April Fool’s: Vail woman gives birth on Mt. Elbert | VailDaily.com
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April Fool’s: Vail woman gives birth on Mt. Elbert

Atalanta X. Treem
Daily Hunting Diety
Vail, CO Colorado

14,505 ABOVE SEAL LEVEL, Colorado ” A Vail woman who gave birth while climbing Colorado’s highest 14er says she did so on purpose.

“Climbing 14ers is my life,” Buffy Wheeler said Friday, cradling her newborn daughter. “When I finished climbing all 54 14ers in Colorado, I realized I had nothing to talk about. Around the same time, I found out I was pregnant. I thought, ‘Why not combine my two passions?'”

Shortly after tests confirmed Wheeler’s pregnancy, she asked her doctor what extreme birthing options were available. Avon gynecologist Dr. Bernard Smith said the question confused him.

“I told her that a lot of mothers today are delivering their babies in a bathtub,” Smith recalled. “She called me a sissy and walked out.”

Unwilling to settle for a traditional delivery, Wheeler sought help from Vail Valley Hospital. But she became even more frustrated when staff refused to set her up with a ski-in, ski-out birthing suite.

“We don’t have ski-in, ski-out birthing suites,” hospital director Bruce Brown responded in a phone interview Friday. “In fact, we don’t recommend women engage in strenuous exercise after the second trimester.”

With doctors proving uncooperative, Wheeler searched outside the medical community for a birth plan that challenged her physically.

One morning in January, Wheeler overheard a man in Starbucks bragging about how he climbed Mt. Elbert while drinking a mocha latte.

“I thought, ‘If he can do it with a grande latte, I can do it with a grande belly,” Wheeler recalled. “And I’ll probably beat his time.”

Extreme sports are a passion for Wheeler, 39, and her husband, finance mogul Barton Wheeler.

“We conceived while doing a 90-mile bike race in Hawaii,” Barton Wheeler recalled. “People say, ‘How is that possible?’ I tell them, ‘Use your imagination.'”

When her water broke, Wheeler slipped into an Underarmor hospital gown she had specially made for the birth. She quickly dialed her midwife, three-time Olympic curling champion Gertrude VonWolfenstine.

Halfway to the top of Mt. Elbert, Wheeler burst into tears. She was covered in mud and complaining often about the pain, her midwife recalled. “I haven’t seen a mess like that since Kevin Federline’s last album,” she said.

While most labors last 15 hours, Wheeler’s clocked in at an unprecedented 20 minutes.

“It was epic,” she said.

At the summit, Wheeler gave birth to a healthy, 7-pound baby girl. After slicing the umbilical cord with her Swiss Army knife, the ecstatic mother paused to admire the views.

“There I was, with this beautiful baby in the most beautiful place in the world,” she said. “How many people can say they delivered their afterbirth at 14,000 feet? Talk about an adrenaline rush.”

Since the birth, Wheeler has found herself at the center of controversy. Although Fit Pregnancy dubbed her the Tony Hawk of labor, the National Gynecologists Association spoke out against hiking while giving birth.

Right or wrong, Wheeler has inspired mothers like Kelly Wright, who plans to deliver her son while heliskiing.

“The women of today, we are not our mothers,” the Beaver Creek resident said. “We don’t have to be stuck in a hospital bed just because some doctor says so. We can give birth doing the things we love, whether that’s ice climbing or white-water rafting.”


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