JANUARY 19, 2007
7 LBS., 9 OZ. 19 INCHES
Little Dakota Ann's face crumples and reddens, clear signs she is about to start wailing. "Calm down," Jessica Lynch says softly, patting her infant daughter's back. Moments later, silence—then a coo. "You're okay," Lynch says, smiling.
These days, the former Army supply clerk and POW—who spent nine days in captivity after being severely injured during an Iraqi ambush in March '03—is reporting for a new kind of duty: first-time mom. "I am Prisoner of War Jessica Lynch," she says. "I will always be that. But being a mommy will be amazing." Since Dakota arrived Jan. 19, Lynch, 23, has perfected KP duty—"She wants me when she's hungry or wants her diaper changed"—while Wes Robinson, the baby's father and a manufacturing-plant worker, has the fashion angle under control (baby's first outfit: a lace-trimmed hunting camouflage onesie). He also has the magic touch during late-night wakeup calls. "She's a daddy's girl," Lynch says. "She'll sleep with him for hours, but me?"
Still, one miracle—giving birth—is enough for Lynch, who feared the lingering effects of her Iraq injuries, which included spinal fractures and a crushed leg, might make it impossible for her to have a child. After early contractions, she was on bed rest for the last month of her pregnancy, then had a C-section under general anesthesia (her spine injuries made an epidural impossible). One more bittersweet memento of her Iraq ordeal: Dakota Ann is named, in part, after Lynch's best friend, Lori Ann Piestewa, a part-Native American soldier who died in that 2003 raid. "I think of her every day," Lynch says.
Looking ahead, she and Robinson, 25, who met in '05 and have no plans yet to wed, will move from their Parkersburg, W.Va., apartment to a house in nearby Elizabeth. Lynch, who is studying to be a teacher, plans to spend the spring majoring in Dakota 101: "I want to see every cry and smile. I want to catch it all." And if the little girl—whose nursery will be decorated in camouflage green and bold pink—wants to be a soldier someday? "We'll tell her the story of her mom first," Lynch says, "and then let her decide."