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By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor
FISHER — Forgive Kevin or Julie Dockham of Fisher if you hear them humming the John Lennon tune “(Just Like) Starting Over.”
Kevin, in his 50s, and Julie, in her mid-40s, are pretty much doing just that. At an age when most people are focusing on the so-called “golden years” ahead, the Dockhams still have child-rearing to do.
“We’re still in awe,” Kevin said.
“We still sit there and stare at her,” Julie added.
The object of their amazement — and the amazement of their entire family — is their newborn daughter, born last month.
Allenna Jo Dockham was born at 9:45 a.m. Jan. 18, 2013, at Gibson Area Hospital in Gibson City — weighing 7 pounds 7 ounces and measuring 19 inches.
The Dockhams’ oldest son is 27. They have a grandson who is 9.
“Quite the deal, starting over,” Kevin Dockham said. “The time I figure she graduates I’ll be 70. You just can’t imagine. It’s unreal.”
The baby has already undergone one surgery and will have another one — much of it because of her mother’s age. But she’s a fighter.
“She’s a trooper,” her father said.
She’ll have to be to prevent being spoiled by all the attention she will receive.
To say that Julie Dockham’s pregnancy was a surprise is an understatement.
Julie, 44, and Kevin, 53, were sitting in a doctor’s office last May at BroMenn Medical Center in Bloomington, where she had gone to get an injection for back pain.
Because of the nature of the treatment, the medical center is required to do a pregnancy test.
“My husband and I were sitting in the room, and the nurse came in and said, ‘How long have you known you’ve been pregnant?’” Julie said.
“I said, ‘What? That’s impossible.’”
Her husband added, “You’ve got the wrong room.”
The nurse checked her bracelet, did a blood test and confirmed it.
“We were just dumbfounded,” Julie said.
A sonogram done the next day at Gibson Area Hospital found that she was 12 1/2 weeks along.
Julie wasn’t upset.
“It was more just, “Wow!” she said. “Until I started really showing I don’t think it really sank in.”
While growing up, their oldest daughter, Dianna Woodcock, who is 23, always wanted a baby sister. After awhile she realized it wasn’t going to happen.
“I remember always telling them I wanted a baby sister,” Woodcock said. “They adopted Teri, my cousin, and I said, ‘No, that’s not the sister I want.’”
The Dockhams waited until they were sure before they told their children. They called a family meeting. Woodcock joked with her mom that she must be pregnant. Her mother just laughed.
When everyone assembled at the Dockham home, “She got the sonogram picture out and my mouth just dropped and I said, ‘What?’ Woodcock said.
Kevin Dockham said the couple had been using the same birth control for 22 years with no problem. But the intrauterine device is supposed to be changed every six or seven years.
Dockham said doctors weren’t able to change Julie’s IUD because of how it was originally placed.
“They said they couldn’t get it out; they’ve got to surgically remove it. Kevin Dockham said. “We asked them what happens if we left it? They said it will make her sterile.”
So, the Dockhams didn’t think much more about it.
“It never really crossed our mind anymore, you know?” he said.
“They said there was a recall on those IUDs, but I guess ours was out of warranty.”
Julie started getting funny looks from people she knew after she started to show.
“A lot of them said, ‘I’m glad it’s you and not me.’ They were happy for us, I guess.”
The Dockhams’ oldest grandchild (Allenna Jo’s nephew), 5-year-old Chase, told his preschool teacher that his grandmother was going to have a baby.
The teacher told his mother, “Chase is telling stories,” Kevin said. “She had to explain it to the teacher that no, he wasn’t telling stories.”
Carrying Allenna Jo was more difficult for Julie than with her other children.
“My last, probably two months, I was saying, ‘I’m too old for this.’ My body was telling me, ‘What the heck are you doing?’”
She said the weight of the baby and fluids caused her a great deal of back pain exacerbated by some herniated disks.
For about a week before the baby was delivered, Julie had been contracting on and off. The contractions became “fairly constant” about two days before her birth.
The Dockhams went to Gibson Area Hospital about midnight Friday, Jan. 18, and tried to induce labor. When that was unsuccessful, they decided to do a Caesarean section because the hospital was concerned about the stress a normal delivery would cause on the baby’s heart.
Allenna Jo has an atrioventricular canal heart defect and a heart murmur, both of which will be corrected with surgery after she reaches 3 months of age.
Two days after she was born, doctors performed surgery on her at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, Peoria, to correct Hirschsprung’s disease. Nerves were not connected to her colon. Eight days later, the Dockhams were back home.
Doctors said the baby’s medical problems were probably the result of Julie’s age.
Out of tragedy comes triumph. Allenna Jo was born 15 years to the day that Kevin Dockham’s parents, Dale and Gerri Dockham, died in a house fire on the same property where the Dockhams live.
Woodcock, who at the time was 8, had been scheduled to stay with her grandparents that night but came home after she became ill.
Now another member of a large family (Kevin and Julie Dockham both said they have large families) has been born into the Fisher community.
Woodcock said the family is a close-knit one. (The baby’s first name is in memory of Julie’s uncle, Mark Allen Crank.) Woodcock and her two older brothers have been disputing over who is going to get to babysit their new sister. It looks like Dianna, who always wanted a baby sister, will be watching her the most.
“I do a day care in my home,” she said. “I watch my niece and nephew. When mom goes back to work (she is HR manager at Guardian West in Urbana), I’ll be watching her.”
Big sis said she had been quite excited about the prospect of mom having another child.
“I went to multiple doctor’s appointments with them. I bought my own little Teddy with a heart beat inside of it. I bought a bracelet that says, ‘I’m a big sister.’
“I’m a very proud sister and excited to watch her grow.”