“It was destiny.” How One Little Girl Got Her Name From A Famous Hippo

It’s not uncommon for people to be named after someone significant in their lives, but Fiona Shephard’s story may be the best ever.

This baby girl’s parents named her after a famous hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo, rather than a family member or close friend. Even Fiona’s parents were taken aback by this amazing last-minute decision, as strange as that may sound.

Kerbe Shephard adored the Cincinnati Zoo as a kid. She had hoped to take her own children there one day, but after she and her husband David moved to Florida, that dream was put on hold. Despite the fact that their 3-year-old son Bryce was unable to visit the zoo, a local library occurred to have books about the zoo’s most renowned resident: Fiona the hippo.

Fiona was born six weeks early in 2017. Her odds of survival appeared bleak at first, but because to the zoo’s love and care, she is now four years old and enjoying life! That’s why, when the Shephards returned to Ohio, they had to go to the zoo right away.

“She is such a success story, and when we met her in the zoo, we fell even more in love with her.” She’s been active, swimming, and loving on her mama every time we’ve seen her!” Kerbe remarked. “Mommy, I could stay here and watch Fiona all day!” Bryce started the last time we were there.

Some kids are upset when they find out they’re getting a new sibling, but Bryce was excited from the start. In fact, he even took an interest in the naming process. His suggestion? Fiona, of course!

“Bryce was so excited to tell me when I got home from work that he knew the perfect name for his baby sister,” his mom said. “My husband and I laughed, ‘OK, buddy! That sounds great… we’ll add it to the list!’ — knowing that we had other plans for names and we certainly wouldn’t name our daughter after a hippo.”

On July 4, the Shephard family and some friends visited the zoo. Everyone was having a lovely time when Kerbe started to experience painful contractions. At first, she blew them off as false labor pains, but once the pain started coming every three minutes, it was time to go to the hospital.

Kerbe wasn’t due for another month, so the timing of her labor was critical. Fortunately, despite being born prematurely, their kid was healthy, weighing 5 pounds and measuring 19 inches in length.

Kerbe couldn’t get over the way her daughter wiggled her eyes wide and peered into her own when she first held her. That’s when it dawned on her: Fiona the hippo’s experience was very similar to theirs!

“She recognized my voice and was comforted by her Mama — exactly like Fiona the hippo and her mother,” Kerbe added. “At that point, we also realized her name couldn’t be anything other than Fiona.” It was just meant to be.”

Along with going into labor prematurely at the zoo, like Fiona the hippo’s mom, Kerbe noticed their babies’ similar health journeys. Just as the baby hippo went through health complications, Fiona the human had some of her own.

“It was confirmed that she was born with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome,” Kerbe explained. “With this can come a plethora of complications, but Fiona has proven to be strong and healthy.”

Months later, Fiona’s family was finally able to introduce her to her hippo namesake. The infant may have been asleep for most of the trip, but it was an amazing meeting nonetheless.

“We are so in love,” Kerbe said. “We hope this story brings joy to someone and grows awareness for the Down syndrome population, not as a negative connotation or something to feel ‘sorry’ about… but to realize the potential of these awesome individuals! The sky is the limit for all as long as they are given the opportunity to reach for the stars.”

We couldn’t agree more! Share this story to celebrate the beautiful stories of Fiona and Fiona.

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