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First baby arrives 1 minute into New Year – after lengthy labor

The New Year’s baby tradition is alive and well in Buffalo, where on Friday two local health systems announced their first arrivals of the year, both boys.

Kaleida Health laid claim to top honors in the friendly competition, with its first baby making it into 2016 by barely a minute. Jessica Schlect and Richard Duda welcomed their son Gavin Edward – 7 pounds, 4 ounces – at 12:01 a.m. at Women & Children’s Hospital.

The first South Buffalo-born baby arrived less than two and a half hours later at Catholic Health System’s Mercy Hospital. Mom Tiffany Gozdziak delivered little Leonardo at 2:27 a.m. Leonardo edged Gavin on the nursery scales, checking in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

Schlect said she wasn’t planning on a New Year’s baby. She was due on Dec. 30 and went into labor at 4 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. She and Duda arrived at the hospital at about 7 a.m.

“I had this idea that it was going to take 45 minutes,” Schlect said with a slightly tired smile.

“We were hoping for the (2015) tax deduction,” Duda added.

Instead, they get bragging rights and a brief flurry of media attention, which Duda chronicled with his cellphone camera for Gavin to enjoy when he’s older. Schlect said Friday that, after more than 18 hours of labor, things began to get serious around 10 p.m., and as she was coming up to the two-hour mark of serious pushing, “The nurses were kind of betting on us” for the New Year.

A rosy-cheeked baby has been associated with the new year for millennia, starting in ancient Greece, where the baby Dionysus was a symbol of rebirth. The symbol evolved through the ages to be identified with Baby Jesus and more recently with a sash-wearing diapered infant in a top hat who is usually partnered by a long-bearded Father Time, who does the hand-off as the old year passes.

Communities often celebrated first babies and the competition became fierce in some places a few decades ago, with the family of the official first baby being showered with baby products and other supplies for the newborn and new mother.

In 1960, for instance, prizes for Hamburg’s First Baby included baby bunting, baby pictures, baby food, an electric bottle warmer and vaporizer, tickets to the Orchard Park Symphony, a shirt for Dad and a dress for Mom, free milk for a week, $5 in a savings account, passes to the Erie County Fair, candy and gift certificates – all donated by more than 30 retailers.

And in 1946, when Anna Nachreiner gave birth to baby Al Jr. at one second after midnight (making him the region’s first official Baby Boomer), the mayor of Buffalo sent her flowers in the hospital.

Doctors and anyone else who can subtract nine months from 12 say that couples wishing to join the competition for Baby New Year 2017 should consider scheduling a romantic encounter in late March or early April.

If the baby does arrive on Jan. 1, it will share a birthdate with, besides Gavin and Leonardo, the revolutionary American heroes Paul Revere and Betsy Ross, actors Morris Chestnut (“Rosewood” and “Nurse Jackie”), Verne Troyer and Katrina Law (“Arrow”), rapper Grandmaster Flash, reclusive author J.D. Salinger, bandleader Xavier Cugat, former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, scientist George Washington Carver and Buffalo News Arts Editor Jeff Simon.

Having a 1/1 birthdate also is considered a good omen for a lucky life.

Gavin’s mom pointed out one bit of luck right away: “At least he’ll probably have his birthday off every year.”