Five years ago, a Myrtle Beach, N.C. firefighter responded to an emergency call that changed his life.

On November 14, 2011, Marc Hadden and his colleagues responded to a call from a woman seeking help for severe abdominal pains. When the firefighters arrived at the scene, they discovered that the woman was in labor.

“It was a pretty serious call for us,” Hadden said. “We got her on some oxygen, started some IVs and literally as we were getting ready to leave the parking lot in the ambulance, my partner said, ‘We’re about to deliver a baby right here.’ We had no time to prepare. Before we could do anything — we hadn’t even cut her clothes — Gracie came right out. Immediately she was handed to me.”

At the hospital, Hadden learned that the baby’s birth mother was placing her for adoption. Hadden and his wife had been hoping for a third child and took the opportunity.

Two days later, Gracie went home with the Haddens. In March 2012, the Haddens got full custody of Gracie and named her Rebecca Grace Hadden.

Now Gracie is 5 years old and an active kid.

“She’s amazing,” Hadden said. “She takes gymnastics, she’s getting ready to start kindergarten next year at the school where my wife teaches. She’s a pretty remarkable kid.”

Gracie has two older brothers: Parker, 12 and Will, 14.

Gracie’s parents made sure that Gracie knew her birth story.

“We have never hidden it from her,” Hadden said. “If you ask her where she was born, she says, ‘My daddy delivered me in the back of an ambulance.’ She knows the whole story. I wanted her to know as soon as she was old enough to understand. I didn’t want it to be this huge surprise. It still breaks my heart to think of one day having to explain it to her more in depth … because she doesn’t really 100% get it.”

When that time comes, Gracie will have the support of her family.

“She is part of our family and that is absolutely the way it is,” Hadden said. “We love her.”

Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.