Monday, April 23, 2007

Roan's Birth Story - Chapter 3: The Final Cut

Shortly after the doctor had determined that an emergency C-section would be necessary in order to deliver Roan, the anaesthesiologist visited me. He wanted to know what I'd had to eat in the last 4 hours. When the pushing had started - about 4 hours prior - I had realized I was famished. By now I was starving. The hospital is very particular about letting women eat in labor, though, because of the fear that in the event a C-section is necessary and they have food in their stomach, it can aspirate into their lungs and cause suffocation. Of course I had always thought this precaution was silly because I had been so sure I'd never need a C-section.

I explained that all I'd consumed in that time was a couple of honey sticks and some ice chips. Instead of getting any sympathy from the anaesthesiologist at how hungry I must be after 4 hours of hard work on an empty stomach, he explained that he would have to confer again with the doctor to confirm that this was in fact an emergency C-section. If not, I would have to wait another 4 hours without so much as a glass of water or bite of ice chips before surgery! I was floored.

Given that Roan had already had a couple of heart decels, there was no way they were going to delay the C-section for even a few minutes. Next thing I knew the nurse was back, asking whether I felt able to walk down the hall to the OR. I realized at that point that after all my body had been through there was no way at all I could do anything even as straightforward as that. So they wheeled my bed out of the room with me on it and Arwen helping to push it.

When we got outside the door to the OR, the nurse exhorted me to get up, walk in and sit on the operating table. This seemed at the time a herculean task. I eventually made my way over, but sitting on the table was the worst part. I was hunched over, sobbing, when they suggested I reposition myself so they could give me the spinal. That last few minutes of excruciating pain was mercifully contrasted moments later by the incredible feeling of relief when the spinal started to hit me. All the pain was magically gone. It was the best I had felt in two days, I realized.

I hesitate to speak for Arwen, but this did not seem to be a high point for him. It had been such a long, tough labor and right there toward the end when he insisted I get up and walk - which is what had gotten me to 9.5 cm - it seemed like we had turned the corner. He knew how much I had wanted to avoid a C-section and he'd done everything within his power to help me reach that goal. I think he probably felt helpless and disappointed that it wasn't going the way we hoped. And I think after seeing all I went through in labor it was really hard for him to watch what my body was going through now.

There was a whole team of doctors and nurses in the OR, all very friendly and personable. I was pretty out of it at this point though, and just trying to concentrate on trusting in their care believing that everything was going to turn out all right. They laid me down on the operating table, which is an incredibly skinny piece of stainless steel. They had two even skinnier mini-tables on wheels, on each side of the operating table for each of my arms. I was laid out in the shape of a cross with all kinds of wires going into me - IV fluids, blood pressure monitors, fetal monitors, and an oxygen tube in my nose.

They draped a big blue curtain in front of me at about chest level so that I couldn't catch any gruesome glimpses of the procedure. Arwen was seated by my head. Even though I was trying to be brave, there was no way I could've gotten through this without gripping his hand tightly in mine. Just as he had been throughout my labor, he was my rock. From where he sat, Arwen could choose to watch or not to watch the procedure. He ended up watching most of it.

I will warn you: the next few paragraphs are a little gory. If you have a sensitive stomach or would rather not know the details, feel free to skip ahead.

First they wipe you down with iodine. Then they make a horizontal incision in the neighborhood of the top of a pair of bikini bottoms. The incision just cuts through the skin and a layer of fat; they don't cut through the muscle beneath. Instead they use a wratchet type of device to crank-crank-crank your stomach muscle fibers apart. The docs seemed in many ways like auto mechanics, especially with this maneuver. Once the stomach muscles have been pulled wide apart they make a secondary horizontal incision, this time on your uterus. I of course could not feel any of this, but I was awake and could hear what was going on in the room. I could also feel vague pressure as they pulled and yanked on various body parts.

To give themselves plenty of room to move around inside your body, they take out all the stuff in their way: namely, your organs. Arwen watched in horror as they pulled out all of the organs in my abdominal cavity north of my uterus and set them on my chest. Although he couldn't really recognize each part as it was brought out into the light of the OR, he tried to make a mental note of what he was seeing to make sure everything eventually got put back where it belonged. I think it was probably around this time that Arwen was focusing every thought and hope on something along the lines of "Please let Heather make it through this ok."

Around this time, the docs were about ready to start getting this baby out. They discovered pretty quickly, however, that she was really wedged in there pretty good. They tried pulling from above and pushing from below, and neither worked. So then they determined that another incision on my uterus would be necessary, this time a short vertical one. When they still couldn't get her out through the larger incision, they started to freak out. The tone in the OR became noticibly tense. I heard a nurse make an emergency call to some team of specialists: "I need [such and such] in here STAT!" Arwen said there was a lot of blood coming out of me at that point. I heard the nurses remarking that my blood pressure was dropping dangerously low. The doctors seemed to be panicking that they couldn't get this baby out. I remember lying there, gripping Arwen's hand as tightly as I could, looking up into the bright lights and trying to think positive thoughts.

Next thing we knew, the petite Asian woman doctor who had made the determination that the C-section was necessary to begin with piped up. "Everyone out of my way! I've got the smallest hands!" They started cranking the operating table down to it's lowest setting, and Dr. Lindsay got on top of me. She began yanking so hard on me Arwen said I looked like a rag doll being flopped around on that table. I can't imagine how hard it was for him to see them doing all this to me.

It felt like there were 10 different docs, each one with a hold on a different organ, all pulling in different directions. But it worked. Next thing I knew I was hearing the first cries of our baby girl. Right as they got her out, that team of specialists came busting in through the double doors of the OR. "Nevermind, we got it!" someone said. I was looking to catch a glimpse of our sweet baby, but with the stupid blue curtain in the way I couldn't see anything. That was a very lonely moment. I knew they had her over in the baby warmer to my left, just barely out of view, and I just felt this terrible ache at not being able to see her, to touch her.

Arwen got up and went to her side. He snapped some photos of her first moments. And then he came right back to my side, grabbed my hand again, and told me through teary eyes that she was just fine, a healthy baby girl. I think at this point a huge sense of relief completely overtook Arwen. She was fine, I was fine. Everything was going to be ok. Finally he could take a break from having to be so strong for us, and his emotional floodgates opened.

In a few minutes they let Arwen hold her. He brought her to my side and put her right next to my cheek. I turned my head and tried to just stroke her face, but the nurses admonished me harshly. Apparently I was screwing up their blood pressure readings, which was no joke at this point given how low my BP had dipped. So I didn't get to touch her or hold her in the OR. It seemed like it took forever for them to put me back together and sew me up - again with a lot of uncomfortable tugging. Next thing I knew they were wheeling her away, and me after. I was pretty disoriented at this point. They put us in separate recovery rooms. I could just barely glimpse her past the curtain. It was killing me to be so close and still a world away from her. It felt like she wasn't mine yet.

But the wait wasn't long before they had bathed her, wrapped her up and brought her over to me. I looked at her little red face and her tiny swaddled body and tried to let it sink in that this incredible gorgeous creature was mine. Ours. A nurse offered to help me try to feed her for the first time, and wouldn't you know she took right to it. It was such a relief - finally something was working just the way it was supposed to.

Over the next hours and days as we began to get to know Roan, it was a tremendous comfort to see that she was healthy and strong. All her vitals were good, she had no sign of jaundice whatsoever, and good night that girl could eat! The lactation consultant was floored. "This baby is one in a hundred," she said. She is one in a million to us. And I tell you I would go through that incredible ordeal of bringing her into this world again and again just to have her come to us healthy.

So whew! That's it. The story of Roan's birth. Thanks for sharing in the agony and the ecstasy with us.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day 5

Here are some thoughts I thought I'd share with you that I jotted down when Roan was 5 days old. (She's 20 days today.)
Today is Day Five of young Roan's life. I can't believe how much she has already learned and changed in these few days. Her first day on this planet she seemed completely overwhelmed by everything. Any time I moved her - even just a few inches - she went immediately from silent contentment to a red-faced scream. But by the next day, she seemed to have developed enough trust in Arwen and me to give us the benefit of the doubt before erupting. Each day she's learned to become a more accomplished nurser. And yesterday out of the corner of my eye I thought for a moment I saw her trying to move her hand to her mouth. I dismissed the notion as silly for such a young baby. Then today as I was watching her play I plainly saw her fold her fingers into a fist, flex her thumb, and erratically thrust her arm into space. It didn't go anywhere near her mouth, but her intent was clear. She amazes me.

I've had time over the past 5 days to reflect a little on her birth. It's ironic that I put so much thought and energy into preparing for the pregnancy - from nutrition to reading to exercise. But I never read much on what to do with a baby after it's born. In fact I never allowed myself to indulge in thinking at all about what she would be like or how it would feel to be her mom. I told myself that I didn't want to go setting a bunch of expectations, but really the truth was I was afraid.

This baby just meant too much to me. We had tried for so long to conceive. I had ached to bring a new life into this world with the man I love more than anything. I just could not bear the thought that something would go wrong, and that ultimately I would lose her. It seemed tremendously unwise to hope for, to believe, or even to think about holding that sweet baby in my arms.

The only possiblity I did not consider is that she would be born beautiful and strong and healthy and perfect in every way. I have been flooded with a sense of relief and joy, knowing that she is okay.

The other thing I worried about is what my reaction to her would be. Everyone wants to meet the ideal of maternal bliss, but postpartum baby blues are a reality for so many women. The radical changes in your hormones, the extreme and perplexing demands put upon you as a new parent, and chronic sleep deprivation are all very real. I hoped that I would find myself content as a new mom, but it worried me in the back of my mind.

Again, the only possibility I didn't really consider is that I would feel such a deep sense of gratitude and wonder at this little person. And an all consuming love. I thought - stupidly - that after all the buildup to her birth over the past two and a half years from attempted conception through pregnancy, that her arrival would be in a sense anticlimactic. Now that thought is bizarre to me. Anticlimactic? She is the most significant thing that has happened to me in my whole life! I can't wait to see what she will do in the next 5 minutes, who she will change into tomorrow and next week and next year. I am simply overjoyed that I get to wake up every day for the rest of my life and be her mother.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I know you guys haven't heard much from me lately. The last week was a little bit of a rough one. Hopefully things have calmed down now and will stay nice and boring for a while.

Last week Roan developed a diaper rash that continued to get worse and worse, despite a visit to her pediatrician and us trying everything we could think of to improve it. Finally on Saturday a week ago it looked worrisome enough to warrant a phone call to the pediatrician's on-call nurse. She told us to be on the safe side, we'd better go ahead and take her into the emergency room at Children's Hospital.

We arrived expecting to be sent home as overprotective first-time parents. Instead, the docs in the ER were very concerned about what they were seeing. Roan was 12 days old at that point, and they explained that babies under a month of age have extremely limited immune systems. What can be a relatively innocuous infection at a few months of age can wreak havoc on a tiny infant, getting into the organs, the spinal fluid, or even the brain. They explained they would have to run cultures from every orifice, as well as doing a spinal tap to check for bacteria and viruses. They also explained they would have to keep her overnight and get her on some IV meds as a precaution.

We were shocked. She had been such an incredibly healthy baby from the very moment of her birth - no jaundice, a good eater, no fevers, a mild disposition. It was hard to believe that she could be so sick. It was awful watching her stuck with needles, swabs going into all sorts of uncomfortable places, and getting her IV placed. I just plain broke out in tears when they said the words "spinal tap." We were overwhelmed all at once with feelings of total responsibility for this little life, and yet complete helplessness to do anything for her. It was gut wrenching.

But Children's Hospital in Denver is one of the top 10 in the country for kids, and all the docs and nurses did everything within their power to make us feel as comfortable as possible. We were given a private room, and they encouraged us to stay with her, breastfeed as usual, and keep her routine as normal as possible. I was so relieved that her hospital stay did not mean an end to breastfeeding.

Anyway, long story short, they kept us for nearly 4 days waiting for all the cultures to come back, dosing her with IV meds and monitoring her vital signs. I stayed right by her side the whole time, feeding her, playing with her, bathing her like normal. And she kept her sweet disposition through it all. She never developed a fever and all the cultures finally came back negative, so they sent us home last Tuesday night with a diagnosis of "contact dermatitis." I can't even tell you how relieved we were.

Meanwhile Arwen was up to his ears in home renovations. My dad had come in for a quick home makeover stay, during which he, Jen and Arwen worked together to demolish and partially rebuild a custom shower as well as convert our laundry/storage rooms into a new office for us. They would work all day doing heavy labor, then bring dinner up to me at the hospital, and Arwen would stay the night with us on this tiny cramped hard bed, being woken up at all hours when the nurses came in to administer medications or check vitals.

Anyway, it was a rough time all around, but it's over now. Everyone's happy and healthy and safe and life is good again.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Roan's Birth Story - Chapter 2: A Hard Day's Night

Once the smoke had cleared and our home was once again deemed inhabitable, Jen, Micah, Josefa, the two dogs, the 26-foot moving van, and I returned home. Soon my mom arrived on a flight from Houston. At this point I badly needed to be alone with my coach and get some help focusing on working through this labor. Everyone went downstairs to the basement to give us some space.

At this point my contractions were still about 5 or 6 minutes apart but were growing in intensity. I took a warm bath, Arwen checked in with our midwife, Neko, and she suggested we take a walk in the fading afternoon light. I was feeling pretty uncomfortable by this point and having a hard time focusing after all the day's excitement. Arwen took me by one arm and I grabbed a trekking pole in the other and we headed very slowly out the door. I was moving at an absolutely glacial pace. I only made it 2 or 3 blocks before feeling wiped out and needing to get back home.

On the slow walk back I thought I felt - but wasn't sure - a tiny trickle of water breaking. I was hoping to put off the moment of my water breaking for as long as possible. Because I was GBS positive, the hospital would require that I head to the hospital as soon as it broke to begin a course of antibiotics and prevent infection. And at that point, the clock would start ticking, giving me no more than 24 hours to get that baby out.

Once we got back Jen brought up a nice healthy dinner of homemade minestrone soup and hearty bread. Where just a day or two before I could gobble down spicy, rich foods with enthusiasm I now found my tummy very sensitive. I ate what I could, which wasn't much, and Arwen turned on a movie to distract me, Stranger Than Fiction with Will Farell.

We only got about 15 minutes into the movie before all hell broke loose. Contractions started coming every two minutes apart with a nearly unbearable intensity. I couldn't sit down any longer; I was hanging off of Arwen with my arms around his neck, moaning, when all of a sudden in a gush my water broke. Looking back we realized that the little trickle I had felt earlier was probably indeed amniotic fluid, and its release, even in a small quantity, got things kicked up to the next level.

So now began the mad dash around the house to pack all the last minute odds and ends into the car, phone Neko and let her know we were on our way, load ourselves into the car, and head out. It's a short ride to the hospital from our house, but I assure you I felt every bump and pothole along the way. My mom and Josefa rode to the hospital with us, and my mom rubbed my shoulders the whole way.

We got the car parked, up the elevator and into The Baby Place. I had a hard time answering the lady's questions at the front desk, and at one point I asked to borrow her trash can because I was pretty sure I was about to spew. They ushered me into an exam room in a wheelchair to check my dilation, and to my surprise I was already at 5 centimeters. "We're already halfway there!" Arwen encouraged me. "I'm gonna barf," I replied, and next thing you know I was wearing and standing in the hearty minestrone soup from earlier.

They got us settled into a Labor & Delivery room, which are really nice at St. Joe's. They have wood floors, dimmable lights, and - most importantly - a huge jacuzzi tub. They hooked me up to a fetal monitor and dosed me with antibiotics for about half an hour. At this point I felt a new burst of energy. I was ready for this challenge. We walked the halls, did the hula dance that's supposed to help the baby turn and move, and sat and laid over the birthing ball we brought with us.

Things kept progressing well for a while. Over the next few hours I continued to dilate at a steady pace; about a centimeter every hour and a half to two hours. Although the contractions continued to be strong, my mind had had time to adjust to them by this point and I was able to deal with them. Arwen kept reminding me to "moo" - making low moaning noises is supposed to help you relax (and make you laugh). Things were going swimmingly.

Then around 8 centimeters I hit a wall. All of a sudden I began to experience such intense pain in my back I felt like I was losing my mind. It wasn't just every few minutes when a contraction hit either; it was an excruciating, sustained pain that came to an even more intense crescendo with each contraction. Neko explained that this was "back labor" - caused when the baby is rotated face up instead of face down. (This is different than a breech birth, where the baby is head up/ feet down. Roan was head down but rotated the wrong way.)

I completely lost my composure now. I was moaning and crying, thinking that if there were any women laboring in the rooms next door they probably would be wondering if I was dying in here. It hurt so bad I couldn't think or breathe or do anything other than beg Arwen to rub my back furiously and not stop. Even now when I think back on that intense pain it brings tears to my eyes.

Maybe if we had made some different choices at this point the ultimate outcome might have been different. I try not to second guess it; I don't have any regrets. But I do realize now that this pain was so intense that it completely stopped me in my tracks in terms of being able to put into practice the training we'd had for situations just like this. There was no way I could get up out of that bed and move, much less get on all fours, arch my back and roll over - one of the most effective techniques for getting a baby to rotate properly.

Instead I stayed put for hours, blubbering and begging for the pain to stop, wearing out Arwen's arms and shoulders from massaging me. The midwife checked me again and found that not only was I still stuck at 8 cm, but I also had some swelling on my cervix, which would make it even harder for the baby to navigate into the birth canal. We would have to do something about the swelling in order to get this baby out.

So Neko drew a bath for me and got the jacuzzi jets going. I could barely make it across the room to get into the tub, and once I got in the water wasn't nearly hot enough to do much for my back. They won't let you go above 100* for the safety of the baby. I was in a very bad state at this point. Arwen was encouraging me the whole way. I know it was hard for him to see me in so much pain. I stayed in the bath for a while, at least until I reached a semi-calm resignation to the misery I was in.

Before long it was time for the midwife to check me again. Much to our chagrin she found that I was still just at 8 cm and the swelling on my cervix had not improved at all. She gently suggested that I consider trying some Pitocin, an IV drug that intensifies contractions. I started crying at this point, because I felt there was no way I could handle contractions of even more intensity without the help of pain medication. Or, she suggested, if I could muster the will to get out of bed, we could try walking the halls for the next 30 minutes and see if that helped things progress at all. She left Arwen and me alone for a few minutes to talk about our options.

I started begging for some drugs. "I just can't do this. There's no way. This is f-----g torture." He knew that just about everyone going through natural childbirth reaches this point. He didn't want to see me get so far and then give up. "Ok honey, for the next 30 minutes you are going to listen to me. You're going to try what I say. After that we'll do whatever you want. Just give me 30 more minutes." He wanted me to get up and walk the halls with him. I tried to explain that that was a physical impossibility, but he wasn't having it. "Come on honey. We only have 30 minutes left. You can do this."

It wasn't pretty. I felt sorry for the nurses, doctors and other patients who had the misfortune of encountering my poor pitiful self in that hallway. I was not exactly a rousing endorsement of natural childbirth. I was crying, moaning, hanging on Arwen, my sister and my mom. I was in a pitiful state, but I was doing it. We walked up one hall and back, and when Arwen asked if I wanted to get back into our room, I said no, we still had a few minutes left, let's walk the other hallway.

When our 30 minutes were up Neko found our efforts had paid off. I was still swollen, but had dilated to 9.5 centimeters. She also said the baby had rotated some. We were almost there. But the midwife still felt it was necessary to start a Pitocin drip to get us the last bit of the way. Again I started crying because I didn't want to take pain meds, but I also didn't want to suffer even more intense contractions. "Just try it for a few minutes," Arwen said, "and if it's too much you can have all the pain relief you want."

So they started the Pitocin drip sans epidural, and to tell the truth it really wasn't that bad. I guess Roan had rotated enough that she wasn't putting as much intense pressure on my back. By this time it was the wee hours of Monday morning, and it was time for a shift change at the hospital. It was time for Neko to go home and another midwife, Christi, to come on duty. The midwives at St. Joe's are in a group practice, and we'd had the pleasure of working with both Neko and Christi during my pregnancy. In fact, they were two of my favorite midwives, so I felt lucky to have them both.

Christi found before long that the Pitocin had done its job and gotten me to 10 centimeters. My cervix was still swollen, however, so I couldn't start pushing yet. Even though I had managed to take some Pitocin without an epidural, she suggested I consider going ahead and getting the epidural so they could really crank up the Pitocin all the way. I didn't even have to say anything to that suggestion; she could tell by the expression on my face that this would be a very disappointing turn of events. "Well, before we do that, let me try one more thing," she said.

She started pushing hard on my cervix, and when contractions would come she had me push. It only took a few minutes, and she had gotten the baby's head past the cervix, into the birth canal and ready for pushing. "How did those last couple of pushes feel? Do you think you could keep pushing?" she asked. "I get to push now?!" I was ecstatic. I felt like I could push as hard and as long as necessary; I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. In a few minutes this baby would be in my arms.

Well, that's what I thought anyway. They set up a mirror so I could watch my progress. As each contraction came, Christi directed me in how to push most effectively. At this point we invited my mom, Josefa and Jen into the delivery room. It's not what I expected at all; I had thought I'd feel more comfortable with family around in the early stages and want my privacy at this point. As it turned out, I wanted to be alone with Arwen in the beginning stages to get my head straight after the bomb scare, and now in this last stage I was comfortable with the pain I was experiencing, excited about being so close to the end, and wanting to share this magical moment with them.

Arwen and Jen were by my side throughout the whole pushing process. It seemed like we were making good progress. Before I knew it two hours had passed. They kept me on a fetal monitor continuously throughout this time, and were amazed that the baby showed no signs of stress.

I knew from our Bradley training that most women complete the pushing stage somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours. I wasn't discouraged at all when we hit the 2 hour mark; I felt like I could keep going forever. What I didn't know at this point was that although Roan had rotated, she had only come 90* instead of the full 180*. This position is called Occipit Transverse. And apparently babies don't come out this way.

Christi let me keep pushing for another hour. By this time we could see the baby's head appear during each push, and then recede again after the contraction. The baby had had a couple of minor heart decelerations and was beginning to show some signs of stress. At that point Christi said she'd need to get the opinion of a doctor as to whether we could keep going. I was still feeling completely optimistic at this point though; I had every confidence that I could do this. The doctor came in - a young Asian woman - and took a look. She didn't mince words.

"We are looking at a possible forceps delivery right now. Actually the baby is not even far enough down the birth canal to use forceps, and forceps are going to be very uncomfortable for someone who has not had any pain relief." She explained that the baby was turned Occipit Transverse or "OT". As we would come to find out days later from another midwife, in the time before C-sections, the outcome for OT babies who failed to make the final turn was grim: both mother and baby died. The doctor offered, "I can give you another half hour to push as hard as you can, to see if you can get her into position for the forceps. Otherwise we are looking at a C-section delivery."

I heard the words she said but inside my head I scoffed. Not only will I get this baby in forceps range in the next 30 minutes, I will be holding her in my arms by then. Forceps schmorceps.

Well it didn't exactly go the way I thought. When she next came back, I had pushed some of my biggest, hardest pushes. With each effort everyone in the delivery room - Arwen, Jen, the moms, the midwife and the nurse - shouted encouragement. "You can do this!" "Push that baby out!" "You're almost there!" It sounded like the sidelines at a highschool football game. Despite all our best efforts however, when the doc returned she found the baby had not moved one bit. All of a sudden the reality of where we were hit me.

She explained that the anaesthesiologist would be coming in to talk with me before they wheeled me into the OR. The nurse handed Arwen the familiar blue paper scrubs, hat, booties and mask. He looked a little defeated and scared. Avoiding a C-section had been my preeminent goal in preparing for this labor. Now I was facing my biggest fear.

Strangely though, a sense of calm and grace came over me. I had felt so loved and supported throughout my labor. I had been surrounded by people who cared about me and honored my choices. The midwives and nurses had honored my desire for natural childbirth, not pressuring me with drugs and giving me every opportunity to make things work. Niether of the moms ever said one discouraging word. And I had the world's best coach who was there with me every step of the way, without whom I would never have made it to that point.

I grabbed Arwen's hand in my right and Jen's hand in my left and gave them a squeeze. I said through teary eyes, "Even though this isn't what I had hoped for, I think we all have a lot to be proud of. I want to thank you all for the incredible support you've given throughout this birth. In a little while our baby will be here, and that is all that matters."

Despite my best efforts, a natural childbirth just wasn't in the cards for me. But that's why we decided to have this baby in a hospital; now that medical intervention was clearly necessary, we knew we'd have the best care available. I felt like I had done all I could, and now I was in good hands.

Coming soon: the next and final chapter in Roan's birth story...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

April 10th

Two notes of interest today.

1. Roan lost her umbilical stump today. Aw, already growing up so fast!

2. Exactly 3 years ago today we hiked Roan Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. It was a brutal but beautiful climb. We were rewarded at the top with gorgeous views. After dilly-dallying around the summit most of the afternoon we had a long exhausting hike down the mountain, and were again rewarded with a stay at the most magical shelter on the trail. Overmountain Shelter is a big old red barn that was converted to a shelter. They removed one entire wall of the barn that overlooks a gorgeous lush valley. We shared that night with dozens of other hikers, also nursing blisters and aches and pains, glad to have a cup of hot cocoa and a dry place to sleep. Next morning we were awakened to a sunrise that stretched orange and purple from one end of the sky to the other across the fog steeped valley. This picture just does not do it justice.

Here's a link to our journal entry from that day.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Roan's Birth Story - Chapter 1: The Denver Bomb Squad

So hello again everybody. I know many of you have been curious to hear how things are changing for our new little family. It's proven more difficult than I expected to find time to sit down and blog. As it turns out Roan nurses every 2 hours for about an hour at a time. So out of every 24 hours, there go 12 right off the top. Then when you subtract 5 or so more for sleep, it doesn't leave much time for anything else.

But suffice it to say that we are adjusting very well to our new life. Having my mom and Arwen's mom and of course Jen here has been a tremendous help. Since I have been recovering from unexpected surgery, it's made the first few days even more of a challenge than I expected. But with their help, our house has stayed clean, laundry has been washed and we have been well fed. We definitely could not have made it without them.

So anyway, more about our new life in days to come. But I didn't want to let any more time pass without getting down in black and white the story of Roan's birth. It was a nail biter the whole way through. It's a lit of a long story though. So I thought I'd try and tell it one chapter at a time. It all starts on April Fool's Day with a call to the Denver bomb squad.

You might recall I was starting to get discouraged being overdue and having the threat of induction looming. I tried some suggestions our midwives and friends made to help get labor kickstarted, and sure enough it worked. Around midnight on Sunday, April Fool's Day, I started feeling some mild contractions. When I began timing them I was surprised that they were coming 4 minutes apart! They were so mild I knew this was just the very beginning of early labor, but I was elated. Somehow even with the distraction of contractions I still managed to get some good sleep. I knew I'd need my rest.

The next day I took things slow. We knew that those early stages can last from 12-48 hours, and sometimes they just stop altogether and get started again days later. I stayed in bed most of the morning resting, not sure what lay ahead. Little did I know things were about to get very interesting.

Arwen came into the room quietly around noon and gently woke me up. I could tell he wanted to say something but wasn't sure how to say it. In a calm, quiet voice he said, "Sweetie, I need you to go ahead and get up and leave the house for a little while with my mom and your sister." I'm thinking, Is this man crazy? I'm in freaking labor over here! He continued, "I found something in our attic that needs to be removed but I don't want to touch it." He paused. I was thinking Gross! There's a dead body in our attic! And then things got really weird.

"There's a box in the attic that has what looks like a pipe bomb in it." Although it was April Fool's Day, this was no joke on Arwen's part. He had been in the attic organizing things and found what looked like an old metal army box under some sheetrock he removed. He had thought, "Oh cool, maybe there'll be some old letters or something cool in here." He flipped the lid open and found a pipe bomb instead.

He sat back, took a deep breath, and started making mental notes about what he was looking at. He saw that the pipe was made of the right material, was of plausible proportions, and the inside of the box had been lined with cottony material to prevent sparking. He noticed it didn't have a fuse, but knew it could have a mercury switch or chemical timer to set it off. There was a handwritten label taped to the outside that said something to the effect of "High Explosive, Do Not Tamper or Drop."

So Arwen's mom, Jen, the dogs and I evacuated the house while Arwen waited outside for the police to arrive. We went to the park and briefly walked the dogs, just as Jen's husband Micah rolled into Denver from Miami in a 26 foot truck containing all their worldy posessions. What a crazy day. My contractions had grown stronger at this point and fairly regular at about 6 minutes apart. The whole situation seemed so absurd all we could do was laugh about it.

We ended up heading over to a sidewalk cafe, getting Micah some lunch and sitting outside for a couple of hours. At least I had a chair to sit in, a bathroom nearby, and a street scene to keep me distracted from the growing discomfort I was feeling. Arwen called Jen and filled her in on what was happening back at the house - with strict instructions not to relay the information to me.

At this point the bomb squad, two firetrucks, several police cars and a news van had arrived. They had cordoned off our block and pretty much every one of our neighbors were standing in their front yards wondering "What's up with the new people?" Dozens of experts had paraded through our house and near as they could tell, the alleged bomb seemed like it could be the real thing. One of the bomb squad guys pointed out that 99% of the time when you see a handwritten label, it's a fake. But they had seen cases where savvy bomb makers put a handwritten label on a bonafide device to throw the bomb squad off, they end up moving it and someone gets killed.

Were this to be the case with the bomb in our attic, it was of sufficient size that it would kill the dude in the bomb suit moving it. They weren't willing to take that risk, so the only option left was to try to diffuse it in place. They explained that if the bomb proved to be real, we would probably be blowing some holes in our attic. Arwen said the various emergency response folks seemed very competent and professional, but there seemed also to be an element of boyscout about them. They all sort of milled about having a good time. "My wife is in labor down the street, and you're telling me you might blow a hole in my new house?" Uh yessir, that is correct. "Well come on then, let's get the show on the road."

Meanwhile I was growing decidedly uncomfortable. We had migrated over to my friend Amanda's house to wait for the call from Arwen. I was starting to have a harder time at this point, and I really did not enjoy being away from my coach. It's not easy to sit there with contractions and keep making polite conversation. But before too long we got the good word that all was safe back at home.

The bomb squad had evacuated our nextdoor neighbors and one of the fire crews had a hose fully charged and aimed at our house. They set up a contraption in our attic, sort of a shot gun on a tripod. They shot a single clay bullet at one end of the pipe bomb, risking igniting its contents but diffusing any pressure inside, thereby eliminating the possibility of explosion.

After the dust cleared, the bomb squad took a closer look and was surprised to find a number of other details the maker had included. They used a cardboard liner whose purpose is to insulate the gunpowder from sparks and friction. The threads had also been lined with glue as if to prevent the them from sparking when screwing the ends together. Basically it would've been a very dangerous bomb had its one key ingredient not been missing: black powder.

So, you know, all's well that ends well, but we certainly should have taken this as an omen that little Roan's entrance into this world would be an explosive one.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Announcing Miss Roan Marie Vaughan!

Hey folks,

That's right, she's finally here!! Sorry for to leave you hanging but man it's been a rough week. I've been working so hard to get the story in complete detail down in writing, but it's awful tough to squeeze in time in front of the computer when feedings happen every two hours!

So until I can lay down all the details, here are the basic facts:

  • Roan Marie came into this world on Monday, April 2nd, 2007, weighing 8 lbs 8.6 ozs at 20 inches long.
  • She was born by emergency C-section after a very long, difficult 36 hours of natural childbirth.
  • She is healthy and beautiful and perfect, worth every bit of trouble and pain, and we are so lucky to have her.
  • She is a champion eater, just like her Mommy!
  • Mom is recovering well, but it will be a long, slow road.
  • Dad was not only a brilliant coach and a reassuring steady hand through her challenging birth; he seems to have a magic touch with her and can always get her to stop crying when no one else can.

Much much more to come soon! Including LOTS more pictures!!