Born on Sept. 28, Tegan Kathleen Grodt has earned the mantle of First Occubaby.
Her mother, a 25-year-old teacher's aide named Kaylee Dedrick, became an unwitting image of the Occupy Wall Street Movement after coming face to face with a can of pepperspray last September in New York City.
It's unlikely Tegan would be here had her mother not been sprayed by police. It was in her search for treatment, after all, that Dedrick's prince appeared: Volunteer medic Robert Grodt rinsed out her stinging eyes in the utility closet of a nearby theatre. "Nothing strengthens a relationship like a chemical agent," Grodt, 24, quipped to the Daily News back then. He proposed in Zuccotti Park on New Year's Eve, and the two were soon expecting.
"It's just such a cool thing for kids to have parents who have awesome stories," Dedrick said from Albany, NY. "I never predicted this to happen in a million years, and I'm so glad it did."
Activists often speak of the passion that took hold as Occupy protests sprung up all of the world last fall. It appears that some of that fervour spilled over and spawned some babies.
Today, Dedrick's Facebook page reveals a striking mix of two personas: a photo of her protesting with bandanna-concealed face, bulletins from Anarchist News.org as well as baby portraits and excited new-mom status updates.
"I think the two are completely integrated," said Manhattan-based civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby, who is representing Dedrick in a lawsuit that variously charges several NYPD officers and the city with brutality and failing to render medical assistance.
"[Occupiers] want to grow up in a society where their little babies have an opportunity to live in a country that has a type of economic justice, and so I don't see any disassociation between Kaylee Dedrick, the incredibly loving, bubbly mom cooing and gurgling over baby pictures on one hand, and the woman a year ago who was demanding justice and economic rights in America for the 99 per cent."
Dedrick is conflicted about the term "occubaby," especially after media reports of promiscuity in Zuccotti Park – including her own fiancé, who had boasted to the Wall Street Journal of sharing sleeping bags with several women as part of his "support structure."
Said Dedrick: "Everyone's like, 'Oh, [Tegan's] a park baby!' and I'm like, 'No!' That makes me sound bad – she wasn't conceived in the park." Then again, Dedrick acknowledges, "she would not be around if it weren't for Occupy."
It's unknown how many babies have hatched thanks to Occupy, although activism-minded parents carted plenty of infants and toddlers into the fray: Flickr groups show youngsters dressed in T-shirts emblazoned with Occupy's famed clenched fist, and carrying protest signs. Lisa Gui, a printer with the Occupy Wall Street Screen Guild, knew of five activists who were pregnant last fall, and so the Guild started churning out Occupy-themed onesies.
Alicia Nauss's occubaby is set to arrive Dec. 2. Like Dedrick, she stressed that her son was conceived some time throughout the Occupy protests – but not in some ratty sleeping bag at the local encampment. The 25-year-old woman met her husband, Adam Hill, at Occupy Philadelphia last October when they were both working the info booth. They wed just a month later at Dilworth Plaza, a site of protests in the city. For their honeymoon, they toured other Occupy landmarks, including Wall Street.
"In the middle of these encampments, everybody's pretty much stripped of any barriers because there's just so much raw emotion going around. There's lots of yelling, there's lots of screaming and outright anger at whatever you're protesting. … You see why they connect so quickly," Hill, 28, said in an interview from Norristown, Pa.
Or as Kuby puts it: "When young people in the face of adversity are both physically and emotionally close together, they tend to make babies."
Nauss (who also has a three-year-old daughter) and Hill hope to instill Occupy values in their kids, and take them to protests if things feel safe. "We'll tell [our son] the entire story about how the economy was struggling, how there was so much injustice in the world that both of us, through our individual lives, decided it was time to take a stand and make a better world for him and everyone else," said Nauss.
Chimed in Hill: "It's great for them to understand that it's okay to question authority at times, that as an American citizen you have the right to stand up and second-guess your government and ask them why they're doing things. They are important values we'd like to instill in our children."
What about when his son starts second-guessing his dad? "That's something we'll struggle with. We try not to be too authoritative," said Hill. "As long as it's a healthy questioning, we're okay with it."
And what if these occubabies grow into Republicans, or land jobs at Goldman Sachs? For now, occu-parents seem unfazed.
Says Dedrick of her daughter: "If she ends up worshipping Fox News, that would be quite unfortunate. But I would still love her."