Farrah Fawcett

updated 12/24/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/24/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

For the angel who fell from grace, 1984 was the year of Paradise Regained. After Farrah Fawcett resigned from Charlie's Angels in 1977, her career languished amid trashy movies and public spectacles involving her lover, Ryan O'Neal. All hair and no talent, some said. But during the last year Farrah has rebounded. Her acting held a TV audience of 75 million in October, just about the time she announced that, after five years together, she was expecting a child. "It's been a truly blessed year," says Fawcett.

First the career. It began to recover in 1983, when Farrah played off Broadway in Extremities. The power of her performance led NBC to cast her in the true story of a savagely battered wife who killed her husband. When The Burning Bed aired, it grabbed the highest rating ever for an NBC-TV movie, and Farrah got glowing reviews. The part affected her off-camera life too. "Things that once seemed important seemed less so," she says.

Now about the baby. It's due Jan. 31 but Farrah hopes it will be born on Feb. 2, her 38th birthday. She discovered her condition while shooting bed but at first denied it publicly because "my only obligation is to bring my child into this world with dignity."

Farrah has stopped drinking alcohol but continued exercising right up to the seventh month. Nausea was a problem early on—at five months a reporter found her "surprisingly bony"—but now she's gaining weight. Ever married to the camera, she has engaged a photographer to document her pregnancy. Her baby will be born in Los Angeles, but so far there's no decision about whether she'll marry the baby's father, though Ryan has proposed repeatedly and has bought her "a ring I had to mortgage a couple of kids to afford."

"I have a new wisdom about myself and my relationships," Farrah says. "I'm not certain if I'm talking more or other people are listening more. But I'm communicating. It's a big step ahead and I hope I can pass it on to my child."

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