I had my first mobile phone back in 1978. You could hold it in one hand, at least part of it.

It has been two years since her brother was born so my wife and I had some experience, but this was going to be very different. About six months before we had moved to a remote mountain location to live. Just us and two other families lived in this high desert setting overlooking the Española valley. Each family had its own home, but we were within sight of each other. The land was recently purchased as a permanent home for the summer yoga festival in New Mexico held every June at the time of the summer solstice. It was surrounded by forest service land, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and Indian Reservation. This meant there were no neighbors. The three families that lived on this blessed land were on their own.

Photo: Part of the property where we lived with a view of the mountains behind our house. The photo was taken the year after our daughter’s birth during the summer yoga festival in New Mexico.

To this end, we had a wind turbine for running the electric water pump, a septic system for sewage, a propane tank for cooking, and a large pile of wood to feed the woodstove. House electricity was with a photovoltaic panel during the day and a battery at night. Only a few small lamps were needed. As a backup, a second battery in my car was charged as I drove around. At home, we would plug this battery into our house. Actually, it all worked quite well.

Just one problem. We were going to have a second baby and needed a reliable way to contact the nurse-midwife and the doctor when it was time for the birth. The first ‘cell’ phone was available for more than $10,000 in today’s money, had a talk time of only 30 minutes, took 10 hours to recharge, and had very few cell towers to connect to. The Motorola phone has since been compared to a brick. Even if I could afford such a phone, there were no towers that would pick up the signal making it as useful as a brick.

The solution was simple, affordable, and fun. It was called a car radio phone. Since you can drive a car around, that makes the phone mobile. It consisted of two large boxes, each about the size of a car stereo. One box was the power supply mounted out of the way and the other had the controls with a handset. There was no number dial and no numbered touchpad. One simply pushed a talk button to get an operator on the line who cheerfully would dial any number you asked for. It worked great and gave us the ability to make phone calls from our remote mountain home.

My daughter was born December 1978, on a cold snowy day with more than 10 inches (30 cm) of snow already on the ground. Our 4 wheel drive Jeep Cherokee was able to drive through such weather without much difficulty. The original plan was to simply call the doctor when my wife began dilating and he and the midwife would drive up.

Pregnancy began, we called the doctor who informed us he received a call about 10 minutes early from another woman who just started labor. Since her call came first he was obligated to attend her birth before he could come to us. As this was the first child for the other woman, and the first can easily take more than 10 hours, it was time for a backup plan.

My wife, our 2-year-old son, and I drove down the mountain to the house of the midwife. We were so much looking forward to home birth, but it seemed it was not going to work out. Now about 10 cm dilated, the baby was on the way. My wife really wanted the home birth so managed to convince her body and the baby to wait. But for how long? Amazingly the other woman’s birth was less than three hours. When the doctor called we were hopeful. He arrived about 15 minutes later, examined my wife, and was surprised that she was now only 5 cm dilated. He then said if we wanted, we could drive back up the mountain for the birth. Within a few minutes doctor, midwife, our son, and my wife, sitting on a large pillow to soften the bumps, were in the car for the 20-minute drive up the bumpy dirt road back to our remote home in the mountains. There was new snow on the road since we had driven down over four hours before. Slippery in places, but our Jeep made the trip without too much trouble.

We arrived late in the afternoon with the sun low and the cold air now filling our home. It was way too cold for an ideal birth temperature. The house was around 45 degrees (7 Celsius) and needed to be at least 75 (24 Celsius) to be comfortable for mom and baby. Our only heat was a rather ugly but highly efficient Riteway stove. It had a large chamber for the wood, extra-thick steel construction, and a fast system for generating heat. Time to put this unit to the test. I always had a talent for safely making a fire in any form.

There were a few embers still in on the grate but it would require my best effort to quickly get the temperature high enough. The stove worked hard with the wood-burning hot and fast. I reloaded larger pieces and the house started to get warm. So great was the power of this stove that I got the temperature all the way up to 85 (30 Celsius) in only twenty-five minutes. This was great as our daughter was born just 5 minutes later and she had both a warm house and warm loving parents to greet her.

With our car phone, we were able to call the ashram to let them know all was well. About a year later we moved back to the ashram property in the valley and did not need the car phone any longer. It was years later I moved to Germany and about 1998 that I got my first real mobile phone, a classic Nokia that came in black. Now I have an iPhone that can turn on the pellet stove to heat our house from anywhere in the world. It will not deliver a baby. . . but there may be an app for that in the future.

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