He's gone, but his baby brings hope
Michael Rowe, killed in Iraq this spring, should be here, his family knows. Losing him still hurts. But they can't look at his newborn daughter without smiling.
By MARY SPICUZZA
Published July 12, 2006
NEW PORT RICHEY - Rebecca Rowe never expected her husband to be in the delivery room with her.
And when she gave birth Sunday to their baby girl, he wasn't - but for a different reason than the couple had imagined.
Sgt. Michael Rowe was serving in Iraq and didn't know when he would be able to come home. Then, on March 28 - the day before his birthday - he was killed while leading an Army convoy in Rutbah, Iraq.
Rebecca Rowe took a small photograph of her and her husband into the delivery room. She said she knows he was there watching out for his widow and the baby.
"I think that he had more of a way to be here now than he would have if he was in Iraq," Rowe said. "He could be here in spirit."
Their daughter, Nevaeh Elizabeth, was born at 4:05 on Sunday afternoon. She weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces, and was 20 inches long.
The couple chose the name - heaven spelled backward - before Michael Rowe's death.
Nevaeh is one of more than 1,350 children who have had a parent killed while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Department of Defense spokeswoman.
The Rowe family says the Tampa Bay community has made it clear that people are looking out for Nevaeh.
Schools, car dealerships, veterans groups and a local bar have organized fundraisers and donated thousands of dollars to the family.
The money will go toward Nevaeh's education, her mom said.
So many people have donated baby supplies that the Rowes don't think they'll need to buy anything, except for diapers.
Rebecca Rowe, 20, went to Community Hospital in New Port Richey on Friday. Doctors tried to induce labor and gave her medicine to make her dilate, but it didn't work. She couldn't eat.
Finally, doctors suggested a caesarean section.
"She had been through so much," said her mother-in-law, Marcy Rowe. "Two full days of labor, it just was not worth it."
But Nevaeh and mom are now doing fine. The baby doesn't appear to be the silent type.
"As soon as they got her head out, she was crying," Rebecca Rowe said from the telephone in her hospital room. Nevaeh could be heard crying in the background.
"She's crabby," Rowe said. "She doesn't want me to put her down."
The family says the baby has her mom's nose and lips and her dad's cheeks, as well as his arms and legs.
"She's got some muscle definition," Rebecca Rowe said.
Michael was all that his mom, Marcy Rowe, could think about when she held her granddaughter for the first time.
"They brought her down and put her in my arms, and I just cried," she said. "I'm so glad she's here, but it hurts. My baby should be here holding his baby."
Rebecca Rowe recently bought a house near the Rowe family home in New Port Richey, in the same neighborhood where her husband grew up, and is looking forward to bringing the baby home.
Megan Rowe, Michael's sister, will live with her and the baby.
"I just want to be with her," Megan Rowe said. "I don't want her to be lonely.
Michael's father, Dave Rowe, made plastic dog tags that read "It's a girl: Nevaeh Elizabeth Rowe."
The back has Michael's name, his birthday, and the day he died.
Dave still has the two cigars his son sent him from Iraq. They planned to smoke them together after the baby was born.
Marcy Rowe said Nevaeh has helped the family stop crying over her son's death.
"I can't look at her and not smile," she said.
Mary Spicuzza can be reached in west Pasco at 727 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.