Noe Valley Voice May 2001

More Mouths to Feed:
Sadie Kahn Fowler

Ken Fowler and Susan Colen were hardly surprised when the due date for their second child, Sadie Kahn Fowler, came and went without event. Their first child, Nick, had missed his ETA by five days. Coincidentally, it was on Nick's fourth birthday, on June 24, 2000, that Susan went into labor with daughter Sadie.

"I'd been having the Braxton Hicks contractions for over a month and false labor two times where we packed the bag early," Susan explains. So when contractions began at 7 p.m., the couple figured there was no rush to get to the hospital.

"We were pretty sure this was the Big Event, but we'd had so many false alarms the last few weeks, we still weren't certain," says Ken.

At 9:30, Susan's sister, Kathi Colen, who was to assist with the birth, arrived at the couple's home on 23rd Street. In tow were her fiancé, Greg Peck, and Susan and Kathi's mom, Jan Colen. Greg and Jan were teaming up to look after Nick.

When Susan's water broke, there was some debate as to how soon to leave for the hospital. With her first pregnancy, delivery didn't occur until another 18 hours had passed. Doula (birth coach) Media Armana was consulted by phone, and arrived on the scene at half-past midnight.

"Right after that, I went into transition, and I didn't even consider moving," Susan says. Shortly after 2 a.m., Ken began packing the car and Susan started dressing for the trip to the hospital, when she was suddenly seized by the urge to push.

When Media suggested that Ken check things out, "I looked and said, 'What's that?'" Ken relates. "And the doula said, 'That's the head, call 911!' That was the ultimate moment, I was like, 'Oh no!'"

A few minutes later, Ken ran down to meet the fire engine coming around the corner. Says Ken, "They pull up and somebody says, 'Having a baby?' I turn around and run up the stairs followed by four huge guys in fire pants and suspenders--they were like linebackers. And we have a small bedroom!"

Indeed, it was SRO for the new arrivals. "At that point, Kathi was by the bed, by Susan's head, holding her hand," says Ken. "I was on the other side holding her other hand, and she was on her hands and knees with the doula attending to her. Then the ambulance arrives and three paramedics come running up -- so there were seven guys -- and then Greg comes around and stands in the doorway. Counting the baby, we had 14 people there at the time she was born."

Thinking that the doula was actually a midwife, the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) "totally gave her space," Susan says. "When the head popped out, I heard what sounded like a stadium cheer-- it was so loud. And I was just trying to tune everything out and listen to the coach."

Sadie made her official entrance at 2:36 a.m., on June 25, 2000, weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces.

The EMTs gave Ken a pair of scissors to cut the cord. "The paramedics were amazingly great," he says. "I have nothing but praise for them."

Mom and baby were offered some oxygen, but perhaps the doula could've used some, too. According to Ken, after Media's work was complete, "She said, 'Boy, I was a little nervous. That was my first catch!' I was so happy she didn't show it. She was calm and cool through the whole thing."

Because Susan was so focused on her work, it wasn't until afterwards when she was nursing Sadie that she had a chance to take in the scene. "I looked around the room, and I was like, 'Oh my God!'"

"She was kind of embarrassed," Ken says. "She turned around like she was waving to the throngs."

A familiar face was in the crowd. Earlier that month, Susan had chaperoned Nick and his nursery school buddies on a field trip to the fire department. "And here, two weeks later, was the guy who had given us the tour -- right in my bedroom!" she says. "I said, 'Hey, I know you!' And he goes, 'Good job!'"

Nick was introduced to his new sister just minutes after her arrival. "We had, of course, told him that he was going to stay with Grandma and we were going to go to the hospital," says Ken. "We'd read him books with the same story. Suddenly Greg brings him in and we told him, 'Your sister came a little early.' He was kind of fascinated and shy."

Ken, 45, a senior production designer for an interactive advertising agency and web consulting firm, and Susan, 38, a graphic designer, were introduced by a mutual friend in 1989. Each was living in San Francisco at the time, but they didn't begin dating for another year. They got hitched in 1993 and moved the following year to their home on 23rd Street.

Daughter Sadie has blond hair and bright blue eyes, and an "active and engaging" personality, says Susan, now a full-time mom. One of her favorite hangouts is the cooperative nursery school Nick attends at the Noe Valley Ministry. Baby visits one day a week, while Mom works her shift. "She loves it there," Susan says. "The kids love her, too. She's like a little doll and they push her in the swing."

Nick doesn't seem to mind that Sadie's birthday falls just one day after his. After all, brother and sister get along like two peas in a pod.

"We were prepared for overt sibling rivalry issues, but very little has come up," says Ken. "She was sleeping in between us one time and Nick got upset and said, 'That was my best spot!' But he makes her laugh and vice versa. She lights up when he comes into the room."

"Sometimes when I laugh she laughs, and sometimes when I smile she smiles," Nick confirms.

Sadie also exhibits a very determined side, says Dad. "There can be 20 things nearby, and the thing that you don't want her to play with is what she goes for. I will move my paper or cup of coffee out of the way, and she gets a little fussy and starts reaching for it."

"The thing that she most likes to reach for is hair, noses, and ears," says Mom. In fact, baby's fondness for faces has earned her the nickname of Sadie Slam-Hands. "It started with the mouth," Susan says. "She was playing with my teeth and my gums when she nursed. My father was a dentist. Maybe she is interested in teeth."

"If you close your mouth as tight as you can, she tries to force her finger between your lips," Ken says. "And if she gives up on that, she'll jam her finger in your ear and then pull your hair. I got my hair cut pretty short, so she doesn't have much to grab anymore."

If Sadie should choose to pursue a career as an ear, nose, and throat specialist, "she'll have to learn a little technique first," Ken quips.

Sadie has done her share of cross-country flying, making the rounds to meet the relatives in Florida, New York, Nash-ville, Montana, and Seattle.

On the home front, she likes hanging out in the living room, where she may play with her toys or serve as a stand-in for one of the characters in brother Nick's make-pretend games.

Her best role is as a sweet baby sister. "When my dad first met Nick, he was six months old," says Ken. "He said, 'You probably should stop now, because you'll never have another kid who's as sweet-natured as this one.' Well, we got one. She's just so sweet. We lucked out."