A tiny island community off the coast of Maine is celebrating its first baby born on home soil in over 93 years.
Baby Azalea Belle Gray is the sixth child born to island residents Aaron Gray and Erin Fernald Gray. The Fernald family goes back several generations on Islesford, known as Little Cranberry Island by the people who live there.
Baby Azalea’s great-grandfather, lobsterman Warren Fernald, was likely the last baby born there over nine decades ago. Fernald was born in July 1927 and passed away in 2005.
Talking to The Epoch Times, the 40-year-old mom said: "My children are the 8th generation of lobstermen from the Cranberry Isles. My three oldest kids have Maine Student Lobsterfishing licenses and they are learning with my father aboard his boat, the Wind Song."
It was their boat Wind Song that provided transport for Erin's midwives when she went into labor on Sept. 26.
"We have used the same wonderful midwives for our past four births, Julie Havener and Chris Yentes," Erin said, "which made me even more comfortable with doing an island home birth."
"She is 8 pounds 9 oz and 21.5 inches long, and has five very excited big siblings," she added.
Gray and her husband had contingency plans to sail to nearby Mount Desert Island if they needed hospital assistance, but the birth went smoothly.
Baby Azalea would have been considered an island resident even if she were born on the mainland, according to Bangor Daily News, but for the tight-knit Islesford community, her birth on home turf is extremely significant.
"It’s exciting," Cranberry Isles’ town clerk Denise McCormick told the outlet.
McCormick said that the island's younger demographic has been gradually increasing in recent years. In 2019, enrollment at the town's two K-8 schools totaled 23 students; in the eight years preceding, enrollment had totaled an average of 16.
"We had a little baby boom," McCormick said.
Erin didn’t plan to be the first woman to give birth on Islesford since 1927. It was only after baby Azalea was born that Erin discovered the last birth on the island had likely been her grandfather’s.
The grandfather's birth was "the last one all the old people can remember having heard of," she told the outlet.
Erin and Aaron Gray run a small grocery store at Northeast Harbor. Erin raises vegetables, flowers, and herbs from her home garden to sell.
The Grays are not intending to have any more children, but Erin has said she would be happy for other families to welcome babies on the island, kids that her own children could befriend and grow up with.
"It’s a tight community," she told Bangor Daily News. "I hope someone else has a baby out here."
Erin's midwife, Julie Havener, agrees.
"I’ve witnessed Erin meet every hard point in pregnancy and labor with vigor, excitement, trepidation, resolve, commitment, surrender ... She gets things done," Havener wrote.
"The sweetness of witnessing their 5 other kids come in to meet their new baby? Priceless."