In January 2009, as her due date came and went, Ciara McDonagh became increasingly anxious both to meet her second son and to bring the 41-week pregnancy to a close. After consulting their calendars, she and her doctor scheduled an inducement for Tuesday, Jan. 20 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
But McDonagh’s husband, Jeff Goto, cited a previous engagement. He suggested that the appointment be postponed 24 hours so that he might watch Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration uninterrupted.
“I kind of bit his head off,” said McDonagh, 40. “I was frustrated with him for wanting to switch it to Wednesday.”
The inducement got underway as planned, and the inauguration unfolded on the television screen in their hospital room as McDonagh’s labor intensified.
“I was watching [Obama’s] speech but started going into active labor,” McDonagh said. “I do remember when I delivered [the baby] and he came out that it was during the Star Spangled Banner.”
They decided on the name Ronan Kinnosuke, a nod to McDonagh and Goto’s Irish and Japanese ancestry.
Friends and family members had their own ideas.
“I think I got 40 texts saying is it Obama? Barack?” McDonagh said. “Everyone thought we were naming the baby after the new president. Everyone thought they had such a funny, original idea.”
Born in Carbondale, Ill., and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, the disparate political views of McDonagh’s Irish immigrant parents – her rather leaned Republican, her mother Democratic – made for the occasional heated dinner table conversation. Her mother always emphasized voting as a responsibility. Goto worked in Washington, D.C., after college, and continues to consume an “obscene amount of CNN,” according to his wife.
The inauguration baby seemed particularly fitting for the politically-aware, pro-Obama couple. And the president’s ties to Chicago made the birth all the more poignant, said McDonagh, who works as a human resources director for a small tax firm.
It has also made the couple increasingly conscious about major policy issues, including unemployment, the economy and education.
In 2008, mid-pregnancy, Goto lost his job in a mass layoff at United Airlines. The family was left to pick up its own health insurance costs. McDonagh returned to work sooner than planned after Ronan’s birth.
Goto decided to forge out on his own. A life-long foodie, he founded Ameline, a gourmet Dijon mustard company and began importing the product from France. But the growth of the business has been hindered by the ongoing credit crunch.
“I would love to see my husband be able to get a small business loan so he could really succeed,” McDonagh said.
In addition, with one child in Chicago public schools and a second not far behind, she and her husband a deeply concerned about the quality of public education in the United States, McDonagh said.
“I don’t think education, on a societal level, is receiving the attention and resources it needs,” McDonagh said. “Everyone knows its important, intuitively at least.”
They are satisfied with their current Lincoln Park elementary school, but worried about options for secondary schools.
“We are lucky to be in one of the number one schools in the system,” McDonagh said. “We consider ourselves to be lucky to be in that school. There are so many that aren’t that good."
And higher education costs loom. Tuition at her alma mater, Wheaton College, has doubled since she was a student there, McDonagh noted.
“I am concerned how we are going to afford to send our kids to college,” McDonagh said. “I always joke around that my saving grace is that I have an Irish passport, and I can send the kids to Europe. It is a fourth of the cost to send them to school there.”
Still, she believes that President Obama has made strides on many fronts and she is looking forward to his second term.
For the seventh time in U.S. history, the would-be inauguration date of Jan. 20, 2013 falls on a Sunday. As such, the public swearing-in ceremony has been moved to Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, meaning that Ronan will not share his fourth birthday with the inauguration speech. Still, the McDonagh-Goto family is preparing for dual celebration of sorts that will include a Spiderman chocolate birthday cake.
During the inauguration, they will be special attention to the “Star-Spangled Banner” which they have claimed as Ronan’s birthday song, McDonagh said.
“Overall, I think the country is headed in a better place,” McDonagh said. “Now that the election is behind us, hopefully the general tone will improve and the dialogue will move more toward what’s best for the country and less about who is going to run it.”