That Monday in November, 2009


I haven’t written in awhile, not because I’ve been too busy – necessarily – but more because I haven’t been ready to re-visit the horrors I began to live starting next, that fateful Monday in November, 2009.  I haven’t wanted to feel this sad; I haven’t been prepared to write and therefore re-live what it was like to change forever, really three times, within that eleven night period.  But since we’re super immersed in our next current fertility steps, and I’m all shot up with extra estrogen, taking two tablets a day and even having an extra patch on my right ovary that is literally feeding estrogen into my blood stream, I am extra emotional right now, and awoke with a little insomnia at 3 AM and decided it was time to rip off the band-aid.  Here I go…..


I spent the morning laying out items that we’d be packing for our trip the next day to visit Craig’s dad and stepmother in the Florida Keys on our bed.  I checked in online and printed out our American Airlines tickets.  Then, in accordance with the bus schedule, since we were still a one-car household, I headed out to take the 2-bus ride to my doctor’s office.  While I waited at the transfer bus stop at Venice and Windward Circle, I got a phone call from a sales rep.  He wanted to know what I was up to in work and life.  I told him I didn’t have any current projects, other than the fact that I was pregnant.  He said whatever niceties people say when they learn someone is pregnant, at the level at which we knew each other, and we chatted a bit more, before the call ended, and I resumed reading whatever book I was reading.  (I wish I remembered what book it was!)  I boarded the second bus and walked the 1.5 or so blocks to my doctor’s office, checked in, and waited.  I don’t remember my blood pressure being taken and being weighed, but I’m sure I was before I was sent to room number-whatever, where I removed my pants without being reminded, and placed the paper, large-napkin-sized blanket that doctors use – over my privates.

Dr. B entered the room and as I sat there with my legs spread out in their respective holsters, he started the ultra sound. When he asked how I was, I told him of the pains I’d been feeling, which I was sure were Braxton Hicks.  He looked up at me, him with his white hair and glasses, when I described the amount of pain, where it had been, and when it occurred.  He resumed prodding inside me, and I nervously began my small talk, telling him how we were going to go to Florida the next day to see Craig’s family for Thanksgiving.  And then I heard my doctor, the fantastic doctor with the very thick usually un-discernable Israeli accent, utter the terrifying sentence with absolute clarity, “You’re not going anywhere.”

The next hour was startling, shocking, and beyond scary.  I couldn’t understand exactly what he was saying as he was saying it, but I soon became to gather that the baby was poking through my amniotic sac, and that I needed to be hospitalized immediately.  The pretty nurse, the one who typically really annoyed me, kindly helped me into a wheelchair, and carted me through my doctor’s office, and as she awaited the written instructions from the doctor to accompany me to the hospital, I started crying.  There was a waiting room full of women, some with their men, some visibly pregnant, others not, who I could almost see through my hysteria.  I was crying so hard that snot poured out of my nose, I was hiccupping, and I couldn’t actually breathe.

The pretty nurse wheeled me out of the office, to the elevator, downstairs, across the street, and up a ramp to the UCLA Hospital in Santa Monica.  Somebody had obviously called just moments ahead and so after she maneuvered me through the maze of hallways that I will never forget but don’t really remember, we arrived at the ward where nurses were there to greet me and to transfer me from the wheelchair to the bed.

I had called Craig in hysterics before they’d even put me in the wheelchair to repeat what my doctor had said, and I called him again as I was being hooked up to all sorts of machinery, telling him where to go once he’d arrived.  By this time, he had already left his office in Hollywood and was on his way to me.


My pulse was taken, the baby’s heart rate was checked; the tubes were connected to the monitors that allowed the staff to monitor both from their station and by my bedside.  Dr. B came in the room, and asked the staff if the Trendelenburg bed could be tilted any further.

In the Trendelenburg position the body is laid flat on the back (supine position) with the feet higher than the head by 15-30 degrees. This is a standard position used in abdominal and gynecological surgery. It allows better access to the pelvic organs as gravity pulls the intestines away from the pelvis. It was named after the German surgeon Friedrich Trendelenburg.  (Wikipedia)

He explained to me that we needed gravity to force the baby back into my uterus, that I had what’s called an Incompetent Cervix.

Incompetent Cervix is a medical condition in which a pregnant woman’s cervix begins to dilate (widen) and efface (thin) before her pregnancy has reached term. Internal  opening more than 1 cm is abnormal and cervical length less than 2 cm is considered diagnostic. Cervical incompetence may cause miscarriage or preterm birth during the second and third trimesters.  In a woman with cervical incompetence, dilation and effacement of the cervix may occur without pain or uterine contractions. In a normal pregnancy, dilation and effacement occurs in response to uterine contractions. Cervical incompetence occurs because of weakness of the cervix, which is made to open by the growing pressure in the uterus as pregnancy progresses. If the responses are not halted, rupture of the membranes and birth of a premature baby can result.  According to statistics provided by the Mayo Clinic, cervical incompetence is relatively rare in the United States, occurring in only 1—2% of all pregnancies, but it is thought to cause as many as 20—25% of miscarriages in the second trimester.  (Wikipedia)

He went on to say that we could sew my weakened cervix up, in a procedure called a Cervical cerclage.  The treatment consists of a strong suture being inserted into and around the cervix.  (Wikipedia)

By the time my doctor had verbalized this plan, Craig had arrived, and we were now under the informed assumption that the cerclage would be performed the next day, with a couple of days to follow in the hospital.

Craig held my hand and looked me firmly in the eyes and told me it would be OK.  Then we got into business mode.  He had a flight to cancel, to inform his father that we weren’t flying to Florida, and to retrieve some key things for me at home.

I reluctantly let go of my firm grip of Craig’s hand to allow him to leave and do these things, and got into my survival mode, this space where I just keep doing stuff so that I don’t have to think too hard about the circumstances.  I called my parents and told them what was happening.  I called my eldest sister and explained things to her.  She happened to have been with her mother-in-law ~ a nurse, on speaker phone from her car, and it was comforting and calming to get such an informed reaction from her, as to the commonality of a cerclage.  I called or left messages for other close friends Dee and Jodi.

Craig came back that evening with some things for me, like my reading glasses, phone charger, and some basic toiletries – even though I was confined to the bed and wasn’t allowed to shower.  Actually, I wasn’t even allowed to get up and walk the 10 feet to my hospital room bathroom.  They brought in a mobile toilet and placed it only inches away from the bottom of the bed, with a roll of toilet paper nearby, and I was instructed to go there and then return immediately to bed – and call on the nurse to empty the toilet for me.  It was pretty severe a sentence, I thought, but I did as instructed.

I was paralyzed by shock and fear to question that directive, or any of the others.

Dr. B returned and spouted orders to the staff about the angle of the bed.  “Can it be more of an angle?  I want her head 45 degrees from her feet.”  “This is as far as the bed will go back,” the nurse responded.  “Can we get bricks or something to put her feet up higher?” he asked.  I think the nurse thought he was kidding, but I don’t believe he was.  No bricks arrived, but his reactions made it very clear to me how much I needed to rely on gravity to keep my son safe.

I can’t remember if Craig stayed there that night, but the next day, since he had previously gotten Tuesday off as we had been scheduled to fly that day to Florida, he opted to consider it a work day, and so sat next to me while I watched TV from my angled bed, with his computer in his lap.  I distinctly remember that was the day that he got a Request For Proposal from a major ad agency for the one of the biggest accounts there is. We took it as a lucky omen that he was on the ground – meaning not flying, as otherwise there would have been an automated response re-directing that request to another co-worker, and with so much potential for commission on such a size-able account, we took it as the cup being half full that he’d gotten the email.

My sister and her mother-in-law visited me that day.  I don’t remember where Craig had gone, but they sat in my room and Lynne supported what the doctor had told me, that the cerclage scheduled now for Wednesday was a great idea, that it was a simple procedure, and would alleviate the problem of my incompetent / weakened / shortened cervix.

Over the next hours, I wracked my brain with wondering who else I knew that had experienced this.

I remembered that Robin – who I had seen only 2 days before at her son’s first birthday party, had been hospitalized late in her first pregnancy with her daughter for a similar thing.  I spoke to her and it turns out it was the exact same thing.  She asked me for some vitals, like where I was and who my doctor was.  She was happy that I was at that UCLA SM hospital, as she claimed it had the best N.I.C.U. unit in the state.  She gave me the name of her high-risk doctor, who performed her surgery.  I held tightly to her strong recommendation in the hospital, and sort of shelved the information she gave me about the N.I.C.U. – which stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, as I had confidence in the cerclage that would be done thereby allowing me to leave this hospital in a few days, eventually delivering at St. John’s, as we had planned.

I emailed my friend Kathy and asked her for her older sister’s phone number, recalling that she was on bed-rest for most of her pregnancy. I spoke to her, who explained that she had been on bed-rest from around week 8 all the way through week 29, only in the actual (and same) hospital around week 23 until she delivered early.  She hadn’t had the same diagnosis or circumstance, and had given birth to a very premature son, but she also reported great things about the hospital, their N.I.C.U. unit, and the same high-risk specialist that Robin had mentioned.

I had been taught by my father that intelligence is strength, and felt comfortable being in full producer mode, doing my research, gathering information, and arming myself with intelligence so that when the doctor spouted next steps at us, Craig and I would be informed and thus prepared.

If only….

Where do I start?


I went to the doctor on Monday, November 23, 2009, thinking it was going to be a pretty normal 23.5 pregnancy week checkup, and while I was telling Dr. B about the trip we were taking to Florida to visit with Craig’s Dad and Step-mom for Thanksgiving – with plans to leave the next day, as clothes lay on our bed at home, waiting to be placed into our luggage, and our seats already claimed on the American Airlines flight – in his very thick, usually un-discernable Israeli accent, my OBGYN very clearly stated, “You are not going anywhere,” and checked me immediately into the hospital.

Over that next couple of days, I learned I had an incompetent cervix, which meant that the weight of the baby on my weakened or short cervix threatened early delivery; that I would be in the hospital for the rest of the term.  I learned of specific landmarks that I wanted to get to that would ensure the health of my still unborn son, who we had named Finley:

Once I got to week 24, I would get a steroid shot that would expedite the maturity of his not yet formed lungs.

Once I got to week 25, Finley’s chances of survival would rise from 15% to over 50%.

When I met week 28, the percentage that my baby would have Cerebral Palsy and other diseases would decrease significantly.

And so on.

We had a calendar placed in the room, and every day, right after a nurse opened my blinds as I lay in the bed with my head at the bottom of a 45 degree angle – in the Trendelenburg position, which was meant to encourage gravity to keep the baby inside, I would ask that day’s nurse to rip yesterday’s date off the calendar.  I had a sense of commitment regarding my task / mission / responsibility to keep Finley safe, and every day brought me a little closer.

For 11 days and 10 nights I stayed in that hospital with my legs practically in the air so that gravity could do its job and keep Finley in.  Friends and family brought black & white cookies from my favorite deli or my favorite lollipops, flowers, and celebrity tabloid magazines.  Pictures my nieces had painted for Finley were taped to the wall.  My husband, Craig slept there a few nights, and we’d hold hands or he would bring his computer and do work stuff there or we’d watch sitcoms and movies on that horribly small hospital TV, and he would rest his hand on my belly and talk to our baby.

I was permitted 1 shower during this entire time, and had to go to the bathroom in a toilet placed in the bedroom directly next to my bed, as part of the prescription to minimize my physical movement, even though the real bathroom was only 10 feet away.  I grew to hate the period of time that I had to wait for the nurse to come and empty this toilet of my body’s movements.

Every day, multiple times a day, the nurses would check my blood pressure and his heartbeat.  It felt like a new nurse each day, and each one would ask me his name.  “Finley,” I would respond, proudly.  I would show them where he was lying in my belly so that they could find his heartbeat easily; he tended to be in the same, low place.

I was prescribed two different kinds of stool softener so that my body didn’t have to strain too much.  I wasn’t on any special diet other than the usual pregnant woman diet, but I was guided to eat a lot of fruit so as to keep my body regular.

On the morning of December 3rd, 2009, a Thursday, while having a bowel movement, my water broke.  While nothing had prepared me for this, I knew that this was what had happened immediately, as I felt a release in pressure and then saw a strange clear ‘cap’ in the bottom of the makeshift toilet.  I immediately rang for the nurse.  She swiped some cotton swab on my inner thigh, a litmus test of sorts, which confirmed immediately that yes, my water had broken.  It was 9:35 in the morning.

And the panic set in, and who I was before that moment flushed away, as what happened next has entirely changed who I am.  What happened next broke my heart.  What happened next has dictated how I get through every minute, of every day.  It has defined my relationships with myself, with my husband, with my friends, my family and God.  It has changed my very beliefs about life and what my purpose is.  And for you to even try to understand that, I will now tell you a bit about the search for my son Finley.


I guess I first started thinking about him in late 2007, and then Craig and I started seriously chatting about him in early 2008.  So, I was over 2-years sober when we first began our efforts to get pregnant, in May 2008.

I didn’t know that I wanted a boy, and I certainly didn’t have his name in mind.  I just knew that I wanted to have a child with Craig.

Craig and I met in June, 1998.  I was 27.  He was 28.  I let him pick up on me at a great dive bar in Venice Beach called Hinano Cafe, where they serve burgers and beer, have a great jukebox and accept cash only.  It’s not the kind of place I expected to find the love of my life, so we embarked on what I presumed was a summer fling.  Over time, our lust turned into love.  And, despite the years I had spent spiraling into drug addiction – a story for another time, we formed what I like to believe was an enviable relationship.

I don’t remember the details of our first monthly efforts, but Craig and I had been together by this time for almost 10-years, and the romance in our lives had changed dramatically in that decade.  So, from the very first time we tried for our baby, there was a sense of pressure.

In June, we were heading to France for a work conference in Cannes, with plans to visit our favorite spots on the Italian coast afterwards, and as producing commercials was my profession, creating schedules came naturally.  I immediately put together a calendar of my important “woman days”.  I included when I got my period, how long it lasted, how long it had been since the previous one, and made guesstimates based upon the fine reading in those ovulation kits on when we should try.  While I’ll suppose my peers packing for Cannes that year were getting waxed and choosing their favorite bikinis, I was busy calculating how many tampons and ovulation tests I would need on the trip.

The day came on the calendar for us to try, when we were in Bordeghera, Italy, truly the most beautiful place we’d ever been. If this was in the first few years of our relationship, this would have been the perfect place to make love and conceive, but I was all about procreating, and was very, very sick with a bit of exhaustion and some sun stroke, and in between gulps of EmergenC with that oval shaped window in our room overlooking that boardwalk and sea, Craig and I had sex.

For many months in my life I was particularly grateful when I got my period, but the next time it came, I was sad and disappointed, and I decided to be more proactive in our efforts.  I was going to produce this pregnancy!  I went to my gynecologist and asked her what we should do.  She said the first thing was to test Craig’s sperm.  The tests came back that he had a lot of sperm, but there was some discussion about perhaps decreasing any baths or Jacuzzis, and it was suggested that we consider doing Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), also referred to as AI or Artificial Insemination, a process in which his sperm gets cleaned and then put inside me during ovulation – so that we have the best swimmers at work.

We tried again naturally with the guidance of the ovulation kit that August, and still, my period came.  So, we decided to move forward and try AI.

The thing about AI or any fertility effort is that it takes serious coordinating.  One can’t schedule meetings or social plans or vacations or anything having to do with life in advance, as the woman’s bodily functions dictate the plans.

First I would have to monitor how many days it had been since my period, then I would start using the over-the-counter (ovulation kit $35 – $41 depending upon if it was on sale), then I would make appointments with the sperm lab and my doctor to perform the procedure.  It would take 1-hour and $180 to clean Craig’s sperm at the Lab in West Los Angeles.  We would grab breakfast during that hour, after which Craig would return to the lab to retrieve the sperm, and we would rush to the doctor in Santa Monica (since sperm is only ‘good’ a limited time both outside and inside the body) with the sperm kept warm (the tube tucked safely in my bra), with the insemination charges at my doctor coming in at $140.  Then we would repeat all of those exact actions (and costs) the very next day.

And, to compliment those 2 medical efforts thereby truly maximizing our chances, Craig and I would also ‘get romantic’ after the 2nd AI.  I was busy producing all of the planning and definitely didn’t appreciate the stress it put Craig under to perform so exactly; there were windows of time and rules as to when the last ejaculation could be – and I dictated the information in a way that was by no means ‘romantic’.  When we’d finish, there wasn’t a lot of cuddling, but me telling him that he’d done a good job – like he had finished first in a track meet or something – as I immediately held my knees to my chest and asked for a pillow to be placed under me to elevate me at my hips, a physical position that invited his sperm to swim their way to my eggs.

All the while, I was working at a production company as the executive producer, which means I was bidding jobs, chasing leads for possible jobs, going to shoots, helping the directors with their creative treatments, traveling, and overseeing the sales staff and company’s personnel.  Adding this baby production into my daily schedule came naturally to me, but the amount of coordination and the lack of ability to EXACTLY plan stuff kept me busier than even usual.

When I didn’t get pregnant that time, my doctor said we should check my body to see how it was working.  She indicated that the first thing we should test were my fallopian tubes.

I’d been forewarned a bit about the procedure, which is called a Hysterosalpingogram, that it’s uncomfortable and there is cramping and so on, but nothing really prepared me for the very cold blue dye being rushed through my Fallopian tubes and on into my uterus via a tube, with my legs spread open, as they photographed and documented where the fluid is going, if it is moving, whether it is stopping, the shape of my uterine cavity – and so on.

I recall there being some discussion then and there, under the bright lights of the lab in which all flaws are pronounced, by the specialist – who suggested that there may be some sort of bend or intrusion or something on my uterus, but in good form for litigious and medical reasons, the technician wanted to wait to discuss with my doctor.

I was uncomfortable for a bit after the procedure, but had no choice but to switch gears and race to a music video shoot that one of my directors was shooting in Malibu, for a pop star you’ve definitely heard of named Lady so&so.

I started living a dual existence, which reminded me of my years as a drug addict, in that I had to segregate and balance two huge areas in my life; nobody in my professional life would have guessed that only an hour before I was having dye shot up my tubes with a suggestion to take it easy afterwards.

For my next visit, I switched over to a new OBGYN, who was my previous doctor’s business partner in the same practice; Dr. C, my wonderful female doctor with a fabulous Irish accent, thought Dr. B would advance my efforts in my need to find Finley.

Dr B had a very thick Israeli accent and his bedside manner wasn’t as comforting as my previous doctor.  But he would utter short phrases like “I like what I see” and “Perfect, perfect” with his hand pressed against my belly as he moved my ovaries to a place where he could see things better.  He was happy to find how my uterus looked and confirmed my tubes were operating fine, but he saw a cyst that he said needed to go away before we continued our efforts, so he put me on birth control pills for a month.  When I returned the next month, on day 3 of my period, he said the cyst was gone and we could try again, and recommended that I up the ante a bit and try a fertility drug named Clomid.  The Clomid cost was $40, and was meant to stimulate the follicles – which eventually turn into eggs that can be fertilized.  And I also was prescribed HCG, a medication that’s a ‘trigger’ shot, which induces the ovulation at an exact time that then makes the AI efforts even more timely.

On Thanksgiving morning 2008, I was on a conference call with Russia about an upcoming commercial that one of my directors was slated to direct concurrent to racing to see the on-call Irish doctor at their office in Santa Monica, to have her put the trigger shot in my ass.

Thanksgiving.  On a conference call.  Rushing to see the doctor.

And still, a couple of weeks later, my period returned, and the cyst had, too.

So after 7 months of trying in 2008, we had done 3 rounds of Artificial Insemination and still no progress.  And because attaching a monetary value to the efforts helps put into perspective the commitment needed, I will continue to outline the costs throughout this story.

Going into 2009, we’d spent over $3,000.