BRADENTON -- Little Saori Hernandez couldn't wait until March 10. She was the first baby born in 2015 at Manatee Memorial Hospital, arriving after only 31 weeks, instead of the typical 40.
"She didn't want to wait; she wanted to celebrate the new year," said Jair Hernandez, 29, of Sarasota, the baby's father.
Born at 2:41 a.m., weighing 3 pounds, 11 ounces, and measuring 16.5 inches long, Saori is in hospital's Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit while doctors monitor her progress. But on Thursday afternoon, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the baby, born to 20-year-old Julia Godinez. Saori was breathing on her own in the NICU. The doctors were preparing to add some vitamins to her intravenous tube to help boost the baby's health.
"She'll give her dad grey hair before she gives me grey hair," joked Alberto Soto, a neonatology physician helping tend to the baby.
Godinez and Hernandez arrived at the hospital on Sunday, Dec. 28, as she was experiencing contractions. Godinez was released Tuesday, but the couple returned early Thursday morning, because Godinez knew it was for real this time, she said in Spanish.
And by 2:41 a.m., Saori had arrived.
"That's why it's good for us to have a NICU team ready at the drop of a hat," said Katie Powers, a registered nurse and lactation consultant at Manatee Hospital with 30 years experience.
In her time at Manatee Memorial, Powers said she could not remember another year where the first baby born was a premature baby who was treated in the neonatal intensive care unit. This New Year's Day had been particularly busy in the hospital, Powers said. By 1:30 p.m. Thursday, more than 13 babies were "on the board," Powers said, meaning either in a state of labor or delivery. Off hand, Powers said she didn't have an exact count.
Babies born pre-term typically are kept in the unit until their due dates, although doctors and nurses work to help get the babies home safely as soon as possible, said Kelly Flowers, a registered nurse in the NICU.
"We want to make sure they can breathe on their own," she said .
Godinez and Hernandez said they never expected to have the first baby of the new year, but they were happy she had arrived safely.
"She's already here, so we're happy," Hernandez said, with a wide smile. "I don't know what else to say."
As Hernandez and Godinez tenderly cared to their newborn, stroking her skin with just one finger at a time, they had yet to decide who the tiny baby looked like.
"We can't tell exactly," Hernandez said. "But, I bet she'll look like her mommy."
And although Saori took the first-baby title at Manatee Memorial, she was beaten by Logan Alexander Arone at Sarasota Memorial Hospital by five minutes.
Logan was born at 2:36 a.m. to Julie and Brien Arone, who live in University Park. Logan is the couple's first child.
Weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces and measuring 15.5 inches, Logan's birth was also a little unexpected; he wasn't due until March 1. Logan will stay in the Sarasota NICU for a short time before heading home, according to hospital officials.
"As that clock struck midnight and the ball dropped, in our heart, we weren't celebrating the new year itself," Brien Arone said in a statement. "All we cared about was Logan, and making every second count. If we did get to 2015, we knew he would be one day stronger."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.