Noe Valley Voice May 2000

More Mouths to Feed:
Sebastian Paul Harper

By Maire Farrington

Anthony and Anke Harper decided on a home birth for their second child, Sebastian Paul Harper, and baby could not have been more cooperative.

Sebastian arrived promptly on his due date, Dec. 14, 1999. "That's punctual!" says his proud mom.

"The timing was perfect, actually," adds Anke. "The hard labor started when Christopher [the Harpers' 3-year-old son] walked across the street to day care." However, midwife Angelika Nugent and her assistant, Jana Silverman, came close to missing the splashdown.

"It was fast," says Anke. "Angelika was busy that morning. She had an unexpected delivery and two prenatal visits. When I called her at 7:30 because I had contractions, she said, 'Don't push. I'll be there around 1:00.' By the time Christopher left the house at 9:00, I was getting into serious business."

Three hours later, Anke's intuition told her to wait no longer. Anthony phoned the midwife asking her to come ASAP. "I thought I was going to have to start boiling water," he quips.

Angelika arrived on the scene a mere 20 minutes before the big moment.

"Basically she came in the room and checked me out and said, 'Push! Push the baby out!'" Anke relates. "I thought she was joking!" Sebastian arrived at 12:42 p.m., weighing a hearty 9 pounds, 12 ounces. Although the Harpers had a contingency plan for delivery at UCSF, everything went off without a hitch.

A veteran of the home birthing process, Anke delivered her first child, son Christopher, in a similar setting -- in a birthing home in Germany, attended by a midwife. "You know there is a risk involved," says Anke. "But if everything is fine and you think it will be a normal delivery, why not just have the baby at home?

"Here when I tell people I had a home birth, they look at me kind of puzzled like, 'Is she from the Middle Ages -- or alternative or crazy?'" she laughs.

Friends had volunteered to look after Christopher during Sebastian's birth, but that proved unnecessary. "He actually knew that morning," Anke says. "We told him, 'When you come home from day care, your little brother will be here.' And sure enough, Christopher came in at 5:30, and I was lying in bed with this little guy."

Christopher handled the event like a pro. After greeting his new sibling, "he took off again to a neighbor's to play with a friend," Anke says.

The midwife was made to order, too. "Finding Angelika was kind of a coincidence because we visited another midwife first," says Anke. "She said, 'Oh, you're German -- I have a German friend I work with, and she delivers babies as well.'" The Harpers have struck up acquaintances with several families with German roots. "We seem to know quite a few other Germans with little babies, and we hook up with each other on the weekends," Anke says.

Anke is 35 and works as a software engineer. Anthony, 38, is currently the "stay-at-home dad." The couple met in 1985 at a youth hostel in the Alps region of southern Germany. "I was in graduate school at New York University," says Anthony. "I grew up in Idaho, and it was cheaper to fly to Europe than to fly back to Idaho during summer break. Also, Europe sounded a little more exotic."

The two hit it off right away and maintained a four-year, long-distance relationship before tying the knot in 1989. After living in Washington, D.C., and Germany, the Harpers moved to San Francisco in 1998 and bought their home on 23rd Street the same year.

Sebastian has green-brown eyes like his dad. He was born with a full head of dark hair, which has "all disappeared," says his mom. "Now it's much lighter but still on the brown side." His middle name, Paul, is after his great-grandfather on Anke's side, Paul Hollstein.

At 3 months, "Sebastian is starting to get some personality," says Anthony. "He's a pretty easy, content little guy. He loves to be held, and he knows exactly when he's been left alone in the room."

"He's starting to be more alert," Anke says. "The first six weeks he slept a lot. Now he likes to go for walks, he likes to be with Christopher, and he likes people. He's learning to grab -- he's fascinated with his fingers. This morning he even put the pacifier back in his mouth."

Like most babies his age, Sebastian is enchanted with moving objects. And, says Dad, "he's got a sneaky little smile. If you watch it, it kind of grows."

Sebastian is also shaping up to be a strong little guy, and he can stand with some assistance. "When he's lying on the floor, he's very active with his hands and feet, so you can tell it won't be long before he turns over," says Mom.

Like his older brother, he has dual citizenship and has applied for his U.S. passport. Both boys are being raised bilingual.

"We do the books in German," says Anke. "If I read an English book, I basically read in German, I translate, so he learns the terms. If we watch an English video, I'll comment on things in German."

Christopher has made a smooth transition into his new role as big brother, and Sebastian is eager to follow his lead. "He likes to watch his brother, I can really tell that," Anke says. "Little guys like little guys, that's obvious. Christopher likes being the older brother because we stress that he can already do things like go to the potty and eat and talk, and that gives him a big boost."

While Christopher attends school on weekday mornings, Sebastian joins Dad for a stroll. "We go on walks over to Kite Hill," says Anthony. "We like to walk around Noe Valley, the Castro, and Diamonds Heights, and then back along 24th Street. I think everybody with kids ends up on 24th Street."

Sebastian's first travel experience was a road trip to Las Vegas in December, and he recently took his first flight to visit relatives in Idaho.

"What's fun with the second baby is that you've forgotten how they develop, and you say, 'Oh! This is that phase again.' You notice more so how fast they develop," says Anke.

"You feel like it's a real family," Anthony adds. "I mean, one child is great, but somehow with two it's even better. It's more than twice as good. It really is."