At exactly 1:37 AM on January 13, I sent the following Tweet from my iPod -- "Baby!"
At that moment, I was sitting next to my wife Lauren. She was in the bathtub. Lauren had just reached under herself and pulled our son Van up out of the water and into the world.
Our new son was born in the age of social media. Within an hour of Van being born, I'd posted pictures on Flickr, posted the links to those pictures on Twitter, the originals on Facebook, and then e-mailed copies to our families in faraway places.
It's not surprising that my son was born on Twitter, because he was actually conceived at least in part because Twitter. About nine months earlier when we first moved to New Mexico, we'd been to a gathering of local Twitter users called a "Tweetup" at the legendary Albuquerque restaurant El Pinto. My wife and I attended in order to meet some of our online friends in person. There was great food and drinks. Lauren had some of both. Let's just say that if we had had a daughter, her name would be Margarita.
The homebirth was Lauren's third unassisted childbirth. Lauren has had all three of our kids at home, without the intervention of a doctor or the assistance of a midwife. Just her. That was part of the reason that we wanted to document it digitally.
We are aware that that is somewhat unusual and hopefully our being open about it and ready for discussion makes it less strange for some people. Throughout, Lauren's labor and in the following days, I was happy to answer a few people's questions.
A few people did wonder why I was on Twitter while my wife was giving birth. Many people get their idea of what birth is like from television, where the woman is surrounded by doctors and nurses and the excited husband is about a foot from the wife, telling her that she needs to keep breathing and to push. The reality is that women like my wife, who are having a planned unassisted birth don't really need to be reminded to breathe. In fact, as busy as Lauren was during the labor if I got in her face and told her to breathe she would've taken the time to kick me out of the room.
I did get her things she asked for them; mainly stuff like getting her a glass of ice water or running up to the store for her cherry flavored Jell-O. Aside from that, I was mainly updating our very excited kids on my wife's progress. And tweeting.
The Twitter stream is also useful because it time stamped the major moments of Lauren's labor and delivery. Part of my wife's birth process is writing "birth stories" afterwards to share her experience. For reasons you might well imagine, things get a little fuzzy when she's in the middle of her labor.
Within a half-hour after the baby was born, Lauren was in bed with her netbook going over my tweets and trying to figure out the timing of everything. She was able to see that her labor was relatively short -- about 2 1/2 hours. She was able to read the congratulations sent by dozens of our online friends.
There may be some irony in this combination of modern technology and ancient childbirth technique but the reality is that one actually complements the other. Women like Lauren are able to learn from the experience of other women from all around the world. When our daughter Olivia was born a decade ago, Lauren was having some trouble delivering the placenta and had me check with one of the newsgroups that she was part of. I asked a question online and within about 15 minutes got back a response that was decidedly low-tech -- blow into a glass milk bottle. It worked.
With this birth, Lauren had an iPod Touch app called Contraction Master that helped her measure the time between contractions as she started to go into labor. Within minutes after she'd given birth, my 17-year-old son Shane helped us by e-mailing the midwife that Lauren had seen throughout her pregnancy. And of course we were able to order cloth diapers, baby clothes and a car seat, all without leaving our home.
Technology allowed us to safely and confidently pursue our childbearing and parenting decisions and to share that experience with family and friends. And because of the persistence of Internet information, it provided a new sort of digital scrapbook that our children will be able to look back on decades from now.