A firefighter in Ocala, Florida, was pulling an overnight shift at the station in January when he was awakened at 2 a.m. by an alarm.
He recognized the sound immediately. A newborn had been placed in the building’s Safe Haven Baby Box, a device that allows someone to safely and anonymously surrender a child — no questions asked.
“To be honest, I thought it was a false alarm,” said the firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous to protect his family’s privacy. But when he opened the box, he discovered a healthy infant wrapped in a pink blanket.
That baby would become his daughter, Zoey.
“She had a little bottle with her, and she was just chilling,” he said. “I picked her up and held her. We locked eyes, and that was it. I’ve loved her ever since that moment.”
The firefighter and his wife had been trying for more than a decade to have a baby, and the wheels in his head started turning.
“I didn’t call my wife right away, because I didn’t want to wake her up, but I knew she’d be on board,” he said of his plan. He would go to the hospital with the baby and inquire about adopting her.
At the hospital, the firefighter, who is also a paramedic, wrote a note and left it with Zoey.
“I explained that my wife and I had been trying for 10 years to have a baby. I told them we’d completed all of our classes in the state of Florida and were registered to adopt,” he said. “All we needed was a child.”
When the firefighter finally spoke to his wife, she started crying.
“I was like, ‘Don’t get too excited yet,’” he said. “My biggest fear was that the note I wrote wouldn’t stay with Zoey and she’d be gone. It was a very stressful few days.”
Zoey was placed in the station’s Safe Haven Baby Box on Jan. 2. On Jan. 4, she was home with the firefighter and his wife. The couple adopted Zoey in April. The firefighter said he later learned from the hospital that the baby’s umbilical cord had been tied off with a shoelace.
“The way I found her … this was God helping us out,” he said, adding that it’s difficult not to cry when he tells the story.
He said he’s sharing the story in that it gives Zoey’s biological mother “some closure.”
“We want her to know that her child is taken care of and that she’s loved beyond words,” he said.
There are 148 Safe Haven Baby Boxes in the U.S., and 31 babies have been safely surrendered, according to the organization’s website. The devices are temperature-controlled and feature bassinet-style beds inside.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes Founder Monica Kelsey spoke at a news conference in January, the day that Zoey was surrendered.
“We want to address the parents who legally surrendered this infant. And right now I’m going to talk directly to her or him,” she said at the time. “Thank you. Thank you for keeping your child safe. Thank you for bringing your child to a place that you knew was going to take care of this child. And thank you for doing what you felt was best.”