Read Excerpt: 'Beyond the Cleavage' by Raquel Welch

Even so, the birth of my two children had stopped me cold, and it took me a while to regain my equilibrium. I was forced to take a step back and reassess my whole life. Only it wasn't just mine anymore; it was ours. I still imagined that Jim and I could move forward together, with our children, but that was not to be.

Is Helen Gurley Brown's promise of "having it all" an idle one? Under the circumstances then, how could I hope for that? How could I be true to my biological destiny and my loving feminine nature and also not defect from my personal calling? As things evolved, opportunities did come a-knocking from Hollywood, but I wanted to go to New York and do theater. However, Jim had his own ideas, and unfortunately they didn't include either option for me. The breach that grew between us over the next few years gave me the license to gather up my two kids and leave my hometown and my marriage behind. But I didn't make it to New York. Moving to the Big Apple was an expensive proposition and with two children would prove too difficult. I had started to save money from modeling jobs for the airfare, but my locker at work was broken into and my money stolen. This setback was too much for me. I took it as an omen and changed my destination to Los Angeles, where at least I wouldn't have to acquire an entirely new wardrobe for four different seasons and worry about where my kids would play. As a Southern California girl, I didn't even own a winter coat.

My breakup with Jim remains the most painful decision of my entire life. For our children's sake, I should have stayed. Kudos to my mother on that score. C. S. Lewis wrote that you "stand taller when you bow." But I wasn't in the bowing mood. People talk about "falling in love," but there is also a will to love, which is what it all boils down to after the honeymoon is over. At our painfully young age, we didn't have the serious relationship tools to manage that kind of love. Those qualities come with a maturity that I couldn't even dream of possessing at the time. We were both just too damn young.

That doesn't, however, excuse me. The damage I did to my children and Jim by taking off as I did is immeasurable. It would take a whole book to get into it. I have no defense for my foolishness, except to say that I was young and pigheaded. My children are the best thing in my life . . . that I haven't done. Their good character, resourcefulness, and talents are all to their own credit. More on that subject later, when I can delve a bit further into motherhood.

Mommy Takes Hollywood
Flash forward only three short years, on the heels of my breakup with Jim and the beginning of my struggles in Hollywood. When I got there, with no car, two hundred bucks in my pocket, two kids, and no connec┬Čtions, it was pretty rough going. I ran into all kinds of weirdness. For one thing, children were considered personae non gratae back then. It was difficult to even rent an apartment. In early 1963, 90 percent of the vacancy signs specified "No Children." A couple of toddlers were not the kind of baggage a young actress starting out could advertise around town. It was wise to keep a low profile.

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