My husband, Michael, and I were asked by our friends Gigi and Bill Smith to present the annual award for best sleight-of-hand magician at the Magic Castle Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 23, 1996. Bill Smith builds many of the magic props for David Copperfield, Lance Burton, and other international magic acts. So I flew into Los Angeles from our home in Las Vegas early on Friday to pick up a gown from CBS wardrobe. For the past six years, I had played a lead character, the psychiatrist Taylor Hayes, on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. The producers were always kind enough to help out with dresses for public appearances.
I got up about 4:30 A.M. for my early flight and I remember feeling not quite right. The cup of coffee I had on the plane upset my stomach and the short flight seemed much longer.
I took a taxi to the one-bedroom apartment that Michael and I maintained close to the CBS studios for those weeks when our shooting schedules spanned several days, as they often did. When I entered the apartment, I couldn't help but notice the rank smell. I love reptiles and have kept everything from chameleons to snakes as pets. At the time, I had a tegu, which is a fantastic black-and-white speckled lizard that looks like a baby Komodo dragon or alligator. They are gorgeous and they need minimal attention -- a reptile mostly takes care of itself. But I knew I had to clean this tegu's filthy cage pronto. His food -- Japanese hooded rats -- made for furry droppings with a smell that would turn up a skunk's nose. For years, I thought I was going to be a veterinarian, and when I was in high school I assisted at a clinic. I've cleaned up after a lot of animals and none of it has ever bothered me. But that day, the cage stunk worse than I could remember.
I went to get the pooper scooper and started shoveling, but before I knew it, I was running to the toilet to throw up.
At that moment, my only thought was, I've never had a tegu before and I didn't know they became that gross as they matured -- he was about three feet long then. (I had raised this lizard from a baby.) In a little while, I started feeling better. I even went down to the pet shop to replenish the tegu's food supply.
I went to CBS studios soon after the building opened and picked out a green velvet gown with rhinestones across the bodice. The fabric was stretchy and clingy and flattering. The seamstress in wardrobe needed to make a few adjustments, and we agreed that I'd return that afternoon to pick it up.
Then I went over to the Beverly Center. One of the stores had in new waist-length necklaces with silver cross pendants. One had a long chain studded with rhinestones, which would go perfectly with my gown. I liked the thought of wearing the cross because it wasn't simply decorative to me; I believed in what it stood for.
When I came home, I changed my clothes again, and I noticed that my bra fit too tightly. My boobs were really big. The seamstress had even said something about it.
I was beginning to get the pregnant message but still resisting. It can't be, I thought. It can't.
I remembered that last night I had chosen not to have a glass of wine with dinner. I knew that my period might be late, but I hadn't really counted, and yet I had still chosen to be careful. But the possibility was so far-fetched -- almost impossible, for reasons that had to do with my health history.
I retrieved my calendar and started counting. I'm a twenty-six-dayer. Practically on the hour, every month. I remembered that my last period coincided with Valentine's Day. We had scheduled our romantic time after that, because I had anticipated nature's interference. I looked at my calendar for the following weeks. How many days? More than twenty-six?
I also remembered that I had come down with the flu around the twenty-second of February, while Michael was out of town helping a college in Pennsylvania develop a new TV and film department. I was so sick -- running a temperature of 105 degrees -- that I had lost almost ten pounds and couldn't work that week. An illness like that should have scrambled my hormones, making pregnancy even less likely.
Still, Michael and I had managed a romantic weekend -- a sexorama, in fact.
I remembered that when Michael returned from his business trip, he wanted to be romantic. I was still so weak from being sick that I didn't have his enthusiasm, but I thought, okay, this is the only weekend we're going to have together before I've got to go back to L.A. and make up for all the days I've missed at work, so let's take advantage of our time together.
I also thought, fat chance I'll ever get pregnant. Two years before, Michael had reversed his vasectomy, as our marriage was resurrected from near death and he became willing, once more, to have another child: perhaps the girl we had always wanted. Although we had tried basic procedures to overcome our temporary infertility -- like taking my temperature and saving time for ourselves whenever I was ovulating -- nothing had happened. At this point, we had practically given up hope for a new baby. Michael stopped getting his sperm count taken and we decided not to use techniques like in vitro fertilization or fertility drugs. These struck us as taking the gift of life too much into our own hands.
We had spent our Valentine's weekend together mostly in bed -- a beautiful bed that Michael bought us from Ethan Allen -- a French-country canopy bed. It was very similar to the bedroom furniture from the Saint Regis Hotel we stayed at in Paris on one of our second honeymoons. It had very soft, cream-colored sheer drapery on top that flowed down in curtains at each corner. Our bedroom in Las Vegas -- in the dream home we had nearly destroyed each other building -- was just as romantic, with a fireplace surrounded by Kohler tiles that had bunnies on them. (Yes, the choice expressed how strongly I wanted a child.) The room's giant bay window had massive plantation-style shutters, which opened on a view of the Strip, flashing and twinkling in the distance. For mood music, Michael put on Dean Martin. His musical taste runs to early rock and fifties jazz and mine to Led Zeppelin and the Stones; but when we want to turn each other's fingers and toes into Roman candles, it's "That's Amore!" for us. I remembered that weekend very well indeed, the crackling fire overcoming the chill of those desert nights. Our bedroom, I reflected, might have proved a perfect love nest after all.
I started feverishly counting again. I couldn't seem to bring that calendar into exact focus. I was thinking that I had left out a Saturday or should the first week start on a Saturday or Sunday and did that make a difference? One way or another, my count kept adding up to late -- four or five days late. I became more and more excited, although I didn't want to get my hopes up needlessly, as I had many times in the past. Yet every other concern in my life simply dissolved. I sat there and I realized I was living totally in hormone land -- major motherhood hormone land. I felt the elation coming, the sheer joy. We'll have a baby in the house again. A baby! But then I told myself to calm down and find out if I had reason to hope or if I was just freaking out.
I went to the drugstore and bought an over-the-counter pregnancy test. From the start of the test, a faint second line began to cross a more prominent line. Was that line coming or going? Thirty minutes later, there was an X in the window. I couldn't believe it. I was in the apartment's small bathroom, which echoed, and I yelled loud enough to rattle the coffee cups of my neighbors.
Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I'm pregnant. I was ecstatic and my mind flew off in a thousand happy directions.
How would I tell Michael? And my boys, Chris and Mickey? The boys wanted a new baby brother or sister, too, and they were going to flip out! I knew I had a new job on the nighttime show Melrose Place, but I would take care of myself and give the producers plenty of notice. A new baby and a new job, what could be better? Michael and I had been contemplating moving back to Los Angeles, and now we would have even more incentive for the move. We would get a bigger place, with a new nursery, and we'd hear the baby cooing in her crib in the mornings and bring her into bed with us -- even the all-night feedings felt at that moment like a blessing. To bring a new life into the world and have her in our home! I couldn't contain myself. I had never felt happier.
I went back to the drugstore and bought pink and blue and some purple and yellow ribbon. I strung this through the little hole at the end of the pregnancy-test stick, gathered the ribbons and tied them into a bow, then curled the ends with scissors. I bought a bag with a little baby angel on it and a small porcelain plaque of Noah's ark with the legend, "Shh, baby's sleeping." I wrapped the test stick and the plaque in tissue and put it in the baby angel bag and considered how to keep from busting a seam before Michael and the boys arrived on a midday flight.
It was finally time to go to the Burbank airport. I picked up Michael and the boys, virtually humming with excitement. They could see I was keeping a big secret and asked me what was up. I wouldn't tell them until we arrived back at the apartment.
Once there, I assembled them all in the living room and sat them down on the couch. "Okay," I said. "What's the most exciting thing that could happen to this family?"
Our nine-year-old, Mickey, instantly asked, "Did you win Ed McMahon's sweepstakes?"
"You got a Steven Spielberg movie," his older brother, Chris, said, guessing.
"What have we all been waiting for -- for a long time?" I asked.
They kept thinking I had won a car or landed a role or had bought them a horse -- something material. Finally, I held up the bag to Michael. "Go ahead, honey, this is your present. I want you to open it."
Michael kept looking at me as if I were nuts. He looked inside the bag and pulled out the plaque. "Shh, baby's sleeping." He looked back at me, squinting his eyes, getting the idea. He put the plaque aside. Then he pulled out the test stick. "It can't be," he said. "It can't!"
"Yes! Yes! Yes! We're going to have a baby!"
The boys' eyes got big and they kept saying "Oh, wow!" and they started jumping up and down in absolute glee.
"We're going to have a baby brother!" Mickey said.
"No, a sister," Chris said.
"What do you want, Mom?" Chris asked.
Michael had pulled me into an embrace. I stopped kissing him long enough to say, "It's going to be a girl."
Copyright © 2000 by Hunter Tylo