COVINGTON, La. – Sixteen months after being rescued as a frozen embryo from a hospital flooded by Hurricane Katrina, Noah Benton Markham entered the world Tuesday morning and was greeted by his cheering family.
The 8-pound, 6 1/2-ounce boy was born by Caesarean section at 7:23 a.m. CST at St. Tammany Hospital. He was in good shape, doctors said.
Before the procedure, Rebekah and Glen Markham had decided that if their baby was a boy, he would be named after the biblical builder of the Ark. A girl would have been Hannah Mae — Hannah means "God has favored us."
Relatives gathered around as Glen Markham, grinning proudly, carried the tiny blanket-wrapped bundle topped by a pink-and-blue cap out of the operating room. For a few seconds he tried to make them guess whether the baby was a boy or a girl. Then he said "It's a boy!" to an eruption of cheers and applause.
Rebekah Markham's mother, Lezette Crosby, got on the telephone to another relative: "It's Noah! It's Noah! It's a boy!"
"All babies are miracles. But we have some special miracles," said Wanda Stogner, a cousin of Rebekah Markham.
One of the people who made Noah's birth possible joined the family about shortly after Noah was born and was hugged by both grandmothers.
"I'm the guy who rescued the embryos," said Roman Pyrzak, lab director for The Fertility Institute of New Orleans.
When Katrina struck, the future Noah was one of 1,400 embryos frozen in canisters of liquid nitrogen at a hospital in eastern New Orleans.
Rebekah Markham, 32, had evacuated before the hurricane with their toddler, Glen Witter "Witt" Markham Jr. Her husband, a New Orleans police officer, stayed to work.
Mother and son actually evacuated twice. The first time was to relatives' about a half-hour from their home among 40-foot-tall pine trees in Covington.
But when the storm toppled trees and cut electricity across south Louisiana, that first refuge became a poor place to care for a toddler who had turned 1 only 10 days before Katrina, so they went to Rebekah Markham's sister's home in central Louisiana.
A cell phone text message — "R U OK?" — the day after the storm told her that her husband had survived.
He was stationed across the Mississippi River from flooded parts of the city. But it had its own dangers. One member of his squad was shot in the head on Aug. 29 after confronting looters at a gas station.
Markham, 42, never got his wife's answer to his text query because his phone's battery was dead. "It was about two weeks before I found out that they were OK," he said.
In the meantime, Pyrzak and Dr. Belinda "Sissy" Sartor of the Fertility Institute had led seven Illinois Conservation Police officers and three Louisiana State Police officers to the facility in flat-bottomed boats brought from Illinois.
Witt is also an in-vitro baby. His embryo was created at the same time as Noah's, but it was implanted immediately, while five others were frozen in case of miscarriage.
The Markhams aren't sure if they'll have a third child.
"I thought three would be the ideal number," Rebekah Markham has said. But her medical problems have required bed rest for the first three months of each pregnancy. "And I was even more sick with this one than with Witt."
They also needed a lot of family help to take care of Witt, a boy who never seems to stop running. So any decision probably will be postponed until both children are in school.