Not-So-Famous Firsts: Infant Edition

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This edition of Not-So-Famous Firsts is dedicated to Mangesh's wife Lizzie and Jason's wife Ellen, who are both infanticipating and are slated to deliver their respective bundles of joy on or around September 14. Here’s a “hang in there!” to both them and all the other aching-back and swollen-ankled moms-to-be among our Loyal Readers!

First Baby Born in Antarctica

The first human born on the continent of Antarctica was Emilio Marcos Palma (pictured at age 30), who was born at Argentine army’s Esperanza Base near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula on January 7, 1978. His birth was not happenstance, however; at that time Britain, Chile and Argentina (all signatories to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty) were competing to affirm sovereignty of the icy island. One way for a government to demonstrate its commitment and assert an aura of authority was to populate the land with native-born citizens. Captain Jorge Emilio Palma was the head of the Argentine army detachment at the base and just happened to have a pregnant wife back at home. The Argentinean government airlifted SÍlvia Morella de Palma, who was seven months along, to Antarctica specifically for the purpose of her producing the first natural-born Antarctican citizen.

Baby’s First Ride Home


A lot of infants born prior to the mid-1960s rode home from the hospital cradled in nothing more secure than Mommy’s arms. Today all 50 states have laws regarding child safety seats in automobiles. The very first specialized child car seats appeared on the market in 1898, but the “safety” angle at that time was aimed toward the driver and not Baby. Such “restraints” were little more than a drawstring sack that contained Junior so he didn’t crawl around or flail his little arms and legs and distract the person in the driver’s seat.

In 1933 the Bunny Bear Company introduced a car seat for babies that fastened to the rear seat and elevated Baby so that the driver could keep an eye on him in the rear-view mirror.

First IVF Baby

When the story of Louise Brown’s ground-breaking conception and birth was made public, she was regularly referred to in the media as the world’s first “test tube baby,” despite the fact that she was technically conceived in a Petri dish. Lesley and John Brown of Manchester, England, had spent almost 10 years trying to have a baby with no success, which sent them to a fertility specialist.

It was determined that a 1970 surgery Lesley had undergone to remedy blocked Fallopian tubes had left her infertile. They appealed to Dr. Patrick Steptoe (an OB/GYN) and his associate Robert Edwards (a physiologist), who had been experimenting with in vitro fertilization. The procedure was still extremely experimental (the first attempts at implanting the embryo had resulted in ectopic pregnancies in his volunteer mothers), so the Browns were subject to intense media scrutiny. Louise Joy Brown, healthy and howling, was born on July 25, 1978, via C-section because Lesley had developed toxemia. Dr. Steptoe had the entire procedure filmed, including intrusive camera glimpses into Mrs. Brown’s insides, just to prove to naysayers that her Fallopian tubes were not intact.

In 2007, Louise Brown Mullinder gave birth to a healthy son who was conceived naturally, putting to rest any fears about IVF babies having genetic fertility issues.

First TV Guide Cover Baby

It’s safe to say that just about everybody with a television set in the early 1950s loved Lucy. Shortly after its October 1951 premiere, I Love Lucy became the most-watched program in the United States, and it maintained that distinction during the first four years of its six-year run.

Had it not been for those impressive Nielsen ratings, combined with the tenacity of Desi Arnaz, the series’ star might have been mostly absent (or hidden behind furniture) through much of the second season. Lucille Ball was pregnant with her second child, and even though most adult TV viewers certainly knew where babies came from it was taboo at the time to show a visibly pregnant woman on the small screen. After much behind-the-scenes panic and negotiation the network decided to “allow” Lucy Ricardo to be shown in a family way. Viewers lapped up the so-called “pregnancy episodes” and the show where Lucy gave birth received an amazing 71.8 rating and 92 share when it aired Monday evening, January 19, 1953. (Of course, Lucille Ball, always the trouper, did her part to pique the hysteria by giving birth to Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV earlier that day.)

The writers had already decided early in the season that the Ricardos would have a boy, and thus there were marketing deals for Little Ricky dolls, nursery sets, baby clothes, etc., already in place by the time Lucy was wheeled into the delivery room. When TV Guide published its inaugural issue on April 3, 1953, its cover featured young Desi Arnaz Jr. along with the banner “Lucy’s $50,000,000 Baby.”

First BART Baby

San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) service has been hauling commuters of all ages since 1972, but their youngest rider boarded the train most unexpectedly on July 21, 1996. Bernadette Ortiz went into labor earlier that day, and she and her husband, Steven Ehler, and their 22-month old son William, boarded the train in Richmond with plans to catch a taxi at the South Hayward station to get to St. Rose Hospital. Their car had been stolen recently, but since Bernadette had already had one baby she felt that she was familiar enough with the symptoms to know that they had plenty of time to reach the hospital. Her in utero daughter had other ideas, though, and by the time they were approaching the San Leandro station, Bernadette had reached the moment of truth. Luckily, fellow passenger Ignacio Aceves had recently accompanied his sister to her Lamaze classes, and he stepped in to assist in the unusual birth. Paramedics arrived just as the baby’s head emerged and they completed the task of bringing 7 pound, 2 ounce Stefany AnnMarie Ehler into the world.

BART officials presented baby Stefany with not only a lovely bouquet of flowers, but also a lifetime transit pass.

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September 3, 2010 - 11:05am
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