It's a girl!

The Hollinger family is tickled pink by the arrival of little Elason Rose. She's the first female on her father's side in 137 years.
The Hollinger family is tickled pink by the arrival of little Elason Rose. She's the first female on her father's side in 137 years. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)

The Hollinger family is tickled pink by the arrival of little Elason Rose. She's the first female on her father's side in 137 years.

Posted: January 24, 2013

Meg and Chip Hollinger, like most new grandparents, are thrilled with the arrival of their first grandchild. But the birth on Dec. 12 was an especially red-letter - or should that be pink-letter? - day for all involved.

That's because Elason Rose Hollinger is the first girl on her father's side in well over a century.

"Elias Hollinger, my great-great-grandfather, was the last one to father a female," Chip, a longtime teacher and administrator at Episcopal Academy, says from his Merion Station home. Her name was Rachel, and she was born in 1875 - 137 years before this Hollinger female.

That's nine boys in a row - Abram, Charles, Thomas, Andrew, Jason, Jonathan, Joshua, Philip, and Charles.

What are the chances? One in 512, according to statistician Tom McWilliams, a professor of decision sciences at the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University. That's not as long as the lifetime odds of being struck by lightning (1 chance in 10,000) or winning $7 matching two numbers plus the Powerball (1 in 706). But it is a bit of a gamble.

"The chances are almost the same as getting a flush if you're dealt five cards from a shuffled deck," McWilliams notes. That's odds of 507.8 to 1 for a lucky poker hand.

So little Elason is pretty special.

"We're over the moon," says grandmother Meg. "I can't wait to take her to the theater."

Chip has traced his roots in the United States to the early 1700s and his Swiss Mennonite forefathers. Elias Hollinger, born in 1847, was district attorney of Dauphin County. His daughter married a Harry Handshaw and had two children, including a girl in 1913. On the Hollinger side, however, the boys kept coming. Elias' son Charles had one son, Abram, who had three boys (a 12.5 percent probability). Chip had a trio as well; his brother, Thomas, a duo. (The third brother did not have children.)

Amid all this talk, Elason (pronounced EL-la-sun), wearing a snug cream-colored cap garnished with a pink rosebud, sleeps swaddled in a blanket and cradled in her mother's arms. Nearby is a table flush with family photos of the boys. Front and center is a bright-pink birth announcement.

"She was desperate for a girl," Jason "Jake" Hollinger, 38, the baby's father, says, nodding toward his wife, Beth, 36. He's a real estate investor, and the couple, who live in the former Graduate Hospital area, are visiting the grandparents for dinner.

"She was eating lemons and limes," Jake adds.

"I do love girls," Beth allows, adding that she felt the need to bolster the odds, given her husband's male-heavy lineage. She tried increasing her acidity - and other techniques she'd rather not discuss for print - to help the process along.

"I want somebody to go shopping with, and get my nails done, my little mini-me, I guess," says Beth, a pharmaceutical rep. (Just to be clear, she's not anti-boy - she'd like one of those, too.)

A baby's gender is essentially a toss-up - a 50-50 proposition, explains David Ufberg, an ob/gyn at Lankenau Medical Center and an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. (In this country, boys have a slight edge at 51 percent versus girls at 49 percent.)

Ufberg also says the belief that the gender of a first child somehow tilts the scales in favor of the same for subsequent pregnancies is a misconception. "It's like flipping a coin," he says. "You can flip 10 heads in a row, and what's your chance the next time? It's still 50-50."

That doesn't stop attempts to influence Mother Nature. "I've heard them all," Ufberg says.

Many turn to the Chinese pregnancy calendar, a 700-year-old baby-gender prognosticating tool that helps couples identify the auspicious moment for conception, according to A handy chart is now available on the Internet, of course (and on this page).

"We don't have all the answers," allows Ufberg, who is reluctant to dismiss ancient lore outright. "Is there a hint of truth? I don't think there's been a controlled trial."

There is, however, high-tech sperm spinning, originally intended to prevent gender-linked diseases, that sorts X (female) and Y (male) sperm.

More often, Ufberg's patients look to take advantage of basic human biology. Some swear that adjusting the timing and position of intercourse relative to ovulation works miracles. That's based on the idea that sperm with X chromosomes swim slower than sperm with Y chromosomes.

On that basis, the recipe to make a girl is intercourse before ovulation in an attempt to weed out the short-lived Y's. Women often also try to increase their acidity - an environment in which the female sperm are said to thrive. For a boy, slow-poke X's must be discouraged, best accomplished by hooking up after ovulation and creating a more alkaline enviro.

Here, too, however, "this has never been borne out in any of the studies," Ufberg says.

Still, even the good doctor's own wife experimented with various tricks to influence gender, including the Chinese calendar, in an effort to have a second girl, he says. But the couple got a boy. Did we mention that Ufberg's wife is an ob/gyn at Pennsylvania Hospital?

For the Hollingers, a girl was much wanted, not only by Beth, but also by her mother-in-law.

"I desperately wanted a daughter because I had the most wonderful mother in the world," Meg says. "I wanted to emulate that relationship with a daughter of my own." Her mother, Rose, died at 49 from colon cancer.

When her third son, Joshua, was born in 1981, "I said, 'Well, one more, Chip.' And he said, 'With your next husband.' "

And even though neither can imagine life without boy, boy, boy, it was left to the next generation to deliver on a mother's wish.

"She'll still watch football with me," Jake says, beaming at his baby girl even as Beth gives him a not-a-chance look.

Contact Lini S. Kadaba at

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