Noe Valley Voice July-August 2000

More Mouths to Feed

By Maire Farrington

A'Noah East Wang's official birth date is April 5, 1999. But, says his dad, Hong Wang, "he was born across midnight. His head came out on the 4th, Easter Sunday, and his body came out on the 5th, the birthday of Guan Yin Boddhisattva. So he has two things on his shoulders, the East and the West. Between Christianity and Buddhism, he has to be the bridge."

The birth "was a bit traumatic," says Mom, Rachel Long. After 27 hours of labor, Rachel was told that she would need to deliver by cesarean section.

But the Wangs, both practitioners of Chinese medicine, wanted to keep trying. "The doctor told me in Western terms what was happening, but it meant nothing to me," recalls Hong. "Finally she said, 'The baby's head is tilted,' and I said, 'Thank you. That's what I need to know.'"

Hong then led Rachel through a visualization to get the baby to change its position. Says Hong, "After half an hour, they said, 'No more. We have to dress to get ready for the operation. Everybody's tired. The baby's tired, the mother's tired, and we are tired.'"

Thinking he could stall the doctors further, Hong suited up and joined them in the operating room. "There were about 15 people in there," he relates. "The operating team was ready, and I said again, 'Give me one more chance.' So Rachel took a deep breath and screamed, two screams. A big scream went out and came back, and then she pushed and his head came out, about two minutes before midnight. The whole thing happened in five minutes. His body came out and the cord was cut."

Rachel's mother, Lenore Long, was also present at San Francisco General Hospital during the birth. Baby weighed in at a healthy 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and Dad says he was so relieved that "I cried for a whole day and a whole night. In the afternoon we were with the baby and he started to sneeze, and then I started to laugh. I was in an altered state, but a very correct state, very relaxed."

Naming the baby was also a mystical experience. "I thought the sound [of Noah] was so soft and very pleasant to the ear, when I first heard it from an Indian man," says Rachel. "And there's the association with the historical figure." The soft A was added, creating a unique name for their son. His middle name, East, "just came to me pretty strongly," she continues. "Easter Sunday maybe, and the sun rises in the east. And it could mean a person who brings rebirth."

In addition to performing acupressure and other forms of Chinese medicine, Rachel, 30, and Hong, 35, provide nutritional counseling for vegetarians and vegans. Rachel has a special interest in working with vegetarian nursing mothers.

The couple met in 1994 at a qi gong (energy movement) conference in Beijing, where Hong practiced Chinese medicine and Rachel attended the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. "It was really instantaneous," Rachel says of their whirlwind romance. "He proposed a week later."

"I only gave her three days," Hong confirms. "I said, 'Take it or leave it,' because there were so many girls standing in line," he jokes. "She was quick. She took it, to the bad news of many other girls."

"It was a cold winter in Beijing," Rachel quips.

In April 1995, the couple moved to their home on 27th Street, adjacent to the home of Rachel's grandmother, Trilby James, and mother Lenore, who was born and raised in Noe Valley.

A'Noah has "brownish-greenish" eyes and reddish-blond hair and six teeth. At 13 months, he is a bundle of energy. This may be due to his vegan diet of lighter foods, says his mom. Favorite nibbles include cherries, watermelon, pears, and steamed chard. "As a vegan baby, he's now above average in height, so if you put him next to a two-year-old, he's exactly the same height," says Rachel. "A lot of people have the [mistaken] idea that he should be a midget," she laughs. "He does fine, he's had no ear infections."

A'Noah's robust constitution drew some attention when he visited China, Hong says. "In China, people said, 'Wow! Only five months and he's so big. It's because they have all that good milk [in the United States].' When I told my friends he basically eats fruits and vegetables, they said, 'Miracle! Miracle! We don't believe it.'"

Rachel is taking care of A'Noah full-time, and Hong has arranged his schedule to be with him three days a week. "But still it doesn't feel like enough," Hong says. "That's why we're moving back to the mountains, to my hometown, where everything is much more relaxed and laid back. People don't wear watches."

The Wangs are building a home at the edge of a town near the Himalaya mountains in China. "The southern edge disappears into a private valley with creeks," says Hong. "It's a very beautiful place with a lot of temples. It's behind my old village, and there's a closeby temple where I went to primary school." A'Noah will be attending the same school, and "my mother will be living with us, and my sisters will be staying with us on weekends, so the whole family will be together."

In the meantime, A'Noah is enjoying life in Noe Valley. He likes to spend time outdoors and frequently visits Douglass Park. Outgoing by nature, he laughs a lot and is very people-oriented. "At the park, he crawls up to others and wants to hug them, or if they're sitting on the grass, he'll crawl over them," says Rachel. "He has no separation or stranger anxiety yet."

"He likes all human beings," says his dad. "He treats everybody the same, except for Grandma. She's a favorite because she gets him to play all the crazy games like throwing and catching things. And she taught him how to honk the horn on the car. So he likes Grandma best."

"He's very gentle, very mellow. When he wants something or when he's tired, he doesn't get too angry," Rachel notes. "With eating, though, he gets really excited."

A'Noah's latest discovery is clapping his hands. He's also fascinated with clocks --"the bigger the better," says Mom. "I'll take the clock off the wall and put him on the bed, and he'll sit and look at it, the back and the front. And Grandma taught him how to say, 'Tick-tock, tick-tock.'"

A'Noah likes to climb and explore, and he should be walking any day now. "He's cruising still," says Rachel. "He hasn't taken his first step yet, but he's much more confident."

Mom is enjoying "just being a child again with this child. Going to the park and relearning all the old nursery songs. Trying to remember to watch and to observe. To see him as a human being, and not just a baby," she says.

"It's like looking at yourself, revisiting your childhood and its many parts," Hong adds. "He teaches you how to be calm and relaxed, and to see that time is relative. It's like it says in the Bible, 'A child shall lead you.' But," he laughs, "meanwhile you have to lead him, too."

Voice 0007 Mouths 1: Wang