Everything Else Before Everything Changed, forever


Picking up after having received the good news after my 2nd amnio…


Everything began to look, taste, and even sound better.  The idea of researching a new bed with Craig on our Saturday, a mundane task by my previous definition, was truly exciting, as with the news that our little baby was fine after all that we’d been through in the past year to get pregnant and now being 20 weeks pregnant, I was overwhelmed by a sense of relief.

Craig was getting ready to go as I sat at my computer and played John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” for my son from my music library.  I rubbed my growing belly and sang along, and certainly smiled as I imagined myself at those Mommy & Me classes where I would sing with my baby; as I thought about how beautiful and powerful I felt as a woman, navigating through all of these obstacles to protect my child.  I updated my Facebook status with a couple of the lyrics, an effort to let people know how happy I was; I hadn’t posted that I was pregnant; typically a transparent person even before the advent of social media, we had gone through so many unknowns during this pregnancy that I had never felt safe enough to share with the digital landscape, and even at this point – out of the danger zone, I wanted to hold the pregnancy very close and safe, I suppose.

We went to to test out mattresses.  When climbing on certain ones I was careful as my belly was becoming more of an encumbrance and so it made it a bit harder for me to test all of the beds as quickly as Craig could.  The woman helping us asked if I was pregnant.  I could sense her trepidation, as I was an overweight pregnant woman, and so it was harder to be sure that underneath my stomach weight was my pregnant belly.  But it was, and I was, so I happily answered yes!  She said, “You never know if you should ask,” and I agreed, but was very happy that she had.

We went across the street to sit on more mattresses, our search acting as a metaphor for the home we were building together, for the commitment we had to each other, for the union we shared.

And then we went to an amazing Los Angeles local place called “Apple Pan” and I ate an amazing burger and fries without a single thought of ‘I ate fattening food’ guilt.

After that we went to my friend Robin’s and gathered lots of toys and clothes.  Her daughter was probably around 3, and she had a son who was almost 1-year, and she and her husband were generously giving us some really great hand-me-downs.

Our son had not been born, but that Saturday was by every definition a family day, and it was great.


By now I had his clothes for the 1st 9 months of his life, with promises of more hand me downs once the sons of Lisa, Dee, Jodi, Robin and Claire grew.  I had an infant car seat, multiple types of strollers, a bassinet, darling outfits and ones-ies and even some diapers.  My full time mission had turned into arranging to pick up these things, and then disinfecting or washing.  I went to buy the special detergent used on infant’s clothing, and so now our apartment smelled delicious like one where a newborn lived.  I went to Target and bought plastic containers and marked them clearly 0 – 3 months, 3 – 6 months, and so on.  I folded and separated and calculated what I should put on my registry, for the baby shower that my eldest sister, and my friends Dee, Jodi and Tammi were generously planning for me, to be held on January 30th, 2010.  I went to Babies R Us and took advantage of the “pregnant mother” parking spot closest to the entrance.  My sister met me there, and we went through aisle after aisle with the store gun that digitally captured the items I wanted and needed.  Toe-nail clippers, bedding, baby cups and more.  We looked at cribs, and I decided to come back with Craig to pick out the best one; we were hoping his Dad would get us the crib.


My eldest sister’s birthday was coming up, and she called me with the details, but I told her that of course I wasn’t going because I wasn’t speaking to my mother.  I guess she must have asked if I would re-consider if I got an apology, and I must have answered yes, as my mother called again.  I was now 21 weeks pregnant and she’d only called 2 other times during my pregnancy, after she uttered those hateful and unforgivable words.  This time, 9 weeks later, I did not hang up on her.  She stumbled through her apology, and asked me to remind her why I wasn’t speaking to her.

While it’s a pretty appalling thing to realize that my own mother was minimizing my feelings and shirking her responsibility of being a good mother, again, I had worked on this project regarding mental health, and I believed that she didn’t remember or realize what she had said.  I realize that she had blacked out when she had said what she had said.  I remember the look on her face that day, and she was feeling ignored because I got pregnant even though she hadn’t wanted that for me, so had turned into her other ‘self’ – a monster I’d seen appear many times throughout my life, someone who hadn’t developed good coping or communication skills; like a child who screams “I hate you” to her parents if they don’t let her eat another cookie, my own mother had limitations, and so I repeated to her what she had said.  “Really?” she responded.  “I don’t even remember saying that, and I didn’t mean it.  I’m really sorry.”  I justifiably ranted at her how hurtful it was, how disappointing it was that my own mother hadn’t even congratulated me on my pregnancy, how hard it had been without her approval….

And once I got through that, she said it was Cynthia’s birthday coming up, would Craig and I please join, as she’d like to see me.

I wanted my mother in my life, and so agreed to meet everyone that Saturday night to a Chinese restaurant in Santa Monica.  I wore a black maternity super casual dress with leggings and a jean jacket and a scarf, and Ugg boots.  I parked in the lot close to the restaurant and was the first to arrive, with my mother being the second – as my father dropped her off there before he went in search of a parking space.  She leaned in to hug me and I let her, and she handed me a card that congratulated Craig and I are on our pregnancy.  She asked how I was.  I was reserved and aloof, but I would be lying if I didn’t state that I was glad to see her.

My eldest sister arrived with her husband and beautiful little daughters, and I remember that my Dad came back – having parked his car illegally – stressed that he was going to get a ticket so after we all ordered our food, I walked out with him and got in his car to re-direct him into the parking lot that he had missed finding, in part because of his age and the stress of being in Santa Monica near the promenade with the traffic reflecting the approaching holidays approaching (it was just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving), and in part because the sign of the structure was hard to see.

We returned to the table, me sitting as far away from my mother as possible.  When I got up to go to the bathroom, my 2 little nieces hurried behind me, asking me questions like “What is going to happen when you need to change him?  He’s going to be a boy in the girls’ bathroom?”  There were lots of giggles, and I was glad I had come out for this family dinner.


On the morning of Friday November 20th I got a weird cramp on the right side of my belly.  It made me catch my breath and later that day, when Craig returned home from work in the early afternoon, the pain returned, and Craig walked in to see me holding onto the new bedpost trying to ride out the pain.  He asked if I’d called the doctor, and I said no, I was seeing the doctor on Monday anyway, and theorized it could wait.  Craig encouraged me to call, and so I paged the on-call doctor.  Dr. C, my previous OBGYN with the fabulous Irish accent, called me back pretty quickly and asked me to describe what I was feeling.  I told her, and also said that maybe it was Braxton Hicks, something I had found on my Google search that day, which referred to contractions many women have way before they go into actual labor.  Dr. C assured me that what I was experiencing was fine and normal, to keep a log if it re-occurred, and to page her again if it continued.

I don’t recall if it happened again that night or at all on Saturday.

Sunday morning came, November 22nd and it was a busy day, you know the kind when you don’t think it’s humanly possible to fit in everything you have planned?

First I went to Target and purchased birthday presents for my niece Eliza and for Robin’s son, as well as some maternity tank tops, t-shirts and sarongs for our imminent trip to Florida – where we were going for Thanksgiving to visit Craig’s father and stepmom.  In the parking lot, I wrapped Robin’s son’s gift, before I headed over to his first birthday party.

I was a little uncomfortable at the party, as it was mostly family, neighbors, along with just one other high school friend who was there with her husband and child.  It wasn’t that I was uncomfortable meeting new people, but I did spend some time wondering why I had made such an effort to be there when I had so many other things to do that day, and Robin and I weren’t close as we used to be.  Still, it was nice to sit outside and watch a few children play and to tell people that Craig and I were expecting.

When I went into get food, I put a tiny piece of lox on my plate, and Robin reminded me that I should be careful how much I eat of that, being pregnant and all.  I had the tiniest sliver of that smoked Nova Scotia Salmon on my toasted bagel with cream cheese, and it was delicious.

When I left Robin and her husband’s home, I had to go to pick up a few ingredients that we’d missed at the market, some more water, and the dry cleaning.  And when I returned to Venice, I was happy to have found parking on the street in front of our walk-street, so that I could keep the space open for Dee and her family, who were coming over for a celebratory dinner party.

She’d been told earlier that week that her cancer was in remission, pending another scan that would review her progress in January, and we were all of course thrilled with that news.  Craig was busy preparing the ingredients for the meal, so I lugged the 2.5 Gallon Sparklett’s water bottle, the dry cleaning, and a few light bags from Target down the walk-street and into our home – and as I was doing so, Dee called to say they were moments away, so I rushed downstairs to guide them into our reserved underground parking space.

As is common with any family with 2 little boys, and as expected with Dee and how she lugged every toy imaginable with her to our beach home when she visited, we had to hold the elevator and fill it up with all of their stuff and their children, all the while Dee and David – her husband – and I chattering away.  I remember that we had either asparagus or broccoli there specifically per Dee’s request, as those greens are known to battle cancer.  I remember that I had purchased a Diet Coke for her, but had hidden it in the refrigerator, hoping she wouldn’t ask for it.  She love love loved her Diet Coke, and had been sneaking them despite cola being horribly unhealthy.  She said she was going to walk to the store to get one, with that defiant twinkle in her eyes, and David shook his head, and I shrugged, and let her know that she could find one in the fridge.

After dinner, the cramps / contracts / pain occurred while I had been sitting at my desk doing something.  I sort of crawled to the floor, and tried to explain to Dee what I was feeling – in between the sharp jabs I was feeling on my lower right abdomen. With her being hard of hearing, I was trying to speak loudly, but it was a little hard to speak loudly as I was experiencing this pain.  David heard what I was saying, and asked when I was seeing the doctor. I told him my appointment was the next day, and he asked me to call him after, to let him know what the doctor said.

Dee and I continued to sit on the floor, with her youngest son, not yet 1, crawling around between us, and asked me if we had a name yet.  We had, and quite frankly, I don’t even remember if I’d ever heard it before outside of the name of the musician Finley Quaye, but both Craig and I just loved it.  The first letter was F, a partial tribute to my grandfather on my father’s side, Felix.  She had trouble understanding what I’d said, again, because she was hard of hearing, so I wrote it down for her.  “Finley?” she asked with her nose sort of scrunched up.  “Yes,” I responded with absolute certainty, “we love it.”

As we exchanged goodbyes and Craig helped them out with all of their things, David reminded me to call him after I’d seen the doctor.

I relaxed for the first time that day, and wondered if it was possible that the cramps had re-occurred at other times during the weekend and I hadn’t even noticed them as I’d been so busy.

Second trimester 2009: nesting & amnios


WEEKS 13 – 17

My best friend Dee had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that year in March, 2009. She was in fact the first person I had told I was pregnant (after Craig of course).  I like to think she had been my lucky charm in getting pregnant, as while we were waiting those 2 weeks post insemination, she had left her youngest son’s baby pillow at our apartment because she believe that it would bring me good luck.

For the next few weeks I spent time visiting Dee either at her home or meeting at a deli in the Valley or occasionally she and her family would come to Venice, and other times I’d have to visit her in the hospital.  She, despite having a serious cancer with a 50/50 chance, two sons, and being the earner of the house-hold, found time to help me nest.  We went through her baby’s clothing and blankets and sorted through what I would need.  She explained to me why she had the little baby gloves; she explained about how nails would grow and I’d have to clip them regularly so the baby wouldn’t hurt herself.

Yes, herself: I was convinced I was having a girl, and Craig and I were sort of agreed on naming her Scarlett, though it wasn’t officially official.  We didn’t refer to her by that name, though; Craig often asked how Ziggy was, the nickname he’d created from the term zygote, which simply refers to an embryo in early pregnancy.

I was feverish on nesting, and began gathering items not only from Dee but from Jodi, mother of two, and Lisa, mother of 3.  Nesting was a great time, a very special time, made particularly enjoyable for me since I had so many friends who were happy to hand things down to me, and since I am the personality type who just loves to prepare and anticipate (read: slight case of O.C.D.).

My mother called a couple of times and I hung up on her.  I didn’t have time for any negativity in my life, and was still in shock from her behavior from when I told her I was pregnant, and so I rejected her; she was too dangerous to my fragile condition, and I was protecting my family by keeping her away.


At around week 17, I underwent my 2nd trimester blood work, in which the plan was to gauge any possible genetic issues. The test results uttered to me by my Israeli gynecologist came back with a recommendation to seek genetic counseling, interestingly enough I found, paid for by the state of California.

I was very nervous, and gathered all of the information and experiences I could from the Internet and other couples.  Different people had approached it different ways.  I recalled a story of my college friend who for her 2nd pregnancy received the same type of blood work news, had an amniocentesis, complications from which ended the life of her unborn child, mid 2nd trimester in-vitro.

While we were still a single car household, I had rented a car that week (though I forget why) so was able to meet Craig at the doctor’s office during his lunch hour. He ate the lunch I had brought for him in the lobby, and then we met with a genetic counselor.  This woman, this genetic counselor, sat across from us outlining and educating us on the possibility of issues with the baby based upon my blood test.  The chances weren’t huge that we would have a baby with down or any other syndrome or issues, but they definitely existed, in part she presumed because of my age – I had conceived at 38 and was now 39 – and in part because of other statistics.

Neither she nor the State of California were able to recommend an amnio for me, but me, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to rest for the duration of the pregnancy without knowing the health of this baby, needed to do the test.

The woman left the room to let Craig and I discuss it, but I had already made the decision, and Craig supported it.

An Amniocentesis is a procedure in which a long needle is stuck into the woman’s body, all the way into the uterus, from which a sample of the amniotic fluid is taken and then tested, to determine any chromosomal abnormalities.  Not only are there risks associated with puncturing the sac, meant to protect your baby from all of the germs and elements that your adult body carries, but there is also always risk that the puncture turns into a hole – which most certainly would cause a baby to die.

It felt very invasive; not to me personally, because by this time I was used to doctors poking inside of me, but I felt uncomfortable subjecting my little baby to this intrusion; a mother’s instinct happens very early on and mine was in full effect as I rubbed my belly and silently comforted my child.

Craig had to leave to go back to a meeting, as the consultation had taken way longer than we’d anticipated, and once he left, I was left alone in this room with an incredible 3D monitor with the doctor and the technician.

It was time I would find out my baby’s gender.

I was confident that I was carrying a girl.  I’d had a dream that I was holding my really beautiful baby, and in the dream knew she was my daughter.

And then there they were, telling me SHOWING ME I was carrying Craig’s son.

I don’t meant to be sexist, but it actually seemed too good to be true.  I felt a pride rush through me that I’d never before experienced.  Our first-born was to be a boy.  I was going to have a son.  I felt almost virile and alive and began racking my brain for our baby boy’s name.

I called Craig.  He may have almost crashed out of pure shock.  He was elated.  I had never heard Craig so happy.  Still in the doctor’s office, I then turned my attention to the amazing screen that was showing movies of my baby.  He was jumping up and down.  Literally jumping as if he was in one of those bouncies they have at little kids’ birthday parties.

There he was, bouncing away in my uterus, incredibly active, and at one point – and this is no exaggeration and I have the DVD to prove it – he looked at me and gave me a thumb’s up.

And I became less interested or worried about the results of the amnio, because now on top of the silent connection we had built, I had physical evidence of my relationship with my unborn child, my son, and I couldn’t be brought to imagine that anything would go wrong.  I had plenty of friends who’d had amnios and there had been no issues. My blood work wasn’t that alarming that an issue seemed highly likely, so I chose to be elated.

I would sit in bed for the next couple of days and tell my friends that I, who had been so confident that I was carrying a girl, now felt like a superior human being because I was carrying a boy.  I don’t mean superior like I thought I was better than anyone else, but rather, superior because I had this little baby boy inside of me and he was growing and would carry on Craig’s name and I never felt happier.  All of these emotions as I laid on bed-rest, following the doctor’s instructions exactly so as to reduce any and all issues post this high- risk procedure.

I went over our meeting with the genetic counselor in my head multiple times, in which she described different percentages of risks for chromosomal abnormalities in our baby.  She had been warm and sensitive in an ‘I-work-for-the-state-of-California’ sort of a way; while she was sensitive to decisions we may have to make, she was in no way actually warm and fuzzy and sensitive.

After we’d told her that we were going to proceed and opt for the amnio, she had defined the waiting period for the results and next steps.  “If when I call and I get your voice-mail and the news is good, I will say exactly that in the message.  If we need to speak, I will leave my phone number and ask you to call me back.”

Like any human being, I became increasingly nervous while I was awaiting the results of that invasive procedure.  10 days later, I missed her call, only to receive a dreaded voice-mail message from her asking me to call her back.  I panicked, and then called her, at which time this genetics counselor advised me, “The baby does not have down syndrome.  We took 32 colonies of cells, and out of the 32, 31 are normal, meaning that each has chromosomes of 46.  What this means is that either the baby is going to be fine, or he has an incredibly rare disease called Trisomy 18.”

I nearly had a heart attack.

She said that it was possible these findings were just an artifact from the culture, as it is a culture’s job to ‘expedite’ the growth of the cells, so instead of dividing and multiplying normally, there could have been a glitch there – in the lab, which would be a reflection of the test tube experiment, and not what’s actually in my body.

She said a lot of things, and I didn’t understand most of them, as how could my brain actually function when I had seemingly stopped breathing?

I spoke to every professional I could find. I asked whether typically a baby with Trisomy 18 might abort on its own, and nobody had any answers, as there weren’t enough case studies.

I asked if this chromosomal count was perhaps leftover from the invisible twin who we’d lost so early on, and the answer was no.

I talked to my mother-in-law.  I cried to Craig, to my friends Jodi and Tammi, to my eldest sister – to anyone who would listen.  I made a decision to have a 2nd amnio, because, as I explained to Craig through a combination of dread and tears – still without taking a breath since I had that conversation with the counselor, I wouldn’t be able to rest for the remaining 21-odd weeks until I knew about the baby’s health.

Either way.

So on October 29th I had my 2nd Amnio.  Their intention was to test 85 colonies instead of 32 as originally tested.  And in the meantime, I had asked multiple doctors to research the disease further; lest our baby, my son, did have the disease, we had to make an informed decision as to what to do.

But I don’t know if terminating was a real option. We were so desperately in love with the baby, with the knowledge we were having a son, with our son, and while the stress and emotional weight was overwhelming, I didn’t give myself too much time to explore: What if??

So I went back in, and Craig took me home, and I don’t remember exactly how I felt, other than stressed and scared and at the point when I had to remind myself to actually breathe, since it wasn’t happening naturally.

Craig and I increased our prayer patterns to praying together several times a week.  I don’t know that either of us could have increased our personal prayers, because we each already had a very strong relationship with G-d.  By this point, I was in constant dialogue with him.

A little less than 10-days later, as they had expedited the results, I got the call that baby was fine.

I called Craig and Craig’s mom and my eldest sister, and broke down, sobbing hysterically. I couldn’t believe the amount of stress I had been holding, that was now physically manifesting itself in my tears and gasps and general being.

My Jewish father had taught me many years earlier that we shouldn’t get on our knees to pray at any of my mother’s Christian family’s weddings or funerals, as Jews don’t kneel.  But on this Friday afternoon, on this occasion, I went to my bedroom, got on my knees with my hands clenched in prayer on our bed, and thanked God from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to carry my healthy son.