood running a business and would always encourage me as I built my new venture. In those years Michael was one of my closest friends and our friendship would continue long after we left LA to move back to Florida.
Since Mary Kay has very few territorial restrictions in building your business, you can have clients or team members anywhere in the US (or its territories) and, as my business grew, I did in fact have clients and team members all over the nation. So, when we moved to Orlando, I made a point of being back in LA on a fairly regular basis to work with my people there. I wanted to be sure I was doing all I could to still take great care of my clients so they would choose to remain my clients, even though I was now far away. But no trip was complete without a visit with Michael. Even when they moved from Burbank up to Palmdale, about an hour north of LA, we would still make time to connect whenever possible.
But Michael got sick… One day, after we hadn’t spoken for some time, he called me as I was sitting in the vet’s office with two of my dogs. I knew immediately that something was wrong but just then the doctor walked in and I had to call him back. Michael had cancer, and it was bad. The cancer was everywhere and he wasn’t sure yet what his options were going to be. He was a treasured friend and my heart broke to hear this news. I was in contact with him as often as possible in the days after that, but there would not be many. His funeral was held six weeks later.
My friendship with Michael had a huge impact on me, my life in LA, my family… but for all of that, I had no idea the impact he would have on me in his passing. After Michael died, he became the biggest busybody in my life.