Miracle Baby is St. Mary’s First of 2018
August McLemore St. John, son of Caroline and Robert St. John of Madison, is a miracle baby.
It’s not just that “Mac” is the first baby born in 2018 at St. Mary’s Family Birth Center. He’s a miracle baby because just the fact he was conceived is almost unprecedented. Early in Caroline’s pregnancy, when her doctors searched the literature for a similar case, they found almost nothing.
That’s because Caroline is a cancer survivor. Her chances of becoming pregnant were way down in the range of zero.
“My oncologist, Dr. Morgan McLemore, didn’t say it was impossible that I could have a baby, but he said it was tremendously, tremendously, tremendously unlikely,” Caroline says.
That assessment came in 2010. Caroline, a native of Conyers, had been rushed from her home to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta with alarming symptoms. Within 15 minutes, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare type of blood cancer that is extremely rare in women her age.
“I was diagnosed on a Saturday. They told me on Sunday I’d be starting chemotherapy immediately. I believe that’s why I’m still alive, because we began treatment so soon,” she says.
But the price of saving her life was the very high likelihood that the chemo would leave her infertile. She and Robert didn’t blink. They would find a way to adapt.
For seven months, she was in and out of the hospital. Her family rallied around her. Robert quit his job to become her primary caregiver. Her hair fell out. In 2011, she was declared cancer-free. When her hair grew back, they were married.
“I couldn’t do cancer and a wedding at the same time,” she says with a laugh.
Caroline was already a teacher. When she was well enough to return to work and Robert’s caregiving days were over, he decided to go into teaching, too.
“I thought, if we couldn’t have children of our own, I could still help raise the next generation by becoming a teacher,” he says. Today, both work at Lake Oconee Academy. She teaches English; he teaches history. He smiles as he says she is always editing semicolons out of his writing.
A big moment in their lives came in February 2016. For the fifth year in a row, Caroline was declared cancer-free. It was a major milestone.
A bigger moment came a few months later. As the end of the school year approached, Caroline began experiencing nausea and fatigue. Their first thought was alarming: cancer had returned. They wasted no time getting to a doctor. The cause of her new symptoms astonished them, their family, and her oncology team.
“Me showing up pregnant is as shocking as Robert showing up pregnant,” she says. “But the doctors and staff at Women’s Healthcare Associates have been awesome. They said the chemo wouldn’t affect my pregnancy, and since I did not have radiation therapy or surgery, there was no reason to worry.”
And so it came to pass, that on New Year’s Day 2018, at 7:42 a.m., little Mac came into the world weighing 8 pounds, 14.9 ounces, as St. Mary’s Baby New Year.
But wait: this isn’t the story’s happy ending.
Every Bulldog fan in America knows what else happened on Jan. 1, 2018: The Georgia Bulldogs beat the Oklahoma Sooners in double overtime, 54-48, to win the Rose Bowl and advance to the college national championship game. The St. Johns are huge Bulldog fans because Caroline’s father, Wayne Ingle, played on Coach Vince Dooley’s very first team at Georgia.
“Coach Dooley and Loran Smith have called and texted Dad and held him up in prayer through my cancer and my pregnancy,” Caroline says. “That whole team has stayed in touch, and they’ve been cheering for us. On the day Mac was born, Dad walked in and read a text from Coach Dooley congratulating us.”
“>Of course, the edge-of-the-seat game was on in their room in St. Mary’s Family Birth Center. “Mac cried every time Oklahoma took the lead, and settled down every time Georgia was ahead,” Robert notes. “He is their newest fan.”
“This has been a wonderful experience,” Caroline says. “The Family Birth Center is beautiful, and our doctors and nurses have been so caring and helpful. We could not have asked for better.
“I would tell anyone to go to St. Mary’s,” Robert adds.
The family will go home soon, starting the next chapter of their lives, a chapter they never expected. And there’s someone they can’t wait to introduce Mac to, someone for whom Mac’s birth has special meaning because it is the rarest of good outcomes: his namesake, Caroline’s oncologist, Dr. McLemore.