Joel Riggs teaches Aikido, plays piano, enjoys California, and reads voraciously.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rocket in Motion

For those who just can not get enough Rocket (hi, mom!), check out a first Flash movie of the little guy on the brand new

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Home at Last, part 2

Saturday, September 22, 2007, 10:15 p.m.

We have been home about 12 hours now, and it has been a very good day. While I went down to the dojo to have lunch with everyone and train with Nadeau sensei, Maria showed Rocket around the house, took a hot bath ("Wonderful!"), ate delicious leftover Thai food from our week at the hospital, and then, this evening, we watched the movie ' goes Ohio' (about the 2004 presidential election). Rocket slept for six hours straight earlier in the day, and now he has been asleep for about two and a half hours. He seems to be a very competent sleeper.

My mother has told me that at four weeks old I started sleeping twelve hours straight at night. I guess Rocket takes after me.

He also has my arms and hands, legs and feet: very long limbs and large mitts. He may well end up taller than I am, from the looks of him. When I was born, Dr. Brentlinger of Arlington, TX, (who was a retirement age doctor at the time) said that I had the biggest feet he had ever seen on a baby. And I grew to 6'6".

I am thrilled to hold him, to talk with him, play piano for him, and to sing with him. I can harmonize with his cooing, and since he makes sounds as part of his breathing pattern, he is even able to keep a rhythm now. I hope he becomes a guitar or bass player (a drummer would be OK, but not ideal), though I would not mind if he plays piano as well; I just would like someone to jam with.

All in all, this has been a most satisfying day. Of course, nothing is routine yet, but it will be soon enough. I remarked to Maria today that, even though this is only his fourth day, he as already changed significantly. He is rounder and more full, he is far more settled and calm, his eyes are opening, and he is learning to eat and sleep with no problems. (Every one of our eight shift nurses at the hospital said he has an ideal latch. Fish lips first time every time.) She replied, "he will not stay this small for very long, so we have got to enjoy every single minute." I agree.


Home at Last

Saturday, September 22, 11:40 a.m.

We have just arrived home from the hospital this Saturday morning, but we stopped by the dojo in Fairfax first to introduce Rocket to all the folks at the Nadeau/Moon seminar. His first time on an aikido mat came at age three days.

Maria and Rocket were together in Maria's hospital room from Thursday noon through Saturday morning, and by the end of that time they had found their rhythm of sleeping, eating, changing, and cooing (Rocket coos a lot.) His eyes open more and more each day, and he seems profoundly relaxed and comfortable no matter how much activity is swirling around him. If he is fussy, waving his arms and hollering, then I will sit right in front of him and talk to him (the usual stuff, like explaining why W.C. Fields does not seem as funny to us today as he did way back in the 1930s). He gets quiet immediately, his eyes stop roaming, and it is as though he pauses and listens intently.

At one point on Thursday, Maria said to me, "He is talking a lot." "Are you paying close attention to every single thing he says?" I asked, "or are you going to start ignoring him like you ignore me?" Maria laughed. "I am just glad that you two have each other," she said.

Now that we are home, Maria has burned sage throughout the house, we have stashed our cache of supplies that we appropriated from the hospital room, and we have already started the laundry, lunch, and making plans for the coming week.

On the ride across the Golden Gate bridge, under gray but bright skies with a light drizzle falling, Maria reached into the front seat and put her hand on my shoulder and said, "I am feeling very content right now, like I am myself for the first time in a year. And look at this little guy; he is perfect!" I squeezed her hand and did not have to say anything.

Welcome home, Rocket.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hanging Out With a Rock Star

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rocket Moves Out of NICU

Thursday, September 20, 1:45 p.m.

After 30 hours of intensive care, Rocket is now in the recovery room with his mother, completely free of all his monitors and IV. His vitals are perfect, there are no issues with his lungs, dehydration has resolved, and his nursing and other progress is spectacular. Estimated discharge day is now Saturday. The last remaining issue is that the doctors want to continue to watch for the development of any possible infection, a general precaution.

We had planned on a home birth, wanting to avoid all the hospital-caused complications that medical interventions can bring about. Birth is a natural process, and lots of our friends told us stories of how doctors had attempted to control deliveries for their own convenience. One cousin of mine said her doctor first gave her a drug to slow her labor—so he could deal with another patient—then returned a few hours later to give her another drug to speed it back up so he could finish his work with her as soon as possible. And we have learned that many typical medical interventions (for example, having mother not eat during labor) are precautions taken to avoid rather rare complications (continuing the example, preventing mother from aspirating her own vomit in the event she has to be given general anesthesia).

However, once we got to the hospital, the medical interventions we decided on with the doctors eased Maria's pain, sped up her labor, and led to Rocket's delivery in short order. Then, the staff had to resuscitate him, which they did brilliantly. The attitude of the doctors has been: "We need to do absolutely everything to make sure this baby has no serious problems." After the birth and its aftermath, my own attitude is: "Docs, you have saved our baby's life, so it is fine with me if you want to do a few other things to save your own asses as well. Be my guest!"

In short, Rocket appears out of the woods now. Birth is done, and it is on to getting to know him and initiating him into our little family. We have lots to do to bring him up to speed on the happenings in this crazy world, so time to stop writing and get to it.


Thursday, September 20, 1:00 p.m.

Rocket Sweet Riggs

A good eater, with a strong grip

Happy Birthday, Rocket, from your rather tired parents Maria and Joel

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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We Are Going In

Tuesday, September 18, 3:50 p.m.

At 3:30 a.m. today Maria was at 3.5 cm. After 12 hours of perfectly regular contractions every 4 to 4-1/2 minutes, she is still at 3.5 cm. Her energy is flagging, the pain has increased, she has tried walking, standing, squatting, resting, and the tub to no avail. So, she has decided to go to San Francisco Kaiser Hospital for more assistance. Diane and Susan are going with us.

Awaiting Transition

Tuesday, September 18, 12:45 p.m.

Maria has been having contractions every five minutes for the past 24 hours, whether walking, sitting, resting (she has even slept some, she reports), or in the tub. Now, Diane is saying it is time for the transition to even more strong and close together contractions, leading up to the main event. Maria is in very good spirits, smiling and talking with us between contractions, then 'going into herself' when a contraction comes.

Mother and baby are healthy as can be; we have heard the baby's heartbeat several times. Maria's latest quote: "Come out, baby. We are going to have a lot more fun once you come out." What a great mom!

Maria - In Her Own Words

Tuesday, September 18, 10 a.m.

"I don't feel good."
"This hurts."
"I don't know how much longer I can do this."
"I'm having fantasies of the hospital, of an epidural, of pitocin."
"I need a nap."
"Heartburn. Owwwww."
"I am so tired."

Long Long Time

Tuesday, September 18, 4:45 a.m.

I just woke up in a panic after nearly 5 hours of sleep. Turns out Susan and Maria decided to let me sleep, although Susan just reported there were times they could hear me snoring from the next room, and they wanted to wake me, or worse. But, they decided I will continue to be useful after the birth, and the rest will do me good.

They called Diane the midwife over about 4:00 a.m. Labor is getting more intense, and Maria's trying to get her three or four minutes sleep when possible. Diane says this is sort of the "calm before the storm." After a bit of rest, we will get Maria up on her feet, she will get her "second wind," and then the birth will finally happen.

And very likely today, on the due date. (Did you know that only 5% of births occur on the due date?)

A few images of yesterday, back when Maria had some energy:

Monday Morning: Martha Stewart in action

Monday Morning: Birthday Cake!
Monday afternoon, Joel, on phone to midwife, "So, when are you getting back from Tahoe?"

Monday evening, Susan has been by Maria's side every minute.

Monday, September 17, 2007

On Her Own

Monday, September 17, 4:30 p.m.

The midwife just left, saying that Maria's still in 'early labor', and has a ways to go yet. Susan's gone on a walk, and Maria has asked me to let her be for a bit. "I can be alone for a while," were her exact words.

Everyone is telling me to get some rest, so next stop: naptime.

In Full Swing

Monday, September 17, 3:30 p.m.

Maria is doing the difficult work now, regular contractions 4 minutes apart, getting more and more intense. Susan and the midwife Diane are here, Tuck and Patti are on the CD player, and neighbors walking up the street are looking into the front room wondering what those sounds are. Those who ask are amazed when we tell them that labor is upon us.

This morning, after trying to rest until 10 a.m., Maria got up and finished icing what we all suddenly realized is a birthday cake! It is coconut, the baby's great-grandfather's favorite.

Running a few errands this morning, people I ran into were surprised to hear what was happening at home. "What are you doing here at Safeway??!?!" they asked me. I started asking myself the same thing and raced home where I have been ever since.

Thanks to everyone for your offers of support, food, or to bring things we might need. We will take you up on it, every one!

More soon. (Susan has taken some very sweet photos that will be up soon, too.)

Trying to Rest

Monday, September 17, 5:30 a.m.

It is been 15 hours, now, and Maria's labor is progressing. She is not yet in active labor, but it will not be long now.

Since the contractions started yesterday, we have finished organizing the house. We finally cleared the spare bedroom, making it usable by guests; we finished setting up the birthing tub; and we organized everything on the supplies list our midwife gave us.

Then, in the evening we tried to watch a movie, but it was difficult to sit and focus. Finally, about 1 a.m. we turned in. Suddenly, I woke up and it was nearly 5 a.m., and the house smelled like cake! I had not known that Maria had gone downstairs and spent the entire night baking and watching a movie. She is a Martha Stewart all the way.

Now, at 5:30 a.m. the contractions are about 40 seconds long and regularly 7-1/2 minutes apart, I am filling the tub, and we have called our midwife and Maria's buddy Susan, who will be here any minute. Maria's in bed, trying to get whatever sleep or rest she can before the big big day. Looks like it will very likely be September 17, 2007.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Early Labor Has Begun

Sunday, September 16, 3:30 pm.

Maria is feeling her first contractions, about every 10 or 15 minutes, and very mild. Jobs remaining: install the baby's car seat, crank up the hot water heater (for filling the birthing tub), and finish painting the stairs to the front door. We are going to have a lot of visitors over the next few days...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We Are Getting Excited!

Maria's due date is next week, September 18, to be exact, and so we are down to our last week. It is very exciting! We are trying to get our rooms rearranged to accommodate our new housemate, small though he may be, and she is growing weary more easily. Moving around is significantly more difficult for her now in her ninth month.

A lot of people have been saying "Everything is going to change for you." or "You won't believe how much hard work it is going to be." But I like best what my cousin Paul said: "When you have your first child, the highs get higher, the lows get lower, you drink more, and you say 'fuck' a lot more."

I look forward to having my own point of view; only a few more days to go.