It’s common for people to be named after someone special in their life, but the story behind Fiona Shephard’s name might be the best one ever.
Rather than being inspired by a family member or close friend, this baby girl’s parents named her after a famous hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo. Unusual as that may sound, even Fiona’s parents were surprised by this perfect last-minute decision.
Growing up, Kerbe Shephard loved the Cincinnati Zoo. She was excited to take her own children there one day, but that plan was delayed after she and her husband David moved to Florida. Even though their 3-year-old son Bryce wasn’t able to visit the zoo, it just so happened that a local library had books all about their most famous resident: Fiona the hippo.
Born in 2017, Fiona was six weeks premature. Her chances of survival seemed grim at first, but thanks to the love and care of the zoo staff, she is now 4 years old and loving life! That’s why the Shephard family had to visit the zoo ASAP after moving back to Ohio.
“She is such a success story, and we fell even more in love with her when we met her at the zoo. Every time we have seen her, she has been active, swimming, and loving on her mama!” Kerbe said. “The last time we were there, Bryce said, ‘Mommy, I could stay here and watch Fiona ALL day!'”
Some kids are upset when they find out they’re getting a new sibling, but Bryce was excited from the start. In fact, he even took an interest in the naming process. His suggestion? Fiona, of course!
“Bryce was so excited to tell me when I got home from work that he knew the perfect name for his baby sister,” his mom said. “My husband and I laughed, ‘OK, buddy! That sounds great… we’ll add it to the list!’ — knowing that we had other plans for names and we certainly wouldn’t name our daughter after a hippo.”
On July 4, the Shephard family and some friends visited the zoo. Everyone was having a lovely time when Kerbe started to experience painful contractions. At first, she blew them off as false labor pains, but once the pain started coming every three minutes, it was time to go to the hospital.
Kerbe wasn’t due for over a month, making the timing of her labor all the more urgent. Fortunately, despite being born early, their baby was relatively healthy at 5 pounds and 19 inches long.
The first time Kerbe held her, she couldn’t get over the way her daughter wiggled her eyes open and stared into her own. That’s when it hit her: Their story was strikingly similar to Fiona the hippo’s!
“She knew my voice and was comforted by her Mama — again, just like the beautiful bond between Fiona the hippo and her mother,” Kerbe said. “We also knew at that moment her name couldn’t be anything besides Fiona. It just FIT; it was fate.”
Along with going into labor prematurely at the zoo, like Fiona the hippo’s mom, Kerbe noticed their babies’ similar health journeys. Just as the baby hippo went through health complications, Fiona the human had some of her own.
“It was confirmed that she was born with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome,” Kerbe explained. “With this can come a plethora of complications, but Fiona has proven to be strong and healthy.”
Months later, Fiona’s family was finally able to introduce her to her hippo namesake. The infant may have been asleep for most of the trip, but it was an amazing meeting nonetheless.
“We are so in love,” Kerbe said. “We hope this story brings joy to someone and grows awareness for the Down syndrome population, not as a negative connotation or something to feel ‘sorry’ about… but to realize the potential of these awesome individuals! The sky is the limit for all as long as they are given the opportunity to reach for the stars.”
We couldn’t agree more! Share this story to celebrate the beautiful stories of Fiona and Fiona.
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