Matter of seconds playfully disputed in battle of firsts


January 02, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

The ways of the world unfolded with uncommon speed for Barbara Grace Dash and Kayla Ann Conner yesterday.

Born in the first minute of 1993, they were immediately immersed in controversy. They were thrown into competition. They were bathed in television lights.

One of them appeared to be the first Maryland baby of 1993.

But which one?

Johns Hopkins University Hospital summoned the media and asserted its claim on behalf of Barbara Grace Dash, 8 pounds, 2 ounces.

In keeping with her last name, Ms. Dash emerged at midnight plus 20 seconds -- a time which seemed likely to be good enough for first place in the first-born derby. In keeping with her middle name, Barbara Grace Dash endured the media ensuing media onslaught without a murmur.

Meanwhile, the agents of Kayla Ann Conner were asserting a counter claim. She had edged Ms. Dash by a full 20 seconds, according to officials at Francis Scott Key Hospital, where she was born.

"Her head was delivered as the ball went down on Times Square," said Dr. Deidre K. Spicer, who produced the official document with midnight listed as the time of birth.

Others were less certain.

Kimberly Conner, the child's mother, said she was not a reliable witness: "I was out of it."

Lloyd Conner, the child's grandfather said the child was born 44 seconds into 1993. Michael Conner, the child's father, says he, too, thought Kayla Ann -- 5 pounds, 8 ounces -- was second.

"They had one at Hopkins that beat us by 10 seconds," he said. He says he was told this in the delivery room.

That's exactly what Frank Dash, father of Barbara, was hearing several miles west of Francis Scott Key.

It seems the two hospital staffs are acquainted and were in contact by telephone, knowing they were in a race of sorts for first-of-the-year honors. "They were having a lot of fun," Mr. Dash said. At first, he said, there was no question that his daughter had won her first race.

"Barbara came out and a minute or so later the other baby was born. Now they're saying it was midnight on the dot," he said.

Mr. Dash said his daughter was continuing a Dash family tradition. He had been born on Flag Day, his brother was born on Armistice Day and Barbara arrived on New Year's Day. If she had been first at birth, did that augur well for other more purposeful competitions?

"I think I'll use that psychology on her," he said.

He said he hoped she might someday be a famous sports broadcaster, but he said it gave him a good feeling to know modern women can be anything they want to be -- up to and including president. Any vocation would be fine with him, he said. He had specified broadcasting because former President Richard Nixon had observed that sports figures tended to be more popular than presidents, more widely recognized and, Mr. Dash added, "probably more trusted."

The child's mother, Miriam, 27, said she was "very tired and very happy."

At Francis Scott Key, Kayla Ann's mother, Kimberly, 24, admitted that the possibility of an additional tax deduction for 1992 had crossed her mind.

At one point she had said to the nurses, "It's not going to be here by midnight is it?" And they said probably not. "I was being greedy," she said -- though she seemed not the least disappointed.

Her husband, a 23-year-old meat cutter at Savon Foods, conceded that he had hoped his first child would be a boy -- "to play baseball with and all that stuff." But with Kayla Ann's arrival his thoughts were all focused on her.

"Shouldn't she be wearing her little hat?" he asked his wife.

What did he wish for his daughter?

"We want her to make something of herself," he said, "and not get in trouble like I did." Both he and his wife said they worried about the dangerous world their daughter would grow up in: the threat of drugs and, Mrs. Conner said, "kids getting shot for nothing at all."

Both families said the honor of being Maryland's first-born was welcome but largely immaterial. "I was just rooting for safe and healthy," said Mr. Dash, "She was 10 days overdue."

The Dashes live in Bowie, the Conners in Gardenville.

As reporters were leaving Johns Hopkins for Francis Scott Key, Mr. Dash said, "Tell them we wish them the very best."

"That's how we feel," said Mr. Conner when the greeting was delivered.

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