Richelle Sandra Marie Bonnie Shiner sure knows how to make an entrance!
The week-old infant arrived earlier than expected – just under 33 weeks – and her birth at 12:39 a.m. on January 1, 2015, made her not just the first baby born in Newfoundland and Labrador – but also the first in the country.
Her parents, Sandra and Rick, live in Springdale, NL, but due to complications with the pregnancy, had to be within 15 minutes of the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor from December 22, 2014, until the baby was due to arrive – which happened a lot sooner than expected!
As Sandra had placenta previa, she was unable to deliver naturally as it could have endangered both the her own and her baby’s life. A 15-minute drive to the hospital – and an emergency Caesarean section later – Richelle appeared – all 4 lbs 8 ¼ ounces of her.
“I was pretty concerned about possible medical complications, and they’d given me something to help me relax during surgery, so I didn’t actually hear her first cry,” Sandra said. “But her father attended her birth, and he held her up by my face. I said: ‘you’re just like your Daddy, and Mommy loves you.’ Then I passed out!”
A few hours later, baby Richelle was airlifted to the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John’s, and placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Sandra and Rick followed a couple of days later, when Sandra was well enough to travel.
Richelle’s name is spelled to reflect her father Rick, who cried when his daughter was born and called her ‘Daddy’s little girl.’
Her parents are overwhelmed and extremely grateful to have a girl, as she is the fifth and last child for the family – and the only girl. The pregnancy itself was a surprise; but even more special to Sandra is that her surprise New Year’s baby was actually born on her own birthday.
“She was coming one way or another that day –and in doing so, she gave me a birthday gift I won’t ever forget!”
Even when multiple ultrasounds showed she was having a girl, Sandra wouldn’t really believe it – and kept asking the doctors to check and make sure. It wasn’t until she changed Richelle’s first diaper a couple of days after she was born, that the realization fully set in.
Richelle will stay in the Janeway until she starts to gain weight, possibly for another month or so. But she’s doing well, and to everyone’s surprise, has begun to breastfeed – somewhat unusual for such a tiny baby.
Meanwhile, Richelle’s big brothers – R.J., Boyd, Brent and Byron – can’t wait to get her home to Springdale. Byron, who is 17, was a preemie himself – so he feels a special bond with her.
But before she has a chance to be shared with her older brothers, Richelle will be shared with the rest of the country. At just five days old – this New Year’s Baby had her first photo shoot – as the cover girl for this week’s Maclean’s magazine!
As she was basking in the birth of her first baby girl, it was Maclean’s who told Sandra she’d also given birth to the first Canadian baby for 2015.
“As we were planning for her birth, I had finally ‘told her’ to pick her own date, so I was just excited enough about sharing my birthday with her,” Sandra says with a laugh. “Because she was premature, the new year’s baby never came into my mind! It still hasn’t sunk in….all I’m thinking is ‘I got my baby girl’ – everything else is just a bonus.
It’s a safe bet a lot of Maclean’s magazines will find their way into Sandra and Rick’s families. Sandra says she plans to keep one for Richelle, and give it to her when she gets old enough to understand all the unexpected and amazing circumstances of her birth.
“It’s so special – something for her to look back on when she’s older,” Sandra added. “She came into the world with a bang – and let herself be known to everyone!
“I hope she changes the world; but whatever she wants to be, I’ll be by her side 100 per cent. I’m going to tell her not to settle for less than she deserves – because anything worth having is worth waiting for.”
Like a baby girl! ■
This story was written by Deborah Collins, a communications manager with Eastern Health. She is based in St. John’s.