(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'd hoped to get more time to write while in the US. I'm finding it has been a lot harder than I anticipated. Granted, it has been an eventful time.

So I'm in southern Indiana. Hot, muggy southern Indiana. I've only been here around Christmas and it's the first time that I've seen it in summer. It's quite beautiful though the weather tends to keep you indoors.

The Beginning

Well, the big day finally arrived. Life will never be the same. On July 19th at 9:28pm ET Kiran (Keer-uhn) Crothers was born. Ah yes, the cutest little girl on the planet. Don't EEEVEN try to tell me otherwise.

It began by my arrival in Louisville and the half-hour to forty-five minute drive to Priya's parents' place. One of the first things on the agenda was the birth class. We were able to fit in two of them and I have to say that, though I was dreading them, they were quite good. The instructor, Virginia (a bit of irony in the name for such an occupation), was witty and moved quickly through topic after topic.

One thing that amazes me about the whole process is how much we do not have figured out. Everything comes with the caveat that one never knows exactly what's going to happen. From the way the pregnancy unfolds to what exactly is going to transpire during the birth. There are many knowns of course but a fascinating number of unknowns, particularly since this process has happened many, many billions of times.

The night before the big day Priya felt what seemed like contractions. We weren't really sure since Priya didn't really know what contractions felt like. By 2am, however, we knew that they were the real deal. I timed them over the next few hours and by 6am we decided that they were within the range of where we were told to make our move to the hospital. We had a 45 min. drive and the potential of 8am traffic so we decided all things were pointed to the need to get on the road.

awaiting the next contraction
The Hospital
We were sent to triage where we were told that Priya met the criteria to be admitted. We were told that about two-thirds actually get sent back home due to false alarms so we were happy to be officially underway.

The next several hours were largely uneventful as the contractions didn't progress significantly. They'd actually diminished since the administering of the IV so we were a bit concerned that this may take some time. About noon they decided to break her water and get the process moving. It did but more lethargically than we'd hoped. She was just under 5 cm. dilated (of the 10 necessary) and not increasing.

the first photo
One thing that was moving forward, however, was the intensity of her contractions. It's a brutal thing to watch someone you love go through such pain though it pales in comparison to actually going through it yourself. As much as we wanted to avoid it, by the middle of the afternoon we opted for the epidural – the wonderful drug that numbs the lower body.

A couple of hours later they decided to administer Pitocin to provide a boost to the process. It worked and within the next two hours Priya was 9 cm. We now knew we were getting closer.

Hospital rooms are notorious for isolating you from the outdoors. Given that the adjacent parking garage had a bird's eye view of our room and all the poking and prodding the doctors were doing to my wife, we kept the blinds mostly closed. Nonetheless we could hear the arrival of an approaching thunderstorm. For the remainder of the eventful evening, the pounding thunder and rain against the window provided a backdrop.

After one last check around 8:30pm, equipment was starting to arrive in our room. Staff were moving in and out arranging scalpels, towels, lamps, etc. Shortly after 9pm Priya was asked to start pushing during contractions. Because of the epidural the nurse had to tell her when the contractions were.

washed but not happy
We'd been told that there would be a sheet to provide a bit of a barrier for the "activities". None was provided so I had a front seat for the whole show. I have to say, however, that the subsequent events ended up being far from gross or cause for dizziness. It was a fascinating and wonderful event (aided by the epidural).

found the thumb quickly
The Arrival
The new addition to our family began to make her appearance little by little. By 9:28pm out she came. At this point, had I not been sensitized to what I was going to see, I might have been somewhat shocked and/or queasy. The shiny, purple creature doesn't look very human at the outset and there is that accompanying mess.

The pace of activity increased. I was given the scissors to cut the umbilical cord and ceremoniously carried out my duty. Our little girl was then quickly handed over to the two staff waiting to attend to the new baby. I had Priya on one side of me and the newborn on the other. As Priya seemed to be doing well, I turned my attention (and my camera) on the latter. Fingers and toes all accounted for. Her voluminous cries demonstrated that her lungs and voice box were clearly intact. As they checked her out it began to appear that she was a healthy and beautiful baby.

the new dad
After a while I was asked if I was ready to take our newborn. Being caught up in the spectacle of the whole childbirth scene, it took a brief second to respond to the request. Oh yea, not only is this a surreal scene but we get a baby out of all this drama. Hand 'er over.

Now I don't want to make a bigger deal of holding my child for the first time than it really was but I have to be honest. It was one of the most incredible things I've ever felt in my life. She was wailing away and I barely heard a sound. I just looked at her in disbelief. I turned to Priya wanted to share the moment with her (i.e. hand Kiran to her) but they said she wasn't able to take her yet. She was still being patched up and would have to wait a few more minutes. Finally I was able to hand her to Priya and I almost enjoyed that as must as taking her from the doctor.

Over the next couple hours I spent my time sharing the amazement of the moment with Priya, waiting for the clean-up, then taking a few visitors, calling my family, etc. Eventually, near midnight, we moved to the maternity ward of the hospital. We were exhausted and hungry. I was looking forward to getting settled into the hospital room, having a bite to eat and sleeping. Little did I know, that's not how it works.

Starting from the time that we arrived in the room we had an almost constant stream of hospital staff coming in and out checking on Priya and Kiran. We had moments of sleep but nothing more than an hour or so at a time. By morning I felt almost worse than if I'd just stayed awake all night.

the tired mum
The next day we had more doctor's visits and more guests. Spent more time staring at our child. Seemed like the day went fast for some reason. The next night we ended up getting more sleep as there was less poking and prodding to do. By mid-morning we were cleared to check out though we couldn't actually get out of there until around 2:30pm. There were a large number of new babies on the same schedule we were, all checking out around the same time.

The Adventure Begins
I had heard that it might be weird to drive away from the hospital with our new human being. I've heard and read accounts of people suddenly feeling the responsibility of the first born once outside the protective surveillance of doctor. In my case I felt more freedom than burden of responsibility. I'd become a bit annoyed by the frequency of people tapping on the door, coming in to check this or change that. The care we had was wonderful but unlike the days when you had an assigned nurse who did most of what you needed, nowadays there are specialists for everything and almost zero coordination or predictability as to when they come to do their thing. The two biggest consequences: 1) the baby gets disturbed more frequently than necessary and our ability to begin establishing a rhythm had to be abandoned and 2) we, particularly Priya, were wiped out from lack of sleep and it was as if all effort was put into making sure that we had no blocks of time long enough for a proper sleep.

twelve hours old
So with our newfound freedom, Kiran in car seat, we headed north from Louisville back to Indiana. It had been a surreal 2 ½ days. Our couple had now turned into a family. Life will never be the same.






Saturday, July 9, 2011

Geneva to Idaho

Ok, so it's been a long time since I've posted something. It's been rather busy to say the least.

Since the last entry, I wrapped up a very intense time of preparation for being gone for longer than a month. After a week in Geneva, I was to go to the US for four weeks.

Geneva was an interesting week of meetings and a presentation at the UN High Commission for Refugees. It's a long story but the invitation came largely from our work in Tanzania in 2009-2010 and some good work we did, particularly Priya, in a transition to their results-based management standards and indicators. It's likely that it wasn't the most riveting topic of the week but it is important and I think it went pretty well. It was also good to see a bunch of people in Geneva that I haven't seen for a while.

From Switzerland I caught a plane to Idaho for a week of fun in the great outdoors. I only have a few days since I need to get to the Midwest to see Priya, whom I haven't seen in almost 2 months. You see, this isn't just any vacation. After a week of playing in Idaho, I'll be joining Priya in Indiana for the birth of our baby girl.

Up to now I've not mentioned it in the blog. Initially it was for general caution but thereafter it was mostly just that I didn't get around to it. Not to say we aren't excited about it. We're crazy excited though some of the fun of late has been dampened by the fact that I've been separated from my beloved wife for what seems like forever. More on that later since I catch my plane tomorrow.

For now a brief recap of my time in Idaho. The morning after I arrived, it was off to the camping trip. Our destination was north of Sun Valley, an area we know quite well since our family has been going there for three generations. Over the next few days close to twenty family members would gather for mountain biking, hiking, eating, jogging, road cycling, etc. I didn't end up with much down time but it was a lot of fun.

at the campground
riding among the Sawtooth Mountains
Curtis' photo - stopping to catch the view (and our breath)
From there it was off to Kimberly where my parents live. There was a bit more down time there though we did spend a day touring around the valley. Good to be a tourist in an area where you grew up.

yet another photo of Shoshone Falls
Kylie beneath Balanced Rock
Then it was back to Boise for a bit more biking and running last minute errands. Dinner last night in a cool restaurant, farewells and so forth. The short and sweet trip to Idaho comes to an end. Lots more interesting and funny stuff to recount but I don't have time. You'll just have to take this as it is for now.
the Boulder Mountains as seen by my new camera