When fireman Marc Hadden responded to a call of a woman with severe abdominal pain, he could have had no idea how it would change the course of his life forever.
When he arrived at the scene in South Carolina in November 2011 to find a woman about to give birth, he delivered the baby, administered emergency oxygen, then accompanied woman and child to the hospital, when he called his wife.
In a People exclusive, Hadden and his wife, Beth, recall how they soon realised the mother wished to put the child up for adoption – and they jumped at the chance. Hadden believes the woman was homeless, Today reports, and already had a teenage son.
“She is what we prayed for,” says Beth. “It felt like winning the lottery.” She and her husband already had two children, Will, now 15, and Parker, now 13, and had been planning to adopt a third after complications meant Beth couldn’t fall pregnant again.
Just 48 hours after he responded to that fateful call, the Haddens had signed temporary custody papers and were able to take the little girl, who they named Rebecca Grace, home.
“I’ve always wanted a daughter, and this is just amazing,” Hadden told People.
Now five years old and known as Gracie, she is aware of her story, although she doesn’t yet fully understand it.
"We have never hidden it from her," Hadden told Today. "I wanted her to know as soon as she was old enough to understand. I didn't want it to be this huge surprise. It still breaks my heart to think of one day having to explain it to her more in depth ... because she doesn't really 100% get it."
This article originally appeared on marie claire.