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EXPECTATIONS HIGH FOR 2000'S FIRST

Savings bonds. Limo rides. Enough fruit baskets to make you sick.

It's a bonanza befitting baby Jesus, not one named Jane or Jack. Or even Y2K.

With a little luck, Michelle Lorenz, an expectant mother, could have it all.

Her due date is Jan. 1, 2000. That makes her one of about 60 mothers in the running to deliver Western New York's first millennium baby.

"This could be a famous baby," Lorenz said. "If you're going to have a kid, you might as well have it when people know about it. I'm ready."

Family members are keeping their fingers crossed, too.

"My sister in New York City suggested we name the baby Y2K," she said, "and my mother's pushing it so I can get all this free stuff."

Ah yes, the free stuff.

The little bundle of joy in question will have a birthday celebration fit for royalty, one very different from what greeted Ann Marie Maurer when she was born Jan 1, 1900.

"Babies were born at home in those days," she said during a birthday celebration in 1980. "The first baby of the year didn't get into the newspapers in those days either, so most people don't know me as the first Buffalo baby in this century."

Maurer, who later became Ann Marie Steinwachs, died in 1982.

What a difference 100 years makes. This time around, hospitals will give gifts and services to the first baby and its parents.

One caveat: Caesarean sections scheduled in advance are not eligible.

At Children's and Millard Fillmore Suburban hospitals, the first baby born on or after midnight will receive a multitude of gifts and prizes.

They come courtesy of the Women's Board at Millard Fillmore Suburban, the Friends of Children's and local businesses and other organizations.

"They have given us donations so that the millennium babies get an extra special treat when they're born, and their mothers do, too," said Sharon Goodison, director of women's services with Kaleida Health.

At the top of the list is a deluxe gift basket with a $2,000 savings bond, photography packages, spa days for mom and toys for the baby.

On top of that, Carpenters' Hands, an organization of disabled men who make cribs, will donate cribs to the first baby born at each site. Any baby born at either site that day will receive a smaller gift basket.

Looking for special accommodations? Try Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

It's offering a two-room suite and gourmet meals during mom's hospital stay, a limo ride from the hospital, a gift certificate to Prime Outlets, a fruit basket and flowers and a weekend for two at the Ramada Inn at the Falls.

Joanne Cavanaugh of Catholic Health System said that Mercy and Sisters hospitals also will be participating in the Carpenters' Hands program. In addition, babies born on Dec. 31 and Jan 1 will receive specially engraved silver-plated photo albums. The last baby of 1999 and the first of 2000 will receive special mahogany memory boxes.

The competition for all these goodies is stiff.

Mercy and Sisters, for example, expect the usual day's activity of eight to 10 babies each for New Year's Day.

If history is any indication, the big money is probably on Lorenz. Her first child, Jacob Henry Kujawa, was born on Thanksgiving Day three years ago.

"We only do holiday babies," she said, adding that she knows three people with Jan. 1 birthdays.

With timing and health on her side, the odds look good, she said.

"The ideal conception date was April 7 through 10," she said. "April 7 is ours, and I've maintained my fitness level since I've been reading that people who exercise regularly are more likely to have a more timely birth and deliver on the actual due date."

Lorenz admits to being swept up by the hype surrounding the historical event, "but the only thing I'm worried about is the hospital's electricity working when the clock strikes midnight."

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