HOLIDAY — Monica Miracle’s husband definitely thinks she qualifies as an unstoppable mom.
Now they are about to find out how much of the rest of the country agrees.
Miracle, a resident of Holiday in southwest Pasco County, is one of four finalists for the second annual “Unstoppable Mom” contest on TV’s “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” the morning talk show hosted by Kelly Ripa and former NFL star Michael Strahan.
The 27-year-old Miracle appeared on the show this morning to tell the story of how she took on the responsibility of raising four foster children and caring for her ill mother-in-law right around the time she was giving birth to her own son.
“Live! With Kelly and Michael,” which flew the entire Miracle family to New York, has broadcast segments this week with each of the “Unstoppable Mom” finalists, with the last segment scheduled Thursday morning. After that, viewers can vote for their favorite mom online through the show’s website at www.livekellyandmichael.dadt.com. The show will announce the winner, whose prize is $100,000, during Friday’s broadcast.
Miracle’s husband, Jeremy, nominated her for the contest, writing a letter to the show in which he described her as “the strong anchor in the family.”
Their story dates back to more than two years ago when the Miracles learned that Monica was pregnant with their first child. Two days later, that good news was tempered by news that Jeremy’s mother, Mary Ann Miracle, had been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer.
“Not only was that heartbreaking enough,” Jeremy Miracle wrote, “but my mother had adopted four children out of foster care that my wife and I knew we would be caring for if she didn’t make it.”
Monica Miracle had realized her dream of becoming a nurse, but she gave up her job to make sure her mother-in-law could get to her cancer treatments, and to help care for the four adopted children -- Carmen, 16; Nesa, 15; Aaron, 13; and Noah, 7.
All the while, she had a difficult pregnancy and 18 months ago -- after 72 hours of labor -- the 5-feet, 2-inch, 130-pound Monica gave birth to Jayce, an 11-pound boy delivered through an emergency C-section. Jeremy Miracle wrote that the doctor claimed Jayce was the biggest baby he had delivered in his 26 years of practice.
Just 24 hours after giving birth, despite the surgery and two blood transfusions, Monica Miracle asked to go home because she felt her mother-in-law and the four children needed her.
Mary Ann Miracle died Jan. 2 at age 54.
“My wife cared for her until the last minute,” Jeremy Miracle wrote.
Monica Miracle said by telephone from New York on Wednesday that taking on the extra responsibilities “was just the right thing to do.”
“My husband and I have been together nine years,” she said. “I have been part of these kids’ lives since they were little. Even if they were adopted, they are family.
“We decided we were not going to let them be separated and go back into foster care. That was just not an option. We cannot be happier than with the decision we made to keep the family together.”
Miracle acknowledged things weren’t easy. Her husband was working fulltime, so it fell to Miracle to drive her mother-in-law to chemotherapy and radiation treatments five days a week. Miracle herself had doctor appointments three times a week because of complications from her pregnancy. Her doctor had recommended bed rest, but she disregarded that and didn’t tell him about the situation at home.
“I felt it was our thing to deal with,” she said.
During Monica Miracle’s appearance Wednesday on “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” the show surprised her by giving her an eight-day, seven-night Royal Caribbean cruise for the whole family.
“This is the most amazing thing that could happen to us,” she said. “I feel like we already won. We could never have afforded to take all the kids on a plane ride or on a vacation.”
Miracle will be back in the studio Friday with the other finalists when the winner is announced.
Miracle has picked up support back home. The Pasco County school district has used Facebook and Twitter to encourage Pasco residents to vote for her. All four of the children adopted through foster care have attended Gulfside Elementary, and so did Jeremy and Monica Miracle.
“We have been very involved with the school throughout this whole process,” Miracle said. “They are so wonderful with Noah. He gets a lot of grief counseling at school because of his mom.”
Today, Miracle saw for the first time a video the show created that included interviews with the children. They talked about the difference Miracle had made in their lives.
“I am so proud of them,” Miracle said. “I look at them and say, ‘This is supposed to be the Unstoppable Mom, but you guys are the amazing ones.”