Joel Riggs teaches Aikido, plays piano, enjoyed California for 22 years ('86 - '08), now enjoys Georgia, and reads voraciously.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rocket Sweet Riggs, Born Early This Morning

Wednesday, September 19, 1:40 p.m.

Yesterday at 4:45 p.m., after 50 hours of labor at home and after having dilated to only 3.5 cm, Maria announced the successful completion of our home birthing attempt, and we drove to Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco. She was in a wheelchair by 5:30, in her labor and delivery room by 6:00, and through her new favorite technologies—an epidural for pain relief and pitocin for the stimulation of contractions—she delivered at 2:40 a.m. today.

Rocket had a rough start. After his first 30 seconds and a couple strong gasps, he stopped breathing altogether. "We've got a floppy baby," the delivery doctor told the neonatal doctor who had arrived, as is routine, to examine him. Two seconds after that, the routine was over and a flurry began. Instantly, he was in the hands of about 14 workers who intubated him, suctioned large amounts of thick, clear fluid from his throat (not his lungs), helped him turn from blue to pink in about two minutes, and then required another 20 minutes to stabilize his heartbeat. We had several very anxious minutes there listening to professionals get agitated and urgent in their commands to each other and in their attempts to work their magic.

Everything they did worked, though. By 3:15 a.m. he was stable in the NICU, but still ventilated. His color was good, he moved strongly, his eyes shone brightly, and he defeated the nurses first six attempts to place an IV line, three in the back of each hand. Finally they got a line in on his shin. The doctor told me Rocket presented as a bit dehydrated, his blood pressure was somewhat lower than it needed to be, and he could not yet breathe on his own. I spent the next hour and a half watching the work in the NICU for 15 minutes, then reporting back to Maria and the others in the delivery room.

At about 5:00 a.m., Maria moved to a recovery room, where we can stay as long as needed. At 6:30 a.m. we went to see Rocket for Maria's first visit with him since delivery. One minute before we got there, they had removed the tube from his trachea, and he was breathing on his own. We each held him for about 20 minutes, then returned to our room for a couple hours sleep.

By 9:15 a.m. when we went to NICU again, he was even stronger, we were told. Maria put her hand on his back as he lay in his bed, and he started to cry. But when she picked him up and nuzzled him to her and talked to him, he immediately relaxed and calmed down and shut his eyes peacefully. A few moments later, he had his first meal, from Maria. Like his parents, he is an excellent eater.

Back in our room about 10:30, Maria and I just looked at each other and the tears came. We have a healthy son, cute and thriving, but it feels like we had a very close call. As Maria put it, "I had two births, a home birth, then a hospital birth; I needed both." We are so grateful that Rocket got good help when he needed it from start to finish.

Diane our midwife has been with us through thick and thin, and even though she supported our desire for a natural birth at home, she also counseled us to get medical attention when we needed it. Not a moment to soon nor too late. And she spent over 24 hours straight with us both at home and at the hospital keeping us from growing confused or needlessly afraid as things progressed. She will continue to work with us over the coming days and weeks, and she has made this experience a hearty and soulful one for all three of us.

Susan our rock and our sister has done everything one could ask of a friend through the birth process. And she is still at the hospital with Maria.

Words cannot express our thankfulness for the entire Kaiser staff. They worked with us (we had several preferences which go against the doctors' usual procedures), and we felt like we did what was necessary without doing anything superfluous or which might cause additional complications. And they took away our son who was in trouble and returned him to us healthy and ready to continue living.

Your writer has returned home for a few hours after having slept about 9 of the past 100 hours. Time to sack out and then go back to the City this evening.

Rocket will be in NICU until at least Friday, possibly until Saturday morning. We have a recovery room right around the corner, and we can even see his crib from our window. Everyone is both grateful and exhausted, both elated and ready to just stop and rest for a while.

Thanks to everyone for all the notes, emails, calls, and gifts food and drink. We treasure you all.


Blogger mikaela said...


Wow, guys - an anxious couple of days awaiting the next blog entry - hoping each one is the last one!

Congratulations! You bring tears to my eyes reading this account...

And, dare I say it...

Shiver me timbers if it ain't a bonny babe!

Raise yer Jolly Roger, me hearrty Rocket Sweet, n' make ready to sail the high seas fer all yer worth. an' by me cutlass, apply yerself to the bung hole, and nivver call yer ma a skivvy, ya bilge rat, or I'll keelhaul yer bones - Savvy?


2:01 PM

Blogger maven said...

Congratulations Maria and Joel and Rocket!

Joey, Stacie, and the Earthsite team

3:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a journey! Congratulations ot all of you!
Zee Skyvara

4:06 PM

Anonymous Liz Chiarolla said...

Conratulationsw Joel, Maria and Rocket! What an amazing adventure. So glad to know that you all are fine and healthy with your new bundle of joy! One questions though, which I'm sure we're all dying to much did he weigh at birth?

Liz Chiarolla

4:59 PM

Blogger Joel Riggs said...

Ah, yes, the measurements: 20 inches long, 7 pounds 10-1/2 ounces.

5:25 PM

Anonymous JoAnn Hartley said...

Dear Maria, Joel and Rocket,
What a great name! Your son will keep you jumping, I can just feel it in my bones.
Just remember to take deep breaths and enjoy the new discoveries every day.
Bless you all, JoAnn

6:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a Daddy!!! Congratulations, Joel and Maria. Now the terror and the fun (really--lots of fun) begin. The terror only because Rocket didn't come with an owner's manual. Sounds like you two will be great parents.

Don Kendrick

6:35 PM

Blogger Matthew said...

Dearest Goddess Maria, Joel and baby Rocket- congratulations to all three of you. What an epic journey you have experienced- both exhausting and amazing. I can't believe that you labored 50 hours at home- you are super strong Maria! I am so happy to hear that Rocket is now thriving by Mommas side and nursing like a champ. I'm sure he can't wait to sink his teeth into that coconut cake! Yummy! Sounds like Kaiser has a good care system in place and that you are able to be with your babe as he recovers from his passage to this world. We are anxious for more reports from exhausted Papa Joel when he gets a chance inbetween supporting his wife and babe! Sending love to you all- Nicole, Matthew & Jonah Bear

7:25 PM

Blogger Michele said...

Congrats Joel! If you're lucky, he'll turn out like me :)


9:01 PM

Anonymous Kelly Emery said...

There once was this lad from Anselmo
But did he want to be born there? Hell no!
"Take me into the city
Where the nurses are pretty
And will be charmed by this 20 inch fellow."

He made his debut today with a splash,
Hogging the attention of much of the staff.
"My name is Rocket Sweet -
I make this family complete
Now please let my parents go crash!"

Much happiness,

10:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeehaw!! Congratulations Maria and Joel! Welcome to Rocket! I am so glad everything is fine.
Take care and see you soon.

12:09 AM

Blogger aikidro said...

Maria and Joel,

And so your sweet "Rocket Sweet" ride begins.....Maria, you are a wonder. I am in awe of your miracle, your courage, and your determinatin to bring little Rocket to this world. Joel, I can feel your composure in your words, and know something about the great courage you have, in meeting your beautiful son, then facing the unknown. Such a lucky boy you are, Rocket Sweet. And to you, my new friend Rocket, never forget where you came made sure that your parents never will. They are strong and wise, and if you let them they will help you go wherever you may want to - even to the stars. Welcome.


2:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always hoped you would drop out a puppy (or, maybe your spouse would).
But seriously folks,
CONGRATULATIONS on your recent arrival! I have two now (9 and 13) so you have a lot to look forward to.

Take Care,
Jim Luce, The Great Fiddler

7:30 PM


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