As Mother Day approaches I can’t help but think of my first Mother’s Day as a new Mother. Daniel had just been born two days before. The perfect Mother’s Day gift! But nine months before that, I never dreamed I’d be holding my own child in my arms that day.
It was the summer of 1986, and Richard and I were visiting my hometown of Los Angeles at my Aunt Bette’s home. I adored my Aunt Bette and was looking forward to our visit. One night I was sitting on the dryer, chatting with her while she did laundry. I sorted through my stuff and prepared little piles to take to our room. I had a pile for “unmentionables.” I was currently braless, so I put one on, but it didn’t fit. It was way too tight. I asked Aunt Bette if there was a chance it was her bra, but she said it wasn’t. Huh? “I must be gaining weight on this vacation already,” I thought.
A few days prior to that, Richard and I had been getting frisky, when I suddenly got terribly ill. I chalked it up to a change in the altitude. Thinking nothing of it, we decided to take a trip to the UCLA Child Amputee Program, or CAP for short, to see if any of my doctors remained at the facility. My Mom and Dad were visiting California as well, so we all went. I grew very close to the faculty at CAP during the seven years I was treated there. Although I was not going to see my favorite Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Cameron Hall. We had learned he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after discovering he had kidney cancer. I’ll never know if he believed he didn’t have the same courage his patients had, or if the disease was too advanced? He was such a fine doctor and man.
At CAP, I visited with Dr. Yoshio Setoguchi, one of my orthopedic pediatricians. After visiting for a few minutes, he brought out a foot-high folder of papers and plopped it on the table in front of me and commanded me to “Write!” It was my medical records for the 7 years I had been treated at UCLA. Fascinated, I grabbed a chunk of the papers and turned them over. And laying on the top was a copy of a meeting my mother’s obstetrician had with a psychologist after my birth. He talked about how the “overall wish of the Obstetrics Team is that the child die,” and went on to say that “if the child lives, the living hell she will put her parents through far outweighs the temporary sadness they will feel if she dies now.” My mom started to cry. I was just numb. How could this man say those things about a helpless newborn? And that newborn was me!
I remembered Mom telling me how the doctors kept her sedated for four days after I was born. Now I knew why. They didn’t want her bonding with me. Four days not holding her newborn baby! Four days that I could not be with my Mother! It must have been torture for both of us. I wondered if this doctor was still practicing obstetrics? I wanted to meet him.
Dr. Setoguchi made some calls to see if the obstetrician was still practicing. And he was. He escorted me to his offices, with a bit of pride himself, I think. It was his work that got me up walking! I was so scared!
I walked into his office and introduced myself as a child he delivered back in 1961. I briefly described the disabilities I have, but he cut me off and said, “I remember you. I never thought I’d see you walk in here,” with an emphasis on the word “walk.” There were so many things I could say to respond to that! But all I could think of was “This man wanted me to die!” I didn’t have the courage to confront him about the psychologist’s meeting report in my medical record. Currently, I use a wheelchair. But back then I was walking on two artificial legs and I’m proud he got to see that! The last time he had seen me I was a twisted pile of flesh, with things missing and nearly everything below my neck in the wrong place. Both inside and out. There had been a question if I was going to move independently? If I would be able to sit up independently? If I had brain damage? If I would live at all?
I was left speechless to his comment. All I could come up with was “Thank you for helping to bring me into the world,” and I turned around and walked out. I wish now that I’d had a clever quip or something. But maybe that was enough.
The rest of the vacation, my breasts were getting really tender. I started to wonder… My period is never very normal. But I was told the chances of becoming pregnant are pretty slim. My uterus is not where its supposed to be. And the numerous x-rays, particularly spinal x-rays, could very possibly have sterilized me. I was with a steady boyfriend for two years, using no protection, and nothing happened then. I was on the pill years before, but the side effects were horrible. That’s when they told me I probably didn’t have to worry about it. I know! All very naive of me! But I believe them! Maybe I shouldn’t have…
On the way home I told Richard I thought I might be pregnant. He wasn’t too thrilled. He had already had three children by other women. One was given up for adoption when he was younger. The other two his ex-wife was raising.
I made an appointment to see my doctor right away. As we were waiting for the test results, the nurse asked me “Do you want it to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” And I thought about that. I had come to accept the fact that I couldn’t have children. So my life centered on other things. Now I had to think, “Do I want to be a mother?” “CAN I be a mother?” When I was younger, I used to play “House” and pretended my dolls were my children. I even pretended my dog was my child. I had mothering instincts. What would it be like to have a child of my very own? Of my own flesh and blood? To love and protect? To teach and add to the circle of life? I knew the answer! “YES!” I said, “I want the answer to be ‘Yes’!” I wanted a baby!
And I was pregnant!
I was very close to my primary care doctor, Martha Illige-Saucier, MD, but we needed the assistance of a high-risk obstetrician too. We enlisted the help of Richard Porreco, MD from Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital and I developed a trust in him and grew to like him as well. I decided for my normal pregnancy care I would see Doc Martha, with frequent follow-up visits with Dr. Porreco.
Right away things started to get scary. I had “Morning Sickness” morning, noon, and night throughout my entire pregnancy. I could not keep anything down! Nothing but ice cream and soda. Doc Martha said to try blending dinner to the consistency of ice cream. But let me tell you: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans do not make an appetizing ice cream! I was in the hospital ten times during my pregnancy with dehydration.
Then one night I was watching TV when I started to get a stomach cramp and a bad backache. And my stomach was as hard as a rock! Doc Martha told me I could call her any time! It was only around 8:00 pm, but I felt bad interrupting her “home time.” The cramp continued to get worse and I had to interrupt her! She told me to meet her in the ER. I was only four months along and I was in labor!
I was treated and given a prescription for Terbutaline. It was recommended that I be on bedrest, but Richard was out of work. Someone had to pay the bills. The Terbutaline worked somewhat, but as my pregnancy progressed, so did the labor pains. I was working as a Secretary/Word Processor for an engineering firm and was having contractions every 20 minutes.
As I increased in size things began to get difficult for me to do independently. I could no longer wear my prostheses because of body changes. I was now using a wheelchair fulltime. At an appointment with Dr. Porreco, he asked me who helped me out of the car, I told him “No one. I can do it myself.” He asked if I lived in a wheelchair accessible place, and I had to think about it, “No. There are stairs leading to my apartment. Why?” He then asked me who helps get my wheelchair up and down the stairs, and I told him that I did that myself too. Next thing I know we’re taking a tour of the NICU where there are nothing but babies hanging on to life by a thread. Dr. Porreco stared at me and asked, “Do you want your baby here? It will be if you can’t let go of your pride and ask for help instead of doing everything yourself. Think of that little guy in there [pointing to my stomach] and be his hero.” So began a life-long lesson of learning to ask for help.
An echocardiogram revealed things there was not much room in there. Things were getting a bit tight. In fact, it was found at delivery that my uterus is on its side and my abdominal muscles are not where they’re expected to be (they thru cut one). So with my scoliosis and malformed hip, Dr. Porreco recommended a cesarean section. He said if I wanted a natural delivery the baby would have to be no more than a pound, and I would need to send him a map with directions to navigate my pelvis to find his way out!
The last few months went by slowly. In my 38th week, I had an amniocentesis to see if Daniel’s lungs were fully developed (we already knew the sex and we’d already named him!). Then I sat by the phone and waited for the results. If he was fully developed, we would schedule his delivery! And the phone rang…!
He’s ready to meet the world!!! We set the cesarean section for the next day, Friday, May 8, 1987, at 3:00 pm. Two days before Mother’s Day.
I hardly slept that night. I was so nervous and excited. I was finally going to meet Daniel Edwin Traylor. That’s what we named him. I could already see him in my mind’s eye. Even hear his laugh. Plus I’d seen ultrasound images. But what was he going to be like? Right now all I knew about him was he liked to kick me in the ribs.
We arrived at the hospital and got me prepared for delivery. The Anesthesiologist came to discuss options for delivery with me. But as he examined my spine it became evident that the only option was going to be general anesthesia. There was no way to get an epidural block in my spine. I was going to go to sleep, wake up, and be a mother!
The day was long as I waited for 3:00 PM to come around. They finally came to wheel me down the hall. Remember that nausea I said I had? It reared its ugly head on the way to Delivery. I warned them. So they gave me some nasty liquid to drink, which only made matters worse. I cautioned them, I was not going to make it to Delivery! In their ignorance, they assured me the medicine they gave me would not allow me to vomit. And just after they said this, well… that’s just what I did! I think my stomach was made before that medicine was, because it didn’t know about the restriction.
We got to the Operating Room finally. Dr. Porreco stood over me with the scalpel in hand so that he could make the incision before the anesthesia reached Daniel. Precious seconds to spare. And it was “Lights Out” for me.
And I woke up! Anxious to meet my “Miracle Son”! But something was wrong. They were telling me they had to give me some medication to make me “relax.” “They’re knocking me out!!! Something is wrong with my boy!” They tried to assure me everything was okay and it was because my blood pressure was too high. But I knew better. I knew how “they” work. I remembered what they did to my Mother and me. I fought the sedation, insisting to see my son. But I lost the fight. Later, Richard came in to tell me everything was perfect with our new baby. But I couldn’t wait to see for myself.
When they finally brought Daniel to me I was still somewhat sedated and had to cover one eye with my hand because I was seeing double. And I wanted to see every detail of this marvelous little boy. He had the biggest eyes. They already seemed to see into your soul. And he smiled almost immediately. Examining him, we found that one of his big toes was crushed. Probably from kicking me in the ribs!
We wouldn’t learn until much later that Daniel also was nearly 100% deaf in both ears, requiring surgery later. And his hip and pelvis are rotated 30 degrees back. You wouldn’t know it to see him dance now! But when I place my hand on his knees, which do not track with the rest of his body, I’m holding a bag of potato chips. Bones just crunch in there. Doctors said he’d need artificial knees by age 25, but he’s 31 and still dancing on his nature’s knees.
I am proud this body was able to produce a child (with Richard’s help of course!). I am proud I carried my pregnancy full-term. I am proud I learned to ask for help. But most of all I am proud to be called Daniel’s Mother.
Don’t forget to check out my jewelry HERE!
In honor of this special day, I created a bracelet I’ve named “Darla’s Dream” after my late Mother. It’s gorgeous blue and violet lampwork beads with glowing genuine aquamarine gemstone beads. The bracelet concludes with a silver toggle clasp and is 7.75″ long. This is the perfect gift for Mom this year.
For more information or to purchase “Darla’s Dream” CLICK HERE!