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Boy is born from embryo rescued during Katrina

Baby Noah hailed as a miracle in La.

Rebekah Markham with the boy whose frozen embryo nearly thawed in the storm. Rebekah Markham with the boy whose frozen embryo nearly thawed in the storm. (Alex brandon/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

COVINGTON, La. -- Rescued from a great flood while he was just a frozen embryo in liquid nitrogen, a baby boy entered the world yesterday and was named after the most famous flood survivor of all: Noah.

Noah Benton Markham -- 8 pounds, 6 1/2 ounces -- was born to 32-year-old Rebekah Markham by caesarean section after growing from an embryo that nearly defrosted in a sweltering hospital after Hurricane Katrina.

"All babies are miracles. But we have some special miracles," said Wanda Stogner, a cousin of the mother.

Relatives gathered around New Orleans police officer Glen Markham as the proud 42-year-old father carried the tiny, blanket-wrapped bundle topped by a pink-and-blue cap out of the operating room at St. Tammany Parish Hospital. For a few seconds he tried to make them guess whether the baby was a boy or a girl.

Then he announced, "It's a boy!" to an eruption of cheers and applause.

Two weeks after Katrina hit, law officers used flat-bottom boats to rescue the Markhams' embryos and about 1,400 other ones stored in tanks of coolant at New Orleans' Lakeland Hospital.

The tanks had been topped off with liquid nitrogen and moved from the first floor to the third as the storm drew near, but the hurricane swamped the hospital with 8 feet of water and knocked out the electricity.

The Markhams had decided that if their baby was a girl, she would be named Hannah Mae, Hannah meaning "God has favored us." A boy would be named after the biblical builder of the Ark -- an idea that came from Rebekah Markham's sister-in-law.

"That is the best name!" said Ramon Pyrzak, lab director for the Fertility Institute of New Orleans, where the Markhams created embryos from their sperm and eggs after nearly a decade trying to have a baby.

Noah's brother, 2-year-old Glen Witter "Witt" Markham Jr., whose embryo was created at the same time as Noah's but was implanted immediately in 2003, stood on his mother's hospital bed and leaned forward to give the baby a gentle kiss.

"So soft!" Witt said.

If the embryos had thawed, each woman who wanted a baby would have had to undergo another expensive round of fertility drugs, egg harvesting, and in vitro fertilization. Rebekah Markham estimated that her first pregnancy cost $12,000.

"It's amazing that he was frozen," Glen Markham said as he gazed through the nursery window at the squalling newborn. "I thought the only thing you could freeze was a crab."