The first baby born in 2014 will make the news.
The child will be shown on television and featured in the newspaper. The earliest arrival on the calendar is a fresh symbol of a new beginning to the new year, just as it was 30 years ago on Jan. 1, 1984.
Elizabeth Bowen Reichert came into the world that day at 12:21 a.m. She weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces. Her parents were convinced their firstborn was going to be a boy. They had already picked the name, Jacob, after her great-grandfather.
It would be another three years before her father, attorney Robert Reichert, would start his political career as a member of Macon City Council. He would later serve 10 years in the Georgia Legislature and has been mayor of Macon since December 2007.
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Besides being his daughter’s 30th birthday, Wednesday also marks the birth of the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government. Or, as first lady Dele Reichert calls it, her husband’s “new baby.”
Bowen has spent the last 30 years making her mom and dad very proud. She was salutatorian of Central High School’s Class of 2002 and was crowned homecoming queen at the University of Georgia in 2005. She is a third-generation graduate of Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law. This past May, she married Matt Shoemaker. They met in law school. She is now an attorney with Alston & Bird in Atlanta.
If she had been born on her due date, Jan. 6, 1984, she would never have made a splash on the front page of The Telegraph before she was 2 days old. She was pictured in her mother’s arms, next to an awkward, six-word headline: “Baby greets fame with tiny burp.”
Robert and Dele married in 1982, the year after he graduated from law school. They lived as newlyweds in a tiny house on North Mumford Road.
Without peeking at an ultrasound, they were fairly certain their baby was going to be a boy. After all, Robert was one of three sons. They had two nephews. Everyone noticed the way Dele was “carrying” the baby during her pregnancy, and the old wives’ tales prevailed. She had “boy” written all over her. No closing arguments needed.
By Dec. 27, Dele didn’t care either way. She was just ready to pack her bag for the hospital.
“When I went to the doctor on Tuesday, he told me to come back if I hadn’t gone into labor by Friday,” Dele said.
But Robert wasn’t keen on inducing labor. “I didn’t want to orchestrate the birth of our child,” he said. (Yes, even if it did mean an early tax break.)
Nor was he swayed from their Saturday tradition of having breakfast at the Nu-Way on Hillcrest Boulevard. They barely had time to finish their grits and toast on the morning of Dec. 31 before Dele announced she was having labor pains.
After they returned home, Robert began timing the contractions. “We had taken the Lamaze classes,” he said. “I thought the contractions were way too erratic for her to be in labor.”
By 7 p.m., they had ditched their New Year’s Eve plans and headed for Coliseum Hospital. (To illustrate how times have changed, they did not have a cellphone. Robert stopped to get quarters for the pay phone in the hallway outside the maternity ward.)
In the delivery room, the Reicherts caused quite a stir. There has always been friendly competition between Coliseum Hospital and The Medical Center of Central Georgia in the race to claim the city’s first baby of the new year.
There was plenty of pulling and pushing. The nurses were pulling for the Reichert baby to hold out until a few minutes after midnight. Then, once the hands of the clock were on the other side, they were urging Dele to “Push! Push! Push!”
Bowen’s birth helped the Coliseum snap a three-year, first-baby winning streak by the Medical Center. Years later, when she was a contestant in the Miss Cherry Blossom Pageant, Bowen told the judges how honored she was to have been the first baby of 1984.
Afterward, another contestant came up to her. “I’ve been looking for you all my life,” she said, laughing. (The young lady had missed out on the notoriety after being born later that same Jan. 1 morning.)
Bowen has enjoyed celebrating her special day with fireworks, parades, resolutions and bowl games. And she appreciates having black-eyed peas and collard greens with her birthday cake.
Her brother, Thomas, was born in October 1986. When she was 14, Bowen had to learn to share her ceremonious birthday within the family after her cousin, Ben Monfort, was also born on New Year’s Day.
She admits being anxious on her Sweet 16 birthday on Jan. 1, 2000. “It was Y2K,” she said. “I didn’t think the world was going to end, but I was worried about all the computers crashing.”
Bowen said she is looking ahead to her 30th year with hope and promise. She is a new bride with a new career. Her father will be presiding over a new government with great optimism for what is now the fourth-largest municipality in the state.
“I’m happy to share my birthday with Macon-Bibb,” she said.
Since her mom is the first lady, then she is the first daughter.
Reach Gris at 744-4275.