Tomorrow is my birthday. But instead of celebrating me, I would like to celebrate the woman who brought me into the world. Because it wasn’t easy. And because this is my first birthday without her.
Her name was Felice Irene Giacalone Reynolds McLane. She was 22 when I was born, newly married and looked like a cross between Sophia Loren, Jackie Kennedy and Mary Tyler Moore. Even when she was pregnant with me, guys were hitting on her. She had met my Dad while they were working together at an insurance company during her summer break from University of Utah and, against the wishes of her foster family, decided to accept his proposal. She knew that by accepting this proposal, she would become estranged from a family that had cared for her and supported her in her educational goals. But she knew what she wanted and she risked everything to get it.
Eleven months after their wedding, I was born on a warm August day at St Luke’s in Pasadena, uneventful except for a calcium deposit at the back of my skull. My father took me and my mom home and we all settled in getting acquainted. Life was grand. Until it wasn’t.
Two days after coming home from the hospital, and while my Dad was at work, my mom started to hemorrhage. Family friends drove her back to St Luke’s, and she was admitted so that the doctors could stop the bleeding. Which they did. And home we went again. But when my grandparents (my Dad’s parents), heard what had happened, they rushed over, packed my mom and me up and took us to their house in Santa Ana so that they could keep an eye on us both.
Now this was a big deal. My father, raised in a devout Mormon household, had just married a devout Catholic girl -- and had converted to Catholicism on top of that. So they weren’t particularly happy with my dad and probably just a little resentful of my mom at that point. But they put all that aside and rushed over to help. They brought us to their home, and and we all settled in getting acquainted. Life was grand. Until it wasn’t.
A few days later, just as my dad had gotten home from work, my mom started to hemorrhage again. Badly. Panic took over as they all tried to figure out what to do and which hospital to take her to. There was just so much blood. My grandpa threw my mom into his Chevy Station Wagon and they rushed to the nearest hospital on Katella Blvd. Mom was in and out of consciousness, and my Dad was right beside her, holding her hand. He tells me that at that point, riding in the station wagon, he thought he was going to lose her. Once they got to the hospital, the doctor confirmed my dad’s fears -- he too wasn’t sure she would make it. She had lost a lot of blood and was very weak. Eventually, the doctors were able to repair the tear and stop the bleeding. But she was still in and out of consciousness for several days. My grandmother would bring me to the hospital every day and tell my mom to fight and then hold me up to show her what she was fighting for. So my mom fought. Because she knew what she wanted.
Eventually she was strong enough to be discharged. But we stayed with my grandparents while my mom recovered and they brought me along on their upholstery jobs so that my mom could rest. During those few scary weeks, my grandma and my mom created an indestructible bond, becoming mother and daughter in every way but blood. My motherless mom finally had a mother again.
The day came when the doctor gave the all clear so that we could go back to our own house, with a warning that she should not have any more children -- that it was just too dangerous. But my Mom knew what she wanted. She wanted more children. So despite the doctor’s warning (but after waiting for three years), she became pregnant with my sweet sister Stephanie. And then later, my brothers John and James. Because what she wanted was the family she had never had. And she got it.
So tomorrow, I will celebrate another year on this earth -- but more importantly, I will celebrate the tenacity of my mom. A woman who knew what she wanted and fought for it. The woman who not only gave me my life, but who also gave me the three best gifts a girl could hope for -- Stephanie, John, and James. Thank you for my life Mom, and thank you for my siblings. And thank you for being such an incredible role model, even now.
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife /writer and lavender farmer located in Dundee, Oregon.