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Leighton Phoenix Gothard, the first child of Malibu resident Caytlyn McCloskey Gothard, was born Nov. 20. Photo Submitted
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
8:21 am PST December 4, 2018

As Malibuites were told to evacuate their homes Nov. 9, Caytlyn McCloskey Gothard, who was nine months pregnant, fought her own battles.

She worried about safely giving birth to her first child. She worried about whether her family home in Malibu Park would survive. She worried about whether her floral company, Sea Lily Malibu, would be damaged by the fire.

She worried, but she stayed the course.  

“The anguish of not knowing whether my parents or my home would make it through the fires and giving birth with so much trauma was difficult,” McCloskey Gothard said. “But now, the fires are over, my parents and our family home is safe and my baby girl, Leighton Phoenix Gothard, is healthy and happy. She’s our Phoenix rising from the ashes to celebrate new birth, life, and family.”

In the final days before giving birth, McCloskey Gothard strove to support her parents, Leigh and Carla McCloskey, who had not evacuated their homes, as they fought successfully to save their home in Malibu Park. 

McCloskey Gothard went into labor Nov. 20, the day the Pacific Coast Highway was fully reopened. At first, things were going fine, but serious complications developed. 

“Caytlyn was whisked away for a precarious emergency C-section because her fever spiked from an infection,” Carla McCloskey explained. “She also had excessive bleeding.”

When birth blessed the family, neither mother nor child were free from
harm.

“It was unbelievable because they both almost died, and Leighton was not breathing,” Carla said. “They were both in ICU and Caytlyn didn’t even get to see Leighton for a day, and we couldn’t see our new granddaughter for five days.” 

Now, both mother and child are doing fine. They are tired, but trouble free.

Leighton’s first name comes from a combination of Leigh, her paternal grandfather’s name, and Brighton, her maternal aunt’s name. She is the first in the next generation of McCloskeys, who are longtime Malibuites. Her middle name denotes the strength of the mythical Phoenix who rose from the ashes.

“The two weeks before Leighton’s birth were so full of terror, horror and devastation due to the fires,” Carla said. “However, we are so blessed because there have been so many miracles with the birth, just like with the fire — and it’s important to share joy and happy endings, especially now.”