As 2020 dawned, Grand Forks, North Dakota, residents Derek and Rachel Goebels were spending a relaxing stay at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa. Rachel was eight months along in her first pregnancy and the two thought they’d return to a favorite getaway spot to enjoy a last hurrah — or, “babymoon” — before the big date a couple weeks down the road.

However, evidently their daughter, Grace, had other plans and decided to make an early entrance into the world. In doing so, she became the first baby of 2020 born in Crow Wing County and the first baby of the new decade.

“We’re tired, but happy,” Rachel said later that afternoon. “It was quick. The staff have been incredible. Everyone has been very supportive and I like the small town atmosphere — like the little hats they give you that some grandma made here. It made you feel like people knew you here.”

“We couldn’t be happier,” Derek chimed in with a chuckle.

Parents Rachel and Derek Goebel talk about their newborn Grace Goebel and how she came to be the first baby born in Crow Wing County in 2020 on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Parents Rachel and Derek Goebel talk about their newborn Grace Goebel and how she came to be the first baby born in Crow Wing County in 2020 on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Grace Elizabeth Goebel came into the world 4 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 2, at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center, in Brainerd, weighing 5 pounds 10 ounces and measuring 18 3/4 inches, all typical numbers for a baby who decided to arrive a month earlier than her anticipated Feb. 2 delivery date.

Happy with come what may, the Goebels didn’t know they were having a daughter until the blessed occasion — in fact, Rachel said they were discussing boy names on the trip down from Grand Forks, where the Goebels reside, to the Brainerd lakes area where they were spending a couple days at Grand View Lodge.

The Brainerd lakes area has been the site of many fond memories and happy occasions for the couple, who got engaged at Grand View Lodge five years ago and they come by at least once a year for a weekend getaway when they can.

While the middle name matches her mother’s own middle name, Rachel said she chose Grace because of its straightforward nature.

“I’ve always liked it. We wanted a name that’s a little more classic and that the kid wouldn’t have a hard time spelling,” Rachel said with a laugh.

“It’s been pretty boring in our pregnancy, so we didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t come out here a couple days and have our babymoon,” Rachel said. “We had a nice dinner yesterday at about 5 o’clock and about 9 o’clock we found out we needed to go to the hospital and so here we are.”

Rachel Goebel holds newborn daughter Grace Goebel Thursday, Jan. 2, at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Rachel Goebel holds newborn daughter Grace Goebel Thursday, Jan. 2, at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Having arrived at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center at 9:30 p.m., Derek ducked out for a quick midnight pit stop at Walmart. He described the impromptu shopping trip to pick up baby supplies, a car seat and other necessities as “the fastest shopping trip ever.”

Looking back, Rachel said, there were signs of early labor, but being a petite 5 feet tall and carrying a baby in its eight month, it was easy to mistake these signs for the usual kicks and shifts and positions little Grace was apt to take over the months.

“We just thought she was a little uncomfortable on the ride up here,” Rachel said. “We didn’t think any further of it. Babies like to move when they like to move.”

For two people accustomed to carefully planning everything — particularly Derek, who’s first thought was, “We’re not ready for this” — Grace’s early arrival was a stunning surprise, but the speed and suddenness of events was actually a blessing, Rachel said.

To be sure, an expectant mother can be anxious about what kind of facilities and hospital staffers are available in a town she’s unfamiliar with, but things progressed so quickly there wasn’t time to be worried. While both parents expected to deliver Grace in Grand Forks — where both have spent careers in health care administrative roles — the Brainerd lakes area proved just as accommodating in the hospital room as it was in the resort suite.

“It actually turned out very good,” Rachel said. “I think it worked out better for us to not be in control. The fact that we didn’t really know, we had to rely on the team, the team worked well together, so we were able to focus on having the baby.”

Parents Rachel and Derek Goebel talk about their newborn Grace Goebel and how she came to be the first baby born in Crow Wing County in 2020 on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Parents Rachel and Derek Goebel talk about their newborn Grace Goebel and how she came to be the first baby born in Crow Wing County in 2020 on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Some takeaways from the milestone of having their first child? One, is to always trust the experts and follow their lead, both Rachel and Derek said, which in their case was especially relevant for the time-honored medical advice to limit travel plans in the final trimester of pregnancy.

“Don’t go on vacation when you’re a month out,” Rachel said. “We went to pregnancy classes. I’ve read tons of pregnancy books. In fact, I worked at a OB-GYN unit years prior. But, for all that, nothing went according to the timeline. It was all so fast. So, you can read all you want, but it can just not matter in the end.”

“Trust the experts,” Derek added. “I’m sure I was excited and nervous and lost — I honestly don’t remember — but once we got here, we felt like we were covered and that we were going to be OK.”

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at gabe.lagarde@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch.