September brought a lot of changes.
Just about the time I began teaching, I discovered that I was pregnant. The relentless nausea convinced me.
I needed to find a doctor, an obstetrician I could like…and trust. My new friends, Lyn and Ted, knowledgeable about health-care professionals, came to my rescue. Once I confided my suspicions to Lyn, she immediately recommended a couple of doctors who practiced together nearby.
Nausea propelled me to make an appointment. After a routine test confirmed that I was pregnant, I began taking a prescribed med, but it didn’t lessen my nausea very much. So I began to resort to other remedies. My best discovery was…date shakes!
Happily, I could get fantastic date shakes at a shack along La Jolla Boulevard where it bordered Pacific Beach. Not only did I revel in the flavor and texture of the date shakes, but their cold temperature also chilled my interior, dramatically lessening my nausea. So whenever I drove that route to USD law school, I’d stop for a shake. Once I arrived at USD, I discovered something else: As soon as I stood in front of my class, the adrenaline that kicked in also kept my nausea at bay.
I was thrilled to be pregnant, but I didn’t relish having “morning sickness” that usually lasted all day. First thing in the morning, I’d toast English muffins and smother them with apricot preserves. They helped me face the rest of the day. I also had a crazy craving for club sandwiches, and I remember phoning a bunch of local restaurants to ask whether their menus included my new favorite dish.
Like every ob-gyn, Dr. Blank (his real name) prescribed daily vitamins. When I brought his Rx to the drugstore, the pharmacist handed me a bottle whose label instructed me to take four pills a day. But the pills were gigantic. I couldn’t bring myself to swallow more than one or two of them a day. I just couldn’t. But I worried about it. Was I neglecting my future child? During my next doctor visit, I revealed my dilemma. Dr. Blank was appalled. The pharmacist had read his handwriting incorrectly! I needed only one of those monster pills a day. Phew!
Marv and I began haunting Mr. Frostie, a venerable soft-serve ice cream shop on Garnet Avenue. Soft-serve ice cream wasn’t as good as a date shake, but it was cold enough to work for a while. Later I discovered a great place for maternity clothes: The JC Penney store on Garnet.
One more purchase on Garnet: A sewing machine I bought at the Sears Outlet, where a kindly salesman cheerfully instructed me how to use it. I’d actually first learned to use a sewing machine in junior high in LA when I was 12. (I bought the fabric I needed at the May Co. store on Wilshire Boulevard that’s now the site of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.) But my skills had eroded, and I was happy to revive them. I proceeded to make easily-sewn creations like maternity tops, ties for Marv, and baby pants in a gender-neutral fabric.
That September, America witnessed an exciting event in the sports world: “The Battle of the Sexes.” Because the event was important in my own world, I wrote about it after seeing the 2017 film loosely based on the big event [https://susanjustwrites.com/2017/11/20/the-battle-of-the-sexes-one-more-take-on-it/]. Here’s a chunk of what I wrote:
When Billie Jean King met Bobby Riggs on a tennis court at the Houston Astrodome on September 20, 1973, I was miles away in San Diego. I’d just finished teaching a class of law school students about Poverty Law, and I was blissfully pregnant with my first child.
I was watching the clock, assessing how long it would take me to drive from the law school to our recently-rented apartment in La Jolla. Waiting at home was my handsome and super-smart husband Marv, finished for the day teaching math students at UCSD.
We were both Professors Alexander that year, and I took delight in answering our phone and hearing a student ask to speak to “Professor Alexander.” I’d respond: “Which one?”
Marv had snacks and drinks ready for us to munch on and imbibe during the televised tennis match. Nothing alcoholic for me. Not because the medical profession had pronounced that alcohol was detrimental for growing fetuses. I think that came later. I avoided alcoholic drinks simply because I had no desire to have them during my pregnancy.
Was it instinct or just dumb luck? When we later that year saw the film “Cinderella Liberty,” in which an often-drunk woman’s pregnancy ends in tragedy, my choice to avoid alcohol was vindicated.
I drove home with as much speed as I could safely muster, arriving in time to watch the much-hyped tennis match dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes.” In the 2017 film, Emma Stone captures the Billie Jean King role perfectly, portraying not only King’s triumph over Riggs but also her initial uncertainty over her decision to compete against him and her continuing struggle to ensure that women’s tennis be given equal status with men’s.
Steve Carell carries off his role as Bobby Riggs in the film equally well, depicting the outrageous antics of the 55-year-old Riggs, who initiated the concept of the “Battle of the Sexes.” But the focus has to be on Billie Jean, the Wonder-Woman-like heroine of her day. By accepting Riggs’s challenge, and then defeating him, she became the mid-twentieth-century symbol of women’s strength and perseverance, advancing the cause of women in sports (and in American culture at large) as much as she advanced her own. Watching the battle on TV, my hoped-for child growing inside me, I was ecstatic when Billie Jean defeated Riggs before 90 million viewers worldwide.
As my pregnancy advanced, I was frequently asked by complete strangers, “Do you want a boy or a girl?” I’d answer “a girl” just to see the reaction on the faces of the nosey parkers who clearly expected another response.
I was in fact hoping I would give birth to a healthy child of either sex, but I knew that I would treasure having a daughter. When my beautiful daughter was born about seven months after the Battle of the Sexes, and when her equally beautiful sister arrived three years later, Marv and I were on top of the world.
Did the endorphins circulating inside me as we watched Billie Jean triumph produce a feeling of euphoria? Euphoria that led us to produce two Wonder-Woman-like heroines of our own?
Maybe. Tennis, anyone?
Later that fall, thanks to an appearance by diva Beverly Sills on a late-night TV show, we discovered that San Diego had an opera company where Sills had performed, and we eagerly bought season tickets. One evening, I shoved my nausea aside and dressed in an elegant long dress that still fit me and headed for “Le Nozze di Figaro” at a downtown theater. The performance was so thrilling that we rushed out and bought the LP the very next day. The season was filled with four other excellent performances, but “Figaro” remained our favorite.
In November, Marv and I were invited to spend Thanksgiving in Chatsworth, a suburb of LA, with my Aunt Sade and Uncle Sam. (I liked to call my sweet Aunt Sade my “half-great aunt” because that sounded funny, but she really was the much younger half-sister of my mother’s father.) We drove to Chatsworth and devoured a turkey-and-trimmings feast with Sade and Sam, their son Sid, and his family. We loved being surrounded by their warmth that day. Scrutinizing my belly, one of them bravely asked whether I was expecting. I happily replied yes!
In December, my mother made a visit to La Jolla, a big deal because she rarely left her beloved Chicago. Mom’s travel wardrobe featured her very first pantsuit! After seven decades of wearing nothing but skirts, she finally gave in and bought some stylish pants. Mom slept on the cot we had purchased for our friend Arlyn, and, like Arlyn, she swore that it was comfortable.
Mom’s visit led to a few surprises. Everyone in the U.S. had just started pumping our own gas. Driving Mom somewhere, I stopped at a gas station, jumped out of the driver’s seat, and began pumping. Mom gasped. She was startled not only to see me performing this fairly new task, but also that I was doing it while pregnant. Shocking!
Another surprise: When we escorted Mom to Sea World, one of San Diego’s prime attractions, she took a look at the walrus and other sea creatures and suddenly warned me: “You shouldn’t look at these ugly animals. Looking at them…it’s not good for your baby!” What? Mom was a savvy businesswoman who kept up with the news by reading the Chicago Sun-Times every day. Her bizarre warning had to stem from Old World thinking she’d heard long ago from her own European-born mother. I was startled because it was the kind of thinking I’d never heard her express before. Securely in the 20th century, I quickly assured her that these creatures would have absolutely no impact on my fetus!
On New Year’s Eve, we celebrated by taking Mom to a charming Italian restaurant that featured singing waiters serving a festive meal. I wore a brand-new glamorous green maternity dress for the occasion and thought I looked smashing. But something I ate unfortunately left an ugly stain I could never get out, so my memory of that beautiful evening is somewhat tarnished.
After Mom returned to Chicago, Marv and I took off for a weekend in Ensenada, a gorgeous spot in Baja California about 80 miles from San Diego, 62 of them on a somewhat bumpy road along the coast. We’d traveled there from LA before we got married, and I had glorious memories of that trip.
Our return to Ensenada was blissful. We loved the breathtaking scenery, the food, and the lively but laid-back atmosphere. (It wasn’t yet filled with tourists arriving on cruise ships, as it is now.) We browsed the outdoor displays of ceramic wares and bought a colorful planter for our terrace. It never occurred to me that we’d done anything unwise.
But when I next saw Dr. Blank and told him about our trip, he was horrified. He told me we’d taken a big risk by traveling to a fairly remote part of Baja California, where medical resources were much more limited than those in the U.S. I could have developed serious medical issues in a location with none of the up-to-date care I would be able to get in San Diego. And any attempt to travel back to San Diego could have taken much too long. I soberly realized our mistake and was immensely grateful that we’d luckily escaped a medical emergency in Ensenada.
To be continued….