New Year's Baby Highlights Mom’s Sober Year

By Kelly Burch 01/04/19

The mother of the child, who is in early recovery, said that her daughter’s birth was the final step in what had been “a life-changing year.”

the new year's baby that was the highlight of a sober mom's year

Babies born on January 1 are always heralded as symbols of new beginnings, but one New Year's baby’s arrival was especially powerful, signifying the year that her mom got sober. 

Ayla Rodriguez, the first baby born in Portage County, Ohio, arrived on Jan. 1 at 12:56AM to Nicole Mansell, according to The Record-Courier.

Mansell had gone to the hospital because she thought she had the flu, and was surprised when her daughter arrived four weeks early. She said that her daughter’s birth was the final step in what had been “a life-changing year.”

The mother found out that she was pregnant earlier in 2018, when she was in jail. She said that learning she was expecting prompted her to take her sobriety seriously, although she already had plans to stop using drugs. 

“The way I looked at it, she was inside me, and I wasn’t going to destroy her,” Mansell told The Record Courier. “Finding out that I was pregnant with her helped me stay on the right track.”

It was a meaningful challenge in a state that has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, although Mansell didn’t elaborate on the specifics of her history of substance abuse. She completed one rehab program after learning about her pregnancy and is now in an after-care program.

Although she had the option to participate in the county’s drug-court program, she chose not to, saying that the program’s requirements were too much to handle during her pregnancy. Instead, she is on probation from the charges that had her in jail early in the year. 

Mansell had been getting extra care during her pregnancy in order to prevent pre-term labor, although she didn’t say if the complication stemmed from her drug abuse. On New Year's Day, she was ready to start 2019 with her new daughter, in recovery, hoping that the newborn’s quiet streak would continue.  

“Seriously, she doesn’t cry,” she told the Courier.

Ayla was born weighing 5 pounds, 1 ounce, and was 18 and three quarters inches long. She was too small to fit in special New Year's garb that a nurse at the hospital had prepared for the first baby of the year. 

Mansell has another daughter, Ariana, who is 11. She says that Ariana was a small baby and was born early, just like Ayla. Ayla’s father, Joe Rodriguez, has three other children: brothers Cayden, Kilynn and Carson Rodriguez, ages 6, 5 and 2.

“I’ve made it known that my children are going to know this child,” Rodriguez said. “She’s their sister.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.