John Romano: Ten weeks early and 1,300 miles from home, a baby arrives on the LPGA TourTampa Bay Times — By John Romano Tampa Bay Times
May 10-- You've got the car seat. You've got the golf cart.
You've got mom, dad, baby and enough of a window to perhaps squeeze in nine holes at Pasadena Yacht and Country Club before duty calls. Duty, in this case, being whatever 10-month-old Emery says it is.
It has been nearly 16 years since Brittany Lincicome turned pro, and for the first time in her career she is no longer calling all of the shots. And that's fine by her, even if the transition was more abrupt than expected.
She was seven months pregnant and figured she had one round of golf left in her when she flew to Chicago last July for a charity pro-am. The meticulously planned trip was supposed to last around 36 hours and, yet, a month would pass before Lincicome got back home to Gulfport.
Two hospitals, one ambulance ride, and too many frantic phone calls later, little Emery had announced her arrival.
Ten weeks ahead of schedule, and 1,300 miles from home.
You don't need Hallmark or a calendar to truly appreciate Mother's Day.
Not when you have a baby whose smile melts your heart no matter the hour or the day. Emery motors around the house in her little walker, chasing Dexter the chocolate Labrador like a fiend.
She naps on schedule, sleeps through the night and already seems game for her first swimming lessons. She makes pandemic life bearable, even for an athlete who has now seen parts of two prime seasons disappear nearly back-to-back.
"I'm bummed not to be playing golf and making money obviously, but this is so much better," Lincicome said. "We're literally just sitting at home doing whatever Emery wants to do. We have no schedule, nowhere we have to be. I don't even remember what day of the week it is. It's just been awesome."
This wasn't exactly the way it was planned and, naturally, the coronavirus has had a lot to do with that. But the disruptions to Lincicome's career began long before the virus reached America.
Married to former long-drive competitor Dewald Gouws in December 2015, the new couple quickly had family expansion in mind. Lincicome was pregnant by the spring of 2018 with the baby's due date perfectly planned for the offseason.
They were on top of the world when they walked into Lincicome's eight-week checkup, and they left in tears. The ultrasound found no heartbeat, and Lincicome was told she needed surgery to have the fetus removed.
That was the backdrop for Emery's arrival last year.
This time around, Lincicome, 34, was obsessed with making everything perfect. She talked to other moms on the LPGA Tour, she stayed active, she downloaded apps that gave her daily progress reports on the baby's growth patterns. By mid-May she had dropped off the tour with an early September due date circled on the calendar.
She agreed to do the Rockford Pro Am, outside of Chicago, in early July because it was a one-day event for charity that she had played in for the past several years. She had her baby shower on a Tuesday, visited the doctor on Friday and got a ride to the airport from her parents on Sunday morning.
Lincicome felt some cramping on the flight, and it progressively got worse as she waited at O'Hare Airport for fellow tour player Brittany Lang, who was arriving from elsewhere. They called a few other moms who told her it was probably Braxton Hicks contractions, often called false labor pains.
They went to their hotel where Lincicome took a bath and laid down for a nap. When the cramps got worse, they called veteran tour player Juli Inkster who was also arriving in Rockford. After talking to a nurse who was a friend, Inkster advised Lang to take Lincicome to the nearest hospital as a precaution.
That prompted Lincicome's first call home to her parents.
"She called her dad because she knew I would freak," her mother Angie said. "She was trying to be calm, she told her dad that everything was okay but Juli and Brittany were making her go to the hospital. Then she calls later and says they're moving her by ambulance to this other hospital and we were like, 'Okay, we're outta here.'"
Emery Lincicome was born two months early while mom Brittany was in Illinois for a charity golf event. (Courtesy Brittany Lincicome)
At the first hospital, they told Lincicome she was already in labor. Because she wasn't due for 10 weeks, they transported her to a newer hospital nearby with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Now it was time to call her husband.
"The first time I called him, I literally broke down. I couldn't get one word out," Lincicome said. "So I handed the phone to Brit and she told him 'Everything is okay, don't panic yet. The nurses are trying to stop the contractions, they're giving her medicine and we'll call you back.'"
Gouws began looking for flights to Chicago and couldn't find anything available that afternoon. Finally, after an hour of searching, a seat opened on a later Southwest flight and he arrived at the hospital at 2 a.m.
Nearly 14 hours later, Emery was born at 4 pounds, 11 ounces. They laid her on Lincicome's chest for barely a minute before taking her to NICU, where she would receive oxygen for the next 24 hours.
"I was envisioning the worst with her coming out black-and-blue and not breathing. I had like 20-25 nurses and doctors in the room with me with all the NICU staff," Lincicome said. "When I heard her screaming there was a sense of calmness that came over me. I felt so much relief. Then they whisked her away and my husband went with them. He was like, 'I hope you're okay because I'm leaving.' It really ended up being cute."
Although healthy and relatively large for a premature baby, Emery needed to stay at the hospital for another five weeks. That caused a mobilization of the Gouws/Lincicome clans. Brittany's parents drove to Rockford in her car so she would have transportation. Gouws' mother flew in from her home in South Africa.
Lincicome ended up in a Residence Inn for five weeks with her mother and mother-in-law, while spending 12 hours a day visiting the NICU. Lincicome became so attached to the nursing staff that she remains in contact with them still.
And now, 10 months later, pictures and memories are all that's left of Emery's harrowing start to life. The structured regime of the NICU churned out a near perfect baby who eats and sleeps on a disciplined schedule.
"Brit took to this like a duck to water," her mother said. "Her dad and I were like, 'I don't even know if she can take care of a puppy,' but she absolutely has this down. Her and D are doing a fabulous job with that kid."
Emery and Lincicome's mom accompanied her to a pair of tournaments in Florida in January before the LPGA Tour left for a month of events overseas. The plan for Lincicome was to rejoin the tour in Arizona in mid-March with mom and baby in tow, but the pandemic shot that down.
All told, she's missed about 30 tournaments and the Solheim Cup between the pregnancy, recovery and the virus. An eight-time winner on the tour, including two majors, Lincicome doesn't sound like she's even entertained the notion of regret. She's already talking about a second child in another year or two.
"I've had all these years to grind it out and do everything I wanted in my career, and now family definitely comes first," Lincicome said. "Obviously, we'll try to deliver in the offseason, which would be ideal, but however God plays it out for us, I'm okay. And if it's just Emery, that's fine, too.
"We're super blessed with her."
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