Baby Rowyn is ‘the perfect thing at the right time’


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DUBOIS — Rowyn Neukam was born at 2:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8.

The baby weighed 6 pounds and 8 ounces, and when his mother held his 20-inch body for the first time inside her delivery room at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, she felt pure joy.

Haley and her husband, Zach, always imagined their little boy would be surrounded by friends and family as he took his first breaths.

As Rowyn’s life began in a messy world grappling with a global pandemic, however, strict visitor restrictions forced their loved ones to physically stay away.

But that didn’t stop them from meeting their little blessing on Day One. Shortly after he was born, Mom pulled out her iPhone and used FaceTime to beam his tiny face to a computer screen set up by family members eagerly awaiting an introduction to their newest relative.

“We made it work,” said Kristi Brinkman, Haley’s mother and Rowyn’s grandmother. “We made a bad situation into a positive, good situation.”

Grandma recalled how she and others were devastated that they couldn’t be in the hospital to welcome Rowyn. Both sides of the family are close, and Haley was also hurt that her mother couldn’t be there.

“It was hard,” recalled Haley, who lives in Dubois. “I need my mom, too.”

Haley was induced three weeks ahead of her due date because of hypertension that developed during her pregnancy. But she knew as long as Zach was there, she’d be OK.

Still, when Kristi and her family members learned that Zach would be the only one allowed to be with Haley on her big day, fear and anxiety overflowed.

“What if she needs me?” Kristi said, remembering questions that ran through her mind. “What if something goes wrong and we’re not there? What’s going to happen? Are those two kids going to be OK? All the what-ifs, the bad scenarios happen.”

Kristi and her husband, Jay, safely gathered with family members while Haley gave birth. They sat collectively in standby inside a makeshift waiting room for news that everything went well.

Not long after Rowyn was born, good news came, and they saw him for the very first time. He came out a healthy boy that Kristi sees as a light.

“He’s the perfect thing at the right time,” she said. “He’s just a blessing to everything that’s going on in the world today, to the family. He’s a blessing for what is going on.”

While reflecting on that first video call, Kristi said she believes the interaction was “actually more of an intimate, I felt like, even more emotional celebration” than what may have taken place in the hospital.

Three days after Rowyn left Memorial Hospital with his parents, Kristi met her first grandchild in-person for the first time. The family is taking social distancing precautions, so they haven’t interacted physically much since then, but Kristi sees him on video calls frequently, and she’s looking forward to spending lots of time with him when widespread COVID-19 precautions are lifted.

“I’m ready to take him to the parks, and for walks, and show him off,” Kristi said. “Right now, I can’t show him off. My husband and I, Friday night, we Zoomed with some friends, and I had to show them pictures and stuff on my phone while they were on Zoom.”

She continued: “But I want them to see him. I want them to be able to hold him.”

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