‘A beautiful birth’ as new hospital opens

A cocoon of love welcomes the first baby born at the new UCHealth Greeley Hospital. The midwife and some nurses were pregnant too and 'so excited' to bring a new life into the world.
July 8, 2019
A three-day-old baby sites on a pink blanket with stuffed animals surrounding her.
Annabrissa Espinoza was the first baby born at the new UCHealth Greeley Hospital. She was born on July 3 and posed for photos when she was three days old. Photos by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

At the Espinoza home in Greeley, the first piece of art you see celebrates the family’s “house rules.”

Chief among them: “Know you are loved.”

That love was utterly clear as multiple generations of family welcomed a new baby last week. Both grandmothers joined siblings, cousins and an uncle to dote on little Annabrissa, who was born on July 3.

A couple kisses their newborn daughter.
Francisco and Mariana Espinoza snuggle with their third child, Annabrissa, who was born on July 3.

Before she arrived in the world, Annabrissa also felt a cocoon of love at the hospital where she was born, the new UCHealth Greeley Hospital.

Mariana Espinoza, 28, was the first woman to give birth in the hospital, which is just five minutes from her house. As she and her husband, Francisco Espinoza, 30, walked in the door, a team of nurses greeted them and took them up to the spacious birthing suites.

There, Mariana’s certified nurse midwife, Joanna Sheets, greeted her. Midwives are specially trained to give mothers exactly the kind of labor and birth they want.

A great experience with a midwife

Mariana had given birth to her two older children with the assistance of doctors in Arizona. Bella is now 10, and Javier “Javy,” is 5.

At first, when Mariana learned she could see a midwife during her pregnancy, she didn’t know what to think. So she checked with her dad, who is a family doctor, and her sister, a nurse who is studying for an advanced degree.

A 10-year-old kisses her  new baby sister.
Bella, 10, kisses her little sister.

Mariana’s sister didn’t hesitate for a moment: “Go with a midwife. It’s going to be a really good experience.”

And, said Mariana, her sister was “100% right.”

“At every visit, I was getting hugs and encouragement. She was very, very supportive.”

Mariana said she had many moments during her daughter’s birth when she felt special.

“When we walked in everybody was waiting in the lobby. They said, ‘we are super excited you are here.’ A lot of them were pregnant too,” Mariana said.

“The room was huge. Everyone was really happy and warm and welcoming.”

‘A beautiful birth’

Sheets, who is 24 weeks pregnant with her third child, called Annabrissa’s birth “beautiful” and “perfect.”

Headshot of midwife Joanna Sheets
Certified nurse midwife, Joanna Sheets.

“We were so excited about this first delivery at this brand new facility,” Sheets said. “We had a great team and this couple is lovely and super sweet. It was a textbook delivery. Mariana didn’t have to push that long and she got the royal treatment with a whole team of nurses.

“It was the birth you would hope for anybody to have,” Sheets said.

She said the new hospital is “gorgeous.”

“There are huge windows with lots of natural light. Not only do they have the most amazing, experienced team, but the delivery suites are huge and well equipped with labor balls and lovely tubs in each room. The bathrooms are huge in the event that moms want to labor in water,” Sheets said.

She and her fellow midwives assist mothers with births both at the new Greeley hospital and in Loveland at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies. They see patients at the UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics in Greeley and Loveland.

A special name to honor an aunt ‘in heaven’

Mariana was due on the Fourth of July. She went in for a scheduled appointment at Sheets’ office on July 3 and was already dilating. Her team told her that the new hospital had just opened that morning. If she wished, she could deliver there. Mariana thought that sounded great. She arrived that afternoon and nurses gave her small doses of pitocin, a drug that induces or accelerates labor.

A couple with their two youngest children, a 5-year-old boy and a 3-day-old daughter.
Big brother, Javier “Javy,” age 5, holds his new sister’s hand.

Mariana’s contractions gradually grew stronger and the team offered her an array of pain-reduction options including nitrous oxide or laughing gas, which is not available at all hospitals, and an epidural. Mariana said she appreciated all the choices and the thorough explanations of how each worked. She opted for an epidural.

Annabrissa arrived at 11:07 p.m. just minutes before her official due date. She weighed 7 pounds 3 ounces and is healthy and beautiful with a full head of dark hair.

Two grandmas celebrate a new baby.
Elva McBeth, left, and Monica Preciado, right, gaze adoringly at their new granddaughter, Annabrissa.

Mariana’s mom, Monica Preciado, came for the birth from her home in Arizona. She was with her daughter throughout her labor and loved seeing the strong team of women work together so seamlessly to support her daughter.

“They were really loving with lots of words of encouragement,” said Monica, who the kids call Mama. “It was really emotional.”

Annabrissa’s name also brought more emotion.

Her other grandmother, Elva McBeth, also came to town for the birth. She lives in Texas and is planning to move to Greeley. She stayed with the older children as her son and daughter-in-law headed to the hospital. Before they left, Francisco shared some special news with his mom. The couple knew they were expecting a girl. They were thinking of naming her Annabella.

“Do you know the name of the baby?” Francisco asked his mom, whom the kids call Nana.

She said, “Yes, Annabella.”

And grandmother holds her new granddaughter as her 10-year-old granddaughter kisses her new sister.
Elva McBeth was overwhelmed with emotion when her son told her that her new granddaughter would be named in honor of the daughter Elva lost. Her name was Brissa and she died at age 13 after being hit by a car. Here, Elva cradles new baby Annabrissa as her older sister, Bella, 10, gives her a kiss.

Francisco said, “No, she’s going to be Annabrissa.”

Tears filled Elva’s eyes. She had lost a daughter named Brissa 14 years ago. Francisco’s sister was only 13 when a car ran her over near a movie theater and mall in the Phoenix area.

“She was full of life and always helping everybody. She used to be good with Special Ed kids and was learning sign language,” Elva said.

After the tragic accident, city officials in Arizona built a pedestrian underpass that had been budgeted, but never built. Brissa also served as an organ donor.

“She saved the lives of three people,” Elva said.

A young boy and his grandmother hold a 3-day-old baby in Greeley.
Annabrissa was enveloped with love both at the hospital and at home. Here, her proud uncle, Lewie Willson, holds her as his mom assists.

Francisco said his children know all about his sister.

“Javy always says his Aunt Brissa is in heaven,” Francisco said.

Now, the family can think of her, too, when they see little Annabrissa.

A warm welcome at home

Annabrissa was able to come home from the hospital soon after her birth. She’s breastfeeding and sleeping well and getting loads of attention.

Big sister, Bella, grins as she holds her.

a baby's feet peak out of a gold tutu
Sweet feet.

Javy sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to Annabrissa and looks forward to teaching her how to play thumb wars as soon as she’s old enough. For now, he’s happy to give her a finger to clasp.

“When do I get to hold her?” said Lewie Willson, a younger brother of Francisco, who is just 8 and very proud to be an uncle already.

Annabrissa seems perfectly happy to be passed around from loving arms to loving arms. She’s also posing for plenty of pictures. Her grandmothers found a gold tutu and a sparkly headpiece for some family photos.

The message on Annabrisa’s onesie summed up how everyone was feeling: “Together is my favorite place.”


About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Coloradan. She attended Colorado College thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summers in college.

Katie is a dedicated storyteller who loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as an award-winning journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and at an online health policy news site before joining UCHealth in 2017.

Katie and her husband, Cyrus — a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer — have three adult children and love spending time in the Colorado mountains and traveling around the world.