Sacramento area's first baby of year waits for midnight -- barely

01/02/2012 12:00 AM

01/03/2012 11:13 AM

The arrival early Sunday morning of tiny Luke Paul Gerhart proves that babies don't go by the clock.

When soon-to-be parents Paul and Theresa Gerhart rolled into the Mercy General Hospital delivery room on New Year's Eve, the Sacramento couple were counting on getting a little tax deduction, expecting their baby would be born before midnight on Dec. 31.

Instead, they got something far sweeter: a healthy baby boy whose 12:02 a.m. arrival made him the first New Year's baby born in a Sacramento area hospital.

"My husband was really pushing for a tax deduction a midnight delivery," said Theresa, smiling and looking serene barely a dozen hours after giving birth Sunday. As the countdown to midnight got closer, she said "Everyone in the delivery room was urging 'Push harder!' My husband joked, 'Can you stop the clock?' "

But by delaying his arrival until two minutes into the new year, the 8-pound, 8-ounce Luke earned a more memorable milestone. "It's an exciting story we'll be able to share with him when he's older," said his mother.

About 12 hours after his momentous delivery, baby Luke slept through the media buzz that surrounded his arrival. Nearly a dozen cameramen, photographers and reporters crowded into his parents' hospital room, with microphones and video cameras capturing the new family's first hours. Luke never opened an eye, sleeping peacefully in his hospital bassinet, tucked under a white "First Baby of 2012" blanket.

His arrival was marked by a number of firsts and coincidences. He's the first child for his parents, native Sacramentans who've been married two years. He's the first "Gerhart" grandchild to carry on the family surname for his grandparents, who have three other grandkids. He's born in the same hospital as his grandfather, Richard Gerhart, who said Sunday that he and several of his siblings were born at Mercy General in the 1940s.

And Luke's postpartum nurse, RN Julie Goss, was also a New Year's baby, born at 1:30 a.m. in a St. Louis, Mo., hospital in 1969. Unlike Luke, she wasn't the hospital's first baby born that day. Goss said her family always joked that they were upset with her "because the other family got free food and diapers for a year." Goss, who has helped deliver 150 to 200 babies as a Mercy nurse, said it was the first time she's attended a hospital's first-of-the-year delivery.

It wasn't an easy pregnancy. Theresa, 30, was sick frequently throughout her nine-month pregnancy and eventually was diagnosed with a "heart block" that was causing an abnormally low heartbeat, said her husband. A month before Luke's delivery, she had to have a pacemaker installed, the scar still visible on her upper chest.

But that was all behind her Sunday afternoon. In complete makeup, ready for the cameras, the Make-A-Wish development manager was a beaming new mom. "He's such a miracle, and we're blessed. We're still in awe. It's a dream come true," she said.

Added new dad Paul, a mortgage loan officer: "It's exciting, a little overwhelming, but pregnancy teaches you to expect the unexpected."

All the region's hospitals engage in a bit of competitive spirit over who gets to claim the New Year's first baby. For Kaiser Permanente, the first New Year's Day baby clocked in at 2:14 a.m. at the south Sacramento hospital on Bruceville Road. Sutter's first – a baby girl at its Roseville facility – was born at 4:06 a.m.

"It's definitely a friendly rivalry," said Robin Montgomery, a Sutter Health spokeswoman. "Everyone looks forward to being the first, but we're always cheering on the hospital that gets it. It's fun for all of us."

As for missing out on that tax deduction, Paul admitted that during delivery, "I kept watching the clock." But, he added, given his wife's pregnancy complications, "I was more worried about her getting through it. Bottom line: She's safe, he's safe."

"Since we've dated, we've wanted to be parents this is the greatest thing we've done in our lives," said Gerhart, 35. "And now we have a special birthday to celebrate."

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