Published in the February 18, 2016 edition

NORTH READING'S first baby of 2016, Jada Rae Eatman, was born on January 26. She is the center of attention of her loving family which includes her mom and dad, Rebecca and Michael, and her big brothers, Micah, 3 (left) and Ellis, 19 months. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

NORTH READING’S first baby of 2016, Jada Rae Eatman, was born on January 26. She is the center of attention of her loving family which includes her mom and dad, Rebecca and Michael, and her big brothers, Micah, 3 (left) and Ellis, 19 months. (Maureen Doherty Photo)


NORTH READING — Rebecca Ann and Michael Eatman of North Reading are the lucky winners of the Transcript’s 10th annual First Baby of the New Year contest.

They welcomed their daughter, Jada Rae Eatman, into the world on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 7:48 a.m. at Winchester Hospital. She is the couple’s third child and first daughter. She weighed a healthy 8 pounds and measured 21 1/2 inches at birth.

Just 10 days old during her press debut, Jada slept contentedly throughout it. Whether she was being held by mom or dad, cuddled by her inquisitive and active big brothers, Micah James, 3, and Ellis Emery, 19 months, or photographed repeatedly, she was unfazed by the attention.

Jada’s middle name is comprised of her mother’s initials, Rebecca Ann Eatman.

“Jada means ‘knowing’ and Rae means ‘grace,’ so her name literally means ‘knowing grace’,” she said.

Their daughter’s arrival was a sweet surprise for the couple.

“We thought we were done with our two boys,” she said. If their firstborn had been a girl, they would have chosen the name Emery, which was Rebecca’s grandfather’s name. After their second son, Ellis, was born, they decided to use Emery for his middle name.

“Then here we are pregnant with another, and also it was a girl, so we were so excited. I liked the name Jada. I haven’t heard it a lot and once I found out the meaning of it – we’re big on meaning for names – it’s perfect for her. She has her own personality already,” said her mom, who describes Jada as very laid back, calm and even-keeled.

MOMMY AND ME TIME. Rebecca Eatman cuddles her newborn daughter, Jada Rae, the winner of this year's First Baby of the New Year contest. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

MOMMY AND ME TIME. Rebecca Eatman cuddles her newborn daughter, Jada Rae, the winner of this year’s First Baby of the New Year contest. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

“She goes with the flow. She let’s her brothers kiss all over her, which they do constantly, which is so sweet. But we have to put a little guard around her or they would just jump on her with love,” she said.

The family is still adjusting to the changes Jada’s arrival has brought. “They have not had a normal nap since she’s been home, so they are still trying to get settled with the newness of having her around, but they just love her. They adore her, really,” Rebecca said of her sons.

The baby is also blessed to have Ron and Kathy Kovacs of Columbus, Ohio, Charles and Lorraine Eatman of New York, N.Y., and Ann and Joe Guetlein of Denver, Colo. as her grandparents.

The couple moved to North Reading last summer and they’re thrilled with the sense of community they’ve discovered here, both in their neighborhood and at their second home at the Flint Memorial Library.

In fact, it was during one of Michael’s frequent visits to the library, while attending a Music with Dara program at the library with his sons shortly after Jada’s birth, that he learned of the Transcript’s First Baby of the New Year contest from library staffers.

He recalled librarian Janice Gulbicki inquiring whether their baby had been born yet. He proudly showed Janice his daughter’s photos and she told him that he must call the newspaper.

“Then she actually came and gave me your number,” Michael recalled. They went upstairs to the children’s room where Youth Services Librarian Danielle Masterson and staff member Teresa Penney also encouraged him to call the newspaper to inquire about the contest in response to a front page story in the Jan. 28 edition requesting assistance from our readers in locating the potential winner.

Masterson later wrote to the newspaper to say: “I’m so glad the library could help you with the first baby of the year contest. The Eatman family is great friends to the library. Janice, Teresa and I all encouraged Michael to call, so I’m glad he did.”

Extensive prize package

Winning the newspaper’s contest was certainly an unexpected bonus for the Eatman’s. When told of the great prize package his family had won from local advertisers who sponsor the newspaper contest each year, Michael laughed and asked more than once if it was joke. Rebecca added, “We’re just overwhelmed with the kindness. I didn’t think they did stuff like this anymore.”

To the couple’s pleasant surprise, it most certainly was not a joke. In fact, the prize package is worth several hundred dollars and included the following items: Abbott Shoe – $25 gift certificate; A Touch of Class – free haircut and blow dry for mom and dad; Advanced Touch Massage Therapy – free half-hour massage for mom; Walmart of North Reading – one car seat for baby; The Savings Bank, North Reading branch – $25 savings account for baby; Horseshoe Grille – $25 gift certificate; Kitty’s Restaurant – $25 gift certificate; The Farm Land, Wakefield – $50 gift certificate; Hilltop Nursery School – complimentary registration certificate, $75 value; Baubles Fine Jewelry, Lynnfield – $25 gift card for mom; and North Reading Transcript – one year gift subscription or extension of subscription for the parents.

Michael, who grew up in the upper west side of New York City, is the Director for Community Life at the Pike School, a pre-K to grade 9 private independent school in Andover.

Rebecca grew up in Columbus, Ohio and the couple met in Michigan where she attended college. “I went to a small school called Spring Arbor University and I studied music ministry. My background is in worship arts and vocal performance.”

Michael lived in Michigan for 10 years and worked at the University of Michigan for five years – the alma mater of Patriot Tom Brady – and he is a big Patriots fan even though his wife and mother-in-law are fans of the Broncos. It made for an interesting rivalry this season, to say the least, especially when GG brought Broncos shirts for her grandsons during a recent visit. “It was a humbling experience,” Michael said.

Growing up in Ohio, Rebecca was a Buckeyes fan, the rivals of the Michigan Wolverines.

Rebecca said, “It’s a fun rivalry. I grew up with seven brothers and one sister so we did a lot of fun college football on Saturdays.” Needless to say, her family was surprised when they heard she was dating “a Michigan man,” she said.

Michael said his work at the Pike School centers around the well-being of the community.

“When we’re dealing with diversity oftentimes we find that we’re looking at only the outside, looking at race, but really in terms of well-being we’re looking at different aspects of religion, gender identification, economics. I feel like diversity is a large continuum we need to explore. It’s not linear – there’s many facets of the work,” he said.

He helps faculty, staff, parents and students navigate these issues and raise the cultural awareness of all community members.

“It’s a predominantly white school, however, there is a fair amount of diversity, non-white students, and we feel as though in the 21st century it’s important for the whole community to know each other and what rich assets everyone brings. I say it’s leadership development, which is really the outgrowth of the consulting work that I do. I was an executive coach and also an inclusion specialist.”

He has devoted his life’s work to help find the answer to the question: “How do people live better together?”

“It’s important to live well together and you can’t do that if you don’t know each other,” he believes.

Although much progress has been made, he said some of the country’s present problems centering around race reveals “what’s always been there. There is certainly progress that has been made and what we’re seeing is the progress that hasn’t been made,” he believes.

Presently, Rebecca is a full time stay at home mom and also manages a consulting company the couple has started.

“Her job is more difficult,” Michael believes, which he said becomes more evident to him on the days he’s working from home because of the multiple aspects of the role.

“We call it the ‘at-home CEO’ because she’s cooking, she’s cleaning, she’s rearing them to be part of society. I really feel like stay-at-home parents need to have a stipend because it is so intense. But she does a great job at it and we’re thankful to be able to do it,” Michael said.

Rebecca worked full time after Micah was born, starting when he was 10 weeks old. “I worked for an adoption agency in Nashville, Tenn. and when we had our second, Ellis, it didn’t really make sense financially for us for me to go back to work. I loved the work and I loved being a part of the working force, but to me, we have this short window when they’re little.”

The differences between values taught at home and those brought home from school are evident even at the preschool level, she said.

“Micah is at school only three days a week, but just the stuff that he brings home from other kids, you’re like, wait a second, where did you learn that? You have to adjust what you have been doing. We believe in God and just trying to rear them up in what we believe how our faith wants them to treat people and to love people, it is definitely 24/7 constant work, but it is just such a joy to be able to do it.”

“I certainly couldn’t do what I’m doing as passionately without a partner whose connected to the work,” Michael said of his wife. Managing their coaching practice, Culture Seven Coaching, based on the Six Seconds theory and program, is a natural fit for her, he said, given her prior background with the adoption agency as well as in the banking and communications fields.

“It’s different dimensions of people and professions. We talk a lot about harnessing individuals’ internal genius to live their best lives,” Michael said.

The challenging part of her husband’s work is that it takes them far away from their families.

“Michael has such a gift for the work that he does,” Rebecca said, adding, “It can only be used in regions or areas that want it. And so we found that in Nashville, it worked and they wanted it. We have to go where people want the work done. It has taken us probably further than we want to be from our family, but we make the most of it. Michael’s great at connecting with people in the communities that we live in.”

Expanding winners’ list

In the first decade of the contest, baby girls have dominated over baby boys, with eight winners being girls. Baby boys were born in 2007 and 2013.

Jada Rae joins this exclusive list of the Transcript’s first baby contest winners: Morgan Kathleen Carroll, born January 5, 2015 at 3:42 p.m.; Alessia Maria Russo, born January 9, 2014 at 1:17 a.m.; Connor Matthew Goshey, born January 3, 2013 at 3:15 a.m.; Lillian Rose “Lilli” Bemister, born Jan. 4, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.; Gianna Maria Ferrante, born Jan. 14, 2011 at 10:39 a.m.; Whitney Angelina Ninomiya, born Jan. 5, 2010 at 6:57 p.m.; Jenna Marie Arsenault, born Jan. 2, 2009 at 11:47 a.m.; Amelia Grace Invencio, born Jan. 7, 2008 at 9:56 a.m., and Finn Rodger, born Jan. 4, 2007 at 11:04 a.m.