My baby was due in early May. One Friday close to my due date, I underwent a procedure in my doctor’s office called amniocentesis. It involved plunging a needle into me to extract fluid proving that my fetus’s lungs were sufficiently mature. It was painful, briefly, and there was a danger of piercing the amniotic sac, but skillful Dr. Blank carried it off with aplomb.
I felt fine when it was over, and Marv and I took off for a beautiful afternoon in Balboa Park. We strolled through the park until we came across the Spanish Village Art Center, a collection of small buildings designed like an old village in Spain. It was originally built in 1935 for the second California Pacific International Exposition, and a group of dedicated artists had turned it into a permanent art center. Artists have continued to preserve and enhance it.
We happily encountered a watercolor artist, Frances Steffes, who was showing some of her paintings, including one of La Jolla Cove. After chatting with her, we decided to buy this watercolor, which captured the beauty of a spectacular spot in La Jolla. The painting now hangs in the home of the baby I gave birth to two days later.
Dr. Blank had warned us that amniocentesis might hasten the birth, so we took it easy on Saturday.
I woke up around 4 a.m. on Sunday. The process had begun. As a high-risk primapara, I was worried that things might not go smoothly, so I needed to get to the hospital right away.
Marv and I phoned Dr. Blank and left for the hospital. At that time, Scripps Memorial Hospital arose in the middle of a still largely undeveloped tract of land in La Jolla. We were ushered into a room where my progress was monitored by a rather brusque nurse until Dr. Blank arrived. Although I had increasingly painful contractions, I was told that my labor didn’t “progress” well. Because of my high-risk status, Dr. B didn’t want labor to continue indefinitely, and at noon he decided to deliver my baby by C-section.
Now we began to wait for an operating room. I was in agony, wondering exactly what was causing the hold-up. We were finally told that only one operating room was available on Sundays (that was somewhat surprising), and another operation was in progress. A male baby had a “bleeding circumcision,” and we had to wait for it to be surgically repaired before I could be moved to the operating room. The surgeon who had caused the flawed circumcision must have been desperate to repair it to secure his professional reputation.
All this time, I was having intense labor pains, along with accompanying worries about my high-risk status, and the waiting seemed interminable. (I could comment here about gender-bias, but I won’t.)
Finally, I was moved to the operating room. An anesthesiologist gave me a spinal injection that killed my pain, and he and I chatted while Dr. B deftly performed my C-section. When Dr. B announced, at last, “You have a beautiful baby girl!” I burst into tears, deliriously happy tears running down my face.
As soon as I was moved to a room, Marv immediately rushed to my bedside (fathers weren’t allowed in operating rooms), joyfully telling me, “She’s the prettiest baby in the nursery!” By this time, Marv and I had decided on a name in memory of his late mother. I’ll call her Felicia.
We were extremely relieved to learn that Felicia had no signs of diabetes (or any other ailment), and my own gestational diabetes had vanished as soon as she was born. It reappeared only briefly during my next pregnancy and then once again disappeared. I’ve been lucky to have been spared this awful disease. So far, at least.
Mom arrived from Chicago to join our newly-created three-member family when we left the hospital. Her cheerful stay was brief but helpful. After she left, Marv and began to focus on our new life. Tammy and Norm volunteered to be our first babysitters, and we took them up on it and left for a quick bite at Bully’s.
Breastfeeding, a/k/a nursing, was a challenge. At the time, breastfeeding wasn’t universally adopted by new mothers. But I was determined to try. I constantly returned to another well-thumbed paperback by an author who strongly endorsed it. Just as she warned, it was painful at first, but I persevered, and it was worth it. I loved holding Felicia in my arms, nurturing her with milk produced by my own body. I still think that breastfeeding is an astounding experience that every mother should at least attempt, and I was delighted that both of my daughters followed my lead and breastfed their babies.
At home with my baby, I was able to watch the televised impeachment hearings held by the House Judiciary Committee, which began on May 9th. By June, Woodward and Bernstein had published All the President’s Men, its astounding revelations creating a firestorm. Tricky Dick was clearly in big trouble.
Going for long walks with our baby smiling at us from her carriage, Marv and I began to look at houses. We weren’t certain that we had a future in La Jolla (he had only a one-year appointment as a visiting professor), but we thought we might as well look, right? I remember seeing a house in La Jolla that listed for $40,000. It was in a not-so-desirable part of town and probably wasn’t much of a house, but looking back even a few years later, I realized what a great investment any piece of property in La Jolla would have been.
Unsure that we’d stay, we unfortunately couldn’t consider buying it. We didn’t have a lot of spare cash, and we needed to save what we had for a future home, wherever that might be.
Marv and I got adventurous, taking our baby to a restaurant for the first time. Our choice was La Rancherita, a small Mexican place on La Jolla Boulevard. Dinner there was a breeze. Felicia slept through the whole thing.
We tried our luck again a few weeks later. We headed for a terrific Italian restaurant in Pacific Beach. But our luck had run out. This visit was a near-nightmare. Although Felicia was a happy baby who almost never cried, here she cried the entire time. The only positive thing that happened: A woman diner asked me her name, then told me she’d given the same name to her own daughter. That made me feel a tiny bit better.
Aunt Sade and Uncle Sam reappeared, driving down from LA, and we ate at a splendid seafood restaurant in La Jolla called Anthony’s. While we ate, we all gazed at the entrancing Felicia. I was delighted to see Sade and Sam again at our joyous reunion, and I looked forward to another one.
Life was blissful. Although we knew we might have to leave our magical life in La Jolla, the prospect was too awful to contemplate. But one day Marv had to relate very bad news.
We’d been hoping that his one-year appointment at UCSD would be extended. But his mentor, an older professor who (as I recall) headed the math department (I’ll call him Jay), was leaving. A native of the Netherlands, Jay had taught at American universities for decades. But his second wife missed her home in Europe and was eager to return. For whatever reasons, Jay accepted a position in Amsterdam.
This was shocking news. Jay had invited Marv to UCSD because he greatly admired Marv’s work as a mathematician and relished sharing ideas with him. I think Jay would have made sure that Marv remained his colleague at UCSD. But Jay was departing, and his influence no longer held much weight.
So although Marv was at the top of his field (he’d already earned tenure at the University of Michigan), the rug was suddenly pulled out from under him when Jay announced he’d be departing for Europe.
Marv began searching for another job in California. But it was too late in the academic year to secure a new faculty position, and other attempts to find a meaningful position for someone of his academic stature didn’t pan out.
So together Marv and I bravely faced facts. We’d have to leave our idyllic new life in La Jolla. We knew that the math department at the University of Michigan would welcome Marv back with open arms, so it made sense to return to Ann Arbor for one more year.
Our new baby was totally dependent on us, and it was imperative that the three of us stay together. I sadly had to forgo the prospect of returning to my Legal Aid job in San Diego. I knew that I would continue to pursue my own career, but I never for one second considered looking for a job that would separate me from my adored Marv or my beautiful new baby or both.
Together we would move back to Ann Arbor.
We began packing. While we packed, we put Felicia, comfy in her baby chair, on the floor near us. We discovered that she liked to kick brown paper grocery bags, watching the empty bags move and listening to them make noise, so we placed bags where her tiny feet could reach them. This effort kept her happy while we filled up cartons with our stuff.
As we packed, Tricky Dick Nixon faced his own grim future. On July 24th, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to deliver tape recordings and other materials to the district court. The walls were closing in on him.
Then, between July 27th and 30th, we learned of two other developments: The House of Representatives issued Articles of Impeachment, and Nixon’s “smoking gun” tape was disclosed.
Around August 1st, Marv and I flew back to Ann Arbor (via Detroit) with our not-quite-three-month-old baby.
While we stayed at Ann Arbor’s Briarwood Hotel, looking for an apartment, we had one consolation for our move: On August 8th, Nixon announced his resignation in a televised speech (he officially resigned and left the White House the next day). Watching his humiliating speech on TV, Marv and I celebrated by ordering steak and champagne from hotel room service.
An even more significant and lifelong consolation: Our baby. Felicia sustained us through everything we dealt with during the next year in Ann Arbor. Flooding my memory is the agony of pushing her baby carriage through daunting piles of snow and ice that winter.
This darling new person in our life sustained us until the following spring, when Marv accepted an excellent job offer from a university in Chicago. Being in Chicago would be an exciting departure from Ann Arbor. Soon we used our spare cash to buy a house in the leafy lakefront suburb of Wilmette.
No, it wouldn’t be La Jolla. It wouldn’t be Pacific Beach. But our new home in Wilmette meant the beginning of a beautiful new life.
This four part blog post has been a pleasure to read, Susan. I feel like I know you better, too, since our one time encounter did not include much about our history. Your style of writing is fluid and delightful. Sallie
S. Glerum, Sent from my iPhone