The following is an excerpt from the new memoir by Emmy Award-winning actress Candice Bergen, whose first book was the 1984 memoir, "Knock Wood," about growing up the daughter of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen.
In "A Fine Romance," published by CBS' Simon & Schuster, Bergen writes about the romances of her life, the most precious of which is the one she shares with her daughter, Chloe Malle, born when Bergen was 39. In the excerpt below Bergen writes about the birth, which perhaps set a record for epidurals:
It was midway through October 1985, as I waddled in a huge plaid tent dress through the ground floor of Bergdorf 's. I'd put on almost fifty pounds since becoming pregnant. A woman kept peering at me, looking away, looking back. Finally she approached. "You know, you have Candice Bergen's face."
"But not her body," I said.
Old friends saw me lurching along the street and burst out laughing. I scowled back. Would this baby be born in a hospital or at SeaWorld?
The due date was the second half of October. I'd been hoping she'd arrive on Halloween, which was the day after my husband Louis Malle's birthday. As the date grew closer, then passed, I went in for a checkup. Whoever was in there, she was hyperactive, that much was sure. She somersaulted and flipped around. Then she landed wrong. Her feet were tangled in the umbilical cord and she was upside down and feet first. There was a high risk of her cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients. A risk of brain damage.
My obstetrician, the ironically named Dr. Cherry, was an affable, easygoing guy, but he grew concerned after the recent sonogram. "We need to think about scheduling a Cesarean," he told me. Meanwhile, I was to go home and stay in bed with my feet up. No activity. That would be interesting, as Louis and I lived in a two-story loft and were having people for dinner that night.
That was the beginning of the real bonding. Until that point, I'd kept a bit of distance, thinking of the baby as a kind of invader in my comfortable routines. I'd dragged my feet about preparing her room.
No longer. It was ready, wallpapered in tiny pink rosebuds. I'd bought a white rocker and a white crib with pink ticking on the mattress and bumpers and found a pink Kit-Cat clock whose eyes and tail moved rhythmically back and forth.
Now the Alien was in jeopardy. I could not lose her.
Louis and I had been invited to a state dinner at the White House in honor of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It was the big wingding of the fall, and the royal couple was causing quite the stir. It was possible we could make it if the baby was prompt. The dinner was November 6. I figured we could take the train with the newborn and a baby nurse and stay in D.C. for a night. I would look like a blimp, but we could attend.
As the date inched closer and there was no sign of a baby, I called Nancy Reagan, who has been a family friend all my life, and apologized for the delayed response. "Mrs. Reagan, she's not moving," I told her. She couldn't have been sweeter. "Well, they'd love you to be there, Candy. Let us know when you can. Of course we understand."
What I didn't understand was where this baby was. What was keeping her?
At almost two and a half weeks past the due date, Dr. Cherry told me he'd decided to extract the baby by Caesarean in three days; he was afraid she might have "exhausted prepartal nutrients." Apparently my amniotic fluid was drying up. She was running out of snacks.
The Kit-Cat clock was ticking. I was not in the market for abdominal surgery. I wanted to have this baby naturally. More or less. I did the few primitive things that were suggested to induce labor. Three of my closest girlfriends took me out to dinner and I ate the spiciest things on the menu, hoping to bring on contractions. Sweat streamed down my tiny head and pooled under my newly enlarged breasts. Nothing. I heaved my 180 pounds sixteen floors up to my apartment to see if that would get her moving. Zilch. Louis was giving me a wide berth; I was getting testy.
Louis and I went to Mount Sinai Hospital the next day, November 8, 1985. The surgery was scheduled for 3:00 p.m. We were shown to a pre-op room and I undressed and got into a gown. They gave me oxytocin as a last gasp to start contractions. No dice. The baby was dug in. Dr. Cherry came in with the anesthesiologist and introduced him. He had clammy hands and a mustache that screamed "Shave me!" This was not a guy who seemed cool under pressure. He recognized me and appeared nervous. This was the guy who was going to give me the dreaded epidural? Women had been warning me about this shot, which is given in the base of the spine and is generally successful at blocking pain, except when it results in paralysis. The anesthesiologist told me to curl into the fetal position, which I did, but I was babbling incessantly, compulsively. I am not a good patient. The anesthesiologist also seemed stressed. He mentioned a movie I was in. I was freezing and shivering and the needle looked like a harpoon. Finally, he managed to give me the epidural, and I was wheeled down the battleship gray hall into the operating room. Louis walked beside me in his gown.
The nurses erected a discreet sheet to screen any activity below the waist. Louis sat by my head. They started to swab me but I could feel it, and then I really panicked. The upside of the epidural was, I wasn't paralyzed. The downside was, I wasn't numb. Hey, guys, I'm not numb! I CAN FEEL EVERYTHING! This was a definite crick in the procedure. "Give her a shot of Valium and administer another spinal," someone said. I resumed the fetal position. The anesthesiologist came at me with another harpoon. I wondered, Is this really the best guy you got here?!? Things got blurry; then I got a third epidural. Enough medication for a rhino, which in a sense I had become. I was groggy beyond belief, but I could still feel a prickling in my legs. I might have heard the word paresthesia. Was I going to feel it when the surgeon cut through my abdomen? Because I would not be okay with that. I was stoned and ranting and raging.