‘A magical experience’ as first baby is born in Highlands Ranch

June 24, 2019
A mom hugs her newborn daughter, the first baby born in Highlands Ranch, CO.
Elésha Burford snuggles with her new baby, Eloise, the first baby born in Highlands Ranch. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

When Elésha Burford gave birth to her first daughter two years ago in Nebraska, a rushed C-section left her frightened, in pain and traumatized.

Fortunately, the birth of her second baby brought her another healthy baby girl and the opposite experience.

“I had this overwhelming sense of peace,” Elésha said of the birth of Eloise Burford, who arrived on June 18 weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces.

a newborn baby snoozes wearing a pink bow. Wrapped in a pink blanket, Eloise Burford was the first baby born in Highlands Ranch, CO
Eloise Burford was born at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital at 8:16 a.m. on the first morning the hospital opened. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

When her first daughter was born, doctors whisked her away immediately. Her husband had to follow and Elésha was left scared and alone.

This time, the anesthesia worked perfectly and doctors placed Eloise on Elésha’s chest immediately so the two could start cuddling and bonding right away.

Take a tour or meet with a birth navigator

Are you interested in giving birth at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital?

Click here to learn more about taking a tour.

Call or email the Birth Center to meet with a nurse navigator to go over your plans in advance. Call 720.516.3008 or email [email protected]. Daytime, evening and weekend appointments available. Visits last approximately one hour.

“It was a magical experience,” said Elésha.

Eloise was the first baby born at the newly opened UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital on the first morning it opened. After a flag-raising ceremony, the doors to the hospital officially opened at 5:30 a.m. and Miss Eloise was born at 8:16 a.m. That meant that Elésha and Doug Burford had a surplus of doctors and nurses doting on them and their new baby girl.

Eloise also has the distinction of being the very first baby born in Highlands Ranch, a community of nearly 100,000 people southwest of Denver, which was established in 1981, but never until now has had its own hospital.

New sweet memories to replace those from a tough first birth

The Burfords were living in Nebraska when Elésha’s water broke 2½ years ago when she was 37 weeks pregnant. It turned out that their older daughter, Hadley, had wedged herself into the breach position instead of being head down. So, Elésha’s doctors decided she needed an urgent C-section. They gave her anesthesia, but unfortunately, it didn’t take effect fully before doctors started cutting into her belly.

Elésha felt excruciating pain, but thankfully Hadley was healthy.

Family photo with older daughter and new baby, the first baby born in Highlands Ranch, CO
Big sister, Hadley Burford, gently holds little sister, Eloise’s hand with parents, Doug and Elésha admiring their two girls. Eloise became the first baby ever born in Highlands Ranch after her birth on June 18 at the new UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

When Elésha learned she was expecting a second baby this month, she was understandably nervous about a second C-section.

Her obstetrician, Dr. James Lingle, urged her to consider the new Highlands Ranch Hospital and meet with nurses and birth navigators in advance to be sure she could have an entirely different birth experience this time.

Elésha visited the hospital for a private tour and found sparkling new birthing suites, with views of the Rockies to the west, along with a team of experienced nurses and doctors.

“There were eight or 10 nurses with smiles on their faces. Hadley was carrying the lactation baby around and she was the center of attention,” Elésha said.

She knew immediately that she had found the right place to bring a new baby into the world.

‘A night and day experience’

On the morning of Eloise’s birth, Elésha was nervous at first, but thrilled with the team that tended to her like a V.I.P.

Lingle is the medical director for the hospital and the director of anesthesia also came in to be sure Elésha’s spinal block worked perfectly.

“You have four obstetricians, three anesthesiologists and a room full of registered nurses. This is going to be the safest C-section ever,” the director told Elésha.

Elésha and Doug Burford admire daughter Eloise, the first baby ever born in Highlands Ranch, CO.
Elésha and Doug Burford admire daughter Eloise, the first baby ever born in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Coincidentally, even though the C-section had been scheduled for the 18th in advance, Elésha started experiencing contractions that morning. It seemed that Eloise had gotten the memo about her big day.

“It was totally meant to be,” Elésha said of Eloise’s birthday.

Once the team had set up the spinal block, they reassured Elésha that there was no rush.

“Time is on our side,” the anesthesiologist said.

A short time later, the team checked with Elésha.

“What do you feel right now?” they asked.

Doug Burford with his two daughters, Hadley and newborn, Eloise, the first baby born in Highlands Ranch
Doug Burford with his two daughters, Eloise, left, and Hadley, right. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

“A little pinch,” Elésha responded.

That was perfect because she had a large clamp sitting on her belly and barely felt it.

Lingle and his assistants started the C-section.

Elésha held Doug’s hand and cried tears of joy, thrilled that they would be welcoming a second baby to their family. Elésha felt safe and full of joy.

“This is it,” she said to her husband. “It’s finally here.”

And thankfully, she got the second birth experience she wanted, one that hopefully could begin to suppress the traumatic memories of the first.

“It was a night and day experience. This was a cakewalk,” Elésha said. “It was all I wanted, all I needed, a peaceful, positive experience.”

Eloise arrived at 39 weeks, 4 days, a full-term beauty.

“They took her out, clamped the cord and brought her to my chest to have her skin-to-skin immediately…I was able to have her there for quite some time.”

The miracle of bringing new babies into the world

Elésha’s primary nurse on the day of the birth was Monica Gonzales.

An experienced labor and delivery nurse, like the rest of the team, she was thrilled to be part of the Burfords’ big day.

“It was awesome. They’re such a lovely couple. It was so nice to have Elésha as our first patient ever,” Gonzales said.

She had met Elésha in advance and knew about the trauma of her first birth. So, she stayed close throughout this birth to be sure Elésha was comfortable.

“I was able to focus entirely on her,” Gonzales said. “Giving birth is always a nerve-racking experience. She was very open about being nervous, rightfully so.

“Everybody just did their best to calm her. The overall experience was amazing. It was amazing to make it amazing for her and for Doug,” Gonzales said.

The Highlands Ranch team got a chance to give the family a do-over.

And, said Gonzales, every birth is a miracle.

“That’s why we do what we do. These are the moments that labor and delivery nurses live for,” she said. “It never gets old, that moment when there’s a new life that comes into the world.”

Lingle said the care Elésha received is exactly what Highlands Ranch Hospital aims to provide each patient.

“We’ve established an extraordinary and caring approach to patient care,” he said.

Hadley Burford gets a kiss from her mom as Elésha Burford holds Eloise, the first baby ever born in Highlands Ranch, CO.
Hadley gets a kiss as her mom holds Eloise. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Every mom can meet with birth navigators and do tours and classes before they deliver.

“They’ll outline your plan with you. We’ve have experienced staff and spectacular care,” Lingle said.

New moms will receive support from lactation experts in the hospital and can do virtual follow up appointments with those same pros if they’re home and having breastfeeding challenges.

“It’s a continuum of extraordinary care,” Lingle said. “This is a hospital dedicated to a growing area, a hospital close to home.”

For the Burfords, Highlands Ranch Hospital is now the place where a new chapter of their lives began.

Big sister Hadley, who loves both rocks and princesses, enjoys going on hikes and bike rides with her dad, who Elésha said is a champion “girl daddy.”

Hadley got to visit Eloise in the hospital, where she received a special big sister medal and a book.

She called her aunt and reported the big news.

“Eloise is not in mommy’s tummy anymore. I got to hold her!”


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.