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BY NOON OF FRIDAY, OCT. 3, HEATHER Locklear had been in labor almost 24 hours. Still, she continued to banter with family and friends in her private room at the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. Figuring she was in for yet a longer haul, the 36-year-old actress even let her husband, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, 38, wander off for a spell. He returned bearing two long-stemmed roses. "One is for my wife," he said, "and one is for my baby." Then he presented his wife of three years with a second gift: a foot-long submarine sandwich. "Get that out of my face," responded a not altogether amused Locklear, who had sworn off junk food during a pregnancy that was as problem-free as her series—Fox's prime-time soap Melrose Place—has been crisis-plagued.

By 11:30 p.m., having logged 35 hours of labor, Locklear was wearing down—and the baby was resisting delivery. Finally the doctor suggested performing a cesarean section. It took no time for the actress to decide. After a reassuring hug from her husband, she said simply, "Let's go."

Thirty-five minutes later, Ava Elizabeth Sambora, weighing 6 lbs. 6 ozs. and measuring 19", lay cradled in her father's arms while her mother began catching up on some much needed sleep. "You're my daughter," cooed Sambora, who was pleased when the baby turned her head toward him. ("She already recognized his voice," Ava's grandmother Diane Locklear said later, alluding to the months Sambora had spent serenading his wife's stomach.) Then, handing the baby to a nurse, Sambora rushed into the waiting room to announce Ava's arrival to assembled relatives, including Locklear's father, Bill, an administrator at UCLA, her mother, a production executive at Disney, and Sambora's own parents, Adam, a retired factory foreman, and Joan, a retired secretary, from Rumson, N.J. "The baby's fine," Sambora told them, beaming. "And Heather's fine."

In clover is more like it, as she joins other recent first-time celebrity moms such as talk show host Ricki Lake, Beverly Hills, 90210 star Jennie Garth and Bay watch's Gena Lee Nolin, all of whom must have figured: Why not a little diaper duty to go with the glamor? (See p. 118.) Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin with Mr. Cooper) even had twins.

"Heather," says her mother, "will make a great mom." Maternal proficiency, however, is not a concept the viewing public equates with the pert blonde. Only 20 when she played her first vixen, Dynasty's big-haired Sammy Jo Dean, Locklear has become the American male teenager's favorite libidinous fixation (just check out Wayne's World 2). And while her Melrose character, sexy conniver Amanda Woodward, is well-seasoned by experience, none of it is with newborns.

Not so Locklear, who doesn't report back to the Melrose set until January and meanwhile will have time for little else bat Ava. (The name, which she and Sambora settled on in May when amniocentesis disclosed a girl, was simply one they both happened to like.) Heather, says a friend, "has found out what all new moms discover—the baby's running the house." Ava, whose bassinet rests in the couple's cozy beige bedroom—which they already share with their white Malteses Harley and Lambchop—wakes up every three or four hours at night. "If she peeps, Richie says that 'it means she wants to be picked up,' " says the friend. "He and Heather have been getting up and taking turns changing her." With both grandmothers pitching in, Locklear doesn't plan to hire help until she returns to work.

Although Locklear's weakness for randy rockers is a matter of record, she had been thinking about settling down and starting a family. When she and her first husband, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee (now married to Pamela Lee and father of their first child, Brandon, almost 18 months old), dissolved their nearly eight-year marriage in 1992, Locklear was asked if she wanted to marry again. "I absolutely do," she answered, "because I want children." She and Sambora (Cher's ex-boyfriend) began dating in '94 after being introduced by a mutual friend. They wed that year, then set up house in Locklear's airy, four-bedroom home in L.A.

Even so, Ava came as a surprise. "I wasn't feeling too well, a little odd, but it never occurred to me," Locklear told columnist Liz Smith last April, when she announced that she was three months pregnant. "I'm absolutely thrilled!" But there were issues to resolve. How, for example, would Melrose deal with her expanding figure? "They'll have to photograph me only from the boobs up," Locklear told Smith. "And since I expect to get very big boob-wise, this should look great." Still, Locklear, a size 2, was barely showing when taping began last summer. "She would come to work with her hair up in a French knot," says costar Alyssa Milano, "wearing a pair of overalls, looking stunning."

Indeed, says a friend, "Heather never even had bad morning sickness. She had lots of energy." And she happily flaunted her growing girth while shopping in Encino, frolicking in Hawaii and attending the July premiere of her HBO movie Double Tap. Doubling up her shooting schedule, she finished all her Melrose scenes in time for her Sept. 25 birthday, when Sambora gave her a gold Cartier charm bracelet.

Throughout her pregnancy, she kept her focus on her health, gaining 22 pounds and eating only vegetables, fish and chicken. She took daily walks and pumped light weights three or four days a week. "Heather was protective about herself," says her mother. "She insisted on a calm environment."

And to guarantee quality slumber time for Ava—who, at this early point in her life, "has Richie's dark hair and Heather's nose," according to an acquaintance of the couple's—they prepared a nursery decorated with photos of babies of Locklear's friends. (For now, Ava still sleeps in her folks' room.) What about tabloid reports that they spent some $500,000 to baby-proof the house, moving electrical outlets on the walls up 5 feet and installing automatic doors? "No way," says a family friend. "They have a set of baby monitors like every new parent. They were a shower gift"—along with tiny T-shirts, teddy bears and a stroller with a racy leopard-print seat. The newborn received a tapestry-covered, toy-filled chest from Sambora's bandmate Jon Bon Jovi and a wealth of clothes from Melrose Place's Jack Wagner. Jay Leno commemorated the event with flowers. David Letterman sent a Late Show cap and baby T-shirt.

But the sentimental Sambora held one last present in reserve, and this one was no sandwich. Once Locklear had settled into bed on her first day home from the hospital with Ava, he gave the new mother a charm for her bracelet, a tiny gold envelope engraved: "Ava Elizabeth Sambora 10/4/97." Talk about a special delivery.

Moms FOR THE FIRST TIME

Whether sitcom star or Hollywood reporter, these new celebrity parents share a mother lode of emotion (and in two cases a penchant for the name Spencer). As Tracey Gold says of 9-month-old Sage, "You never imagined you could love someone this much."

Ricki Lake

"I'm so into doing everything right," says talk show host Ricki Lake, 29, who gave birth to son Milo almost eight months ago. She purees veggies for his food and reads parenting texts nonstop. The nursery? "There are 500 books on the shelves and 500 outfits," says the hyperbolic Lake. "Everything takes a backseat to Milo."

Lake, who put on 35 pounds while carrying Milo, has even allowed herself to slide a little in her lifelong battle with weight. She has slowly exercised her way down to a size 12, aiming for a size 8.

On the three days a week when Lake, a Manhattan resident, is on the set, Milo (cared for at home by his father, graphic artist Rob Sussman, 31, and a nanny) visits in the afternoon. "Yesterday I watched him picking up things with his little fingers," she says. "Every day is a milestone."

Gena Lee Nolin

Despite two years' experience as one of Baywatch's curvaceous beach patrollers, Nolin, 25, was totally at sea the first time she had to bathe son Spencer, born June 3. "That was scary," says Nolin, married since 1993 to video producer Greg Fahlman, 37. "Spencer was 2 days old, and it was tough. I was a nervous wreck. I didn't know if I was holding his head or his legs properly. It wasn't a Kodak moment."

Parenthood has been a blissful breeze since then. "He was sleeping through the night at 7 weeks," says Nolin. "He's starting to feel his way around. He's holding on to things now, trying to talk to us." With her mother, Patricia Nolin, taking care of Spencer during the day, Nolin has been back at work since August, eight weeks after giving birth—and only two pounds heavier than her pre-birth weight. But she finds herself thinking in un-Baywatch babe ways. "I'm setting up trust accounts and college funds," says Nolin. "Since Spencer was born, I've grown up a lot."

Kelly Shaye Smith

James Bond craves excitement. So reigning 007 star Pierce Brosnan, 45, must have been ecstatic on Jan. 13 when Entertainment Tonight reporter Shaye Smith, 34, informed him her water had broken. The couple left their Malibu home for the hospital but promptly got stuck in traffic. "We sat for two hours," says Shaye Smith. "Then the contractions started to come fast and furious." Brosnan (father of three children with his wife, Cassandra, who died in 1991) finally got into character. "He drove down the center divider for 20 miles," says Shaye Smith. "I was like, 'Do it!' "

It's soon for 10-month-old Dylan to display much derring-do, but Shaye Smith says he'll "probably start to look more like his father" as he gets older. As it is, she says, when his proud parents greet him in the morning, "he just flashes this grin with four teeth."

Debbe Dunning

Two months after falling in love on her first date with Olympic volleyball gold medalist Steve Timmons, Home Improvement's Tool Time Girl discovered that she was as many months pregnant. "But it worked out perfectly," says Dunning, 31. The ABC sitcom incorporated her pregnancy into the plot last fall. And Timmons, 38, couldn't have been more helpful. "He took care of me," she says. "At night he'd rub cocoa butter all over me to prevent stretch marks." When, on Dec. 2, 1996, their bundle of joy was born, "I screamed, 'It's a girl!' " says Dunning, who married Timmons last May after 16 months as a couple. "I wanted a girl so badly."

At 11 months, says her mom, Spencer "is all you could ask for." She began walking a few weeks ago and now says, "Hi, Dada," "Hi, Mama" and "Who's that?" Good elocution will undoubtedly come in handy. Spending days on the set with a nanny, Spencer has already had a cameo on a never-aired Home Improvement episode. "She had a Social Security card at 2½ months," Dunning says.

Children, she believes, are definitely a home improvement. "I'd like to have my second," she says, "in the year 2000."

Tracey Gold

"Some people get depressed after they give birth," says the former Growing Pains star, 28, "but I only got happy hormones." Lately they've been in overdrive. Having won her much publicized battle against anorexia in 1992, Gold enjoyed a trouble-free pregnancy and delivery. "I always felt really healthy, really good," says Gold, who gave birth to son Sage on his Feb. 16 due date. But she did have cravings, eating so much pea soup that "I thought Sage would come out green."

Gold expected a daughter until she learned the baby's sex during an ultrasound. "I've always been this very feminine girl," says Gold, married since 1994 to football coach Roby Marshall, 32. "But my mom used to tease me: 'You'll have two boys, Rocky and Spike.' Well, I've got 'Rocky.'

"Sage is very dramatic," says Gold. "He's mastered his fake cry." At first, of course, he cried for Mama, so Gold was the one getting up at night. "My husband would tell me, 'See, he wants you.' I made sure we taught Sage 'Dada' real quick."

Gina Thicke

"I love this little boy beyond belief," says stay-at-home mom Thicke, 28, about Carter, her 4-month-old son with Pictionary host and former Growing Pains star Alan Thicke. "I hate to be apart from him."

Indeed, when she and her 50-year-old husband (who has two children with ex-wife Gloria Loring) vacationed recently on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, they learned that, with a newborn in tow, even a lush tropical resort turns into a nursery. "We had a beautiful suite overlooking the ocean," says the 1991 Miss World, who has shed 22 of the 33 pounds she gained during pregnancy, "but this time the crib in front of the window kind of blocked the view. And instead of a romantic champagne bath, the Jacuzzi became playtime for Alan and the baby."

TOM GLIATTO
TODD GOLD in Los Angeles

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