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Baby brings miners hope and rebirth

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
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Baby 'Hope' born to trapped miner
  • Wife of trapped miner in Chile gives birth to third child
  • Couple names daughter Esperanza, which means hope
  • Woman evades hospital's no-recording rule by having Caesarean
  • Second couple also expecting

Copiapo, Chile (CNN) -- For one trapped miner in a collapsed mine in Chile, "Hope" weighs only 7 pounds.

Esperanza, which means hope in Spanish, is the name of Ariel Ticona's baby girl. She is also believed to be the first child born to any of the 33 miners during their nightmarish weeks buried underground.

Esperanza was born Tuesday in a hospital about an hour's drive down a winding mountain road from the mine where her father is trapped.

Ticona and his wife, Elizabeth Segovia, learned they were having a girl the day before the mine cave-in. They had planned to call her Carolina.

The girl's birth was not just a celebration for Ticona, his father said.

"Immediately it gave all the miners there a lot of excitement," Hector Ticona said. "They were all very happy about her birth and that she will be called Esperanza."

The day after the birth, Hector Ticona carried Chilean newspapers he was saving for his son with front-page photos of Elizabeth holding the new baby. The story of the baby's birth has been reported as far away as New Zealand, Germany and Singapore, and Esperanza has become a symbol that life continues for the miners despite their underground imprisonment.

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Video: Drill bit reaches trapped Chilean miners

Photos released from their hospital room showed a tiny baby, her eyes shut tight and with no idea that she is already famous at birth.

The decision to change her name arrived to Ticona in the mine's depths. That all the miners had survived the cave-in and then the 17 days it took rescuers to drill the holes that found them was already miraculous. But their continued physical and mental well-being was far from assured.

Faced with the fact that he and his fellow workers were about to experience an isolating darkness that no one had ever endured before, Ticona put pen to paper. The letter he wrote reached his family through what the Chileans call "palomas," metal tubes that carry food, supplies and messages to the trapped men.

"He said, 'What if we call her Hope?'" Hector Ticona recalled. "Hope for the camp backing us, hope for getting us out of here, hope to keep fighting for my daughter, hope to unite my family.' "

Ticona's wife agreed to the new name. For her, though, the experience would be a tug of war between worrying for her unborn child and for her trapped husband.

"I have been talking to her and telling her Daddy's OK," Segovia told CNN a few weeks before she gave birth. "I can't cry because she would feel everything."

Before the mine collapse, Ticona promised Segovia he would be in the room when she gave birth. He had not been present for the births of their two sons, one time because he wanted to watch a beloved soccer team play and the other time because of "squeamishness," Segovia said.

Segovia decided to have the birth of their daughter videotaped. But videotaping a natural birth was against hospital policy. So, to get around the policy, she had a Caesarean section on camera.

Family members say mother and daughter have been released from the hospital and are doing fine.

Over a video conference system that is one of their links to the outside world, Ticona was shown the birth of his daughter, deep in the mine.

"We sent the video and Ariel was very happy," engineer Rene Aguilar said. "It was a very beautiful moment for them."

Around Camp Hope, the encampment that runs up the entrance to the mine where many families have moved to wait out the miners' rescue, word of Esperanza's birth brought joy.

As she sat in a light blue tent at Camp Hope, Nelly Burgueño said it is a joy she hopes to experience herself soon. Her son, trapped miner Victor Zamora, and his wife also are expecting a daughter.

When the girl is born in six months' time, Burgueño said, the couple has decided to call her Paz Victoria, or Peace Victory.

"I am going to be a father," Burgueño said her son wrote her. "I am happiest man in the world even though I am in the depths of the earth. I want to share this happiness with everyone in the world, with you, Mom, and my brothers."

Burgueño said her son has been "reborn."

"He wrote me," she said, "that even in the deepest part of the earth there shines light."

CNN's Karl Penhaul and Esprit Smith contributed reporting to this article.