Just eight days into his life, Waldo James Mysterious Dwyer has already touched down on three continents, and no one will be surprised if the baby checks off the other four by week’s end. The Internet-aided spread of the suddenly mythic newborn, born here in Delaware County to Philly parents, is an odd and impressive testament to both the porous copycat nature of the Internet and humanity’s unending fascination with anything, or anyone, awesomely large.
Covering the local food scene, I’ve known Brian Dwyer and his wife, Danielle, for some time. I wrote about his 2010 pizza-themed art show, his and his partner’s plans to open Pizza Brain and the eccentric Fishtown pie shop’s eventual debut. Early last week, Brian got in touch with the happy news that Danielle had given birth to a son, Waldo, attaching some eye-bulging figures to the announcement: Their little guy was actually not so little, clocking in at a beefy 13 pounds, 8.5 ounces. (Doctors at Delaware County Memorial triple-checked the scales to be sure.)
"The moment he was visible to the doctors, we heard, 'That’s a big head!'," says Danielle, whose healthy first child was delivered via C-section. "From there, they weighed him. Soon, everyone in the hospital began knocking on our door — 'Can we see the big boy?'"
Coupling Waldo's stats with some other quirky notes — his palindromic birthday (4/14/14), the fact that he was born under the "blood moon" — Brian asked if I knew of any ways to determine if he would be eligible for any sort of local birth-weight record. I told him that it could make for a cool little writeup and started contacting local hospitals for figures.
Then Waldo — the name inspired by Waldo Geraldo Faldo from Family Matters and not the classic children's book character, according to Brian — started traveling the world.
Contacted by hospital PR, 6ABC kicked it off, checking in with a brief feature that was picked up nationally. Other local outlets hopped on the beat. Then it started cranking — Canadian television, Fox News and The Daily Mail, which mined the Dwyers' Facebooks without reaching out for comment. Friends and family scattered around the country began checking in with reports of Waldo sightings in their local media markets. Brian says one even found a link to a Russian-language report on the birth, referring to his son as a "kid hero" and to him as "head of the family."
"It was a resounding gong hit as far as saying hello to earth," says Brian. "He's already making international headlines. It's strange, to say the least." Seriously — by the time I'd heard back from a few hospital sources, Waldo had already visited more countries than I’ve made it to so far in life, and I'm 30.
The reasoning behind Waldo’s instant popularity is obvious. According to the December 2013 National Vital Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control, instances of birth weights higher than 5,000 grams (roughly 11 pounds) are ridiculously uncommon, accounting for just .11 percent of U.S. births since 2006. (Most newborns weigh between 2,500 and 4,000 grams.)
"For anyone who might start worrying if they're going to have a 14-pound baby, they should know that these are very rare instances," says Dr. Corrina Oxford-Horrey, director of obstetric services at Pennsylvania Hospital.
Though a 13-pound, 12-ounce baby was born near Pittsburgh last year, Waldo seems to be a biggest-kid contender in the Philly region. He outmuscles recent record-holders at Hahnemann (12 lbs, 2.4 oz) and Pennsylvania Hospital (13 lbs), and is in the upper echelon of mean high birthweights, according to the city's Department of Health.
But with the Internet-stoked fascination surrounding big babies like Waldo — "little football players from the womb," as Dr. Oxford-Horrey awesomely calls them — comes swift, ridiculous judgment from people who think they know better than the Dwyers, despite not knowing them at all. Some of it is comical/painful (the middle name "Mysterious" was nailed down long before the mystical birthing circumstances):
Some of it is tonally bizarre (for the record, gestational diabetes is a serious concern that comes with high birth weights, but both mom and baby are fine):
And of course, some of it is slightly off-topic (OR IS IT?):
It wasn't relegated to comment sections, either — Danielle was bothered by a popular mommy blog that worked off the assumption that she overshot her due date on purpose by refusing labor induction, which was not the case. "The things that people try and extrapolate about your life from a news fluff piece are really interesting," says Brian. "I'm just happy he's healthy."
They also were never planning on having Waldo turn into a multi-platform star. At the initial photoshoot, the parents didn’t even want to reveal his face, but the little giant had plans of his own. "We felt him turn his body toward [the photographer]," says Danielle. "He was dead asleep and then he opened his eyes. We were like, I guess this is happening."
When Brian initially reached out, he was hoping for a little something for a page of the family scrapbook, a funny blurb to show his son when he got a little older. He got enough to stuff a couple binders and then some, but he and his wife and just rolling with it. "I feel like he flew in on a comet," he says of his boy. "In a lot of ways, this is continuing to add to the lore. But at the end of the day, he's just up there, shitting his pants and enjoying life."
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