Medical Expert Explains the Rules of the Game
MELROSE PARK, Ill. -- No birth is as widely anticipated nor reported as the first baby of the new year. âThe race to have the first baby is something all hospitals share enthusiasm for, especially in large cities like Chicago, and, unfortunately, not all hospitals play fair,â said Karen Deighan, MD, OB/GYN, director of OB/GYN at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System. âHospital staff feel a great sense of pride at the recognition of birthing the first baby, and many parents like the special distinction it gives them and their child,â she said. One second can mean the difference of a tax deduction ($850 or more) this coming February or waiting until February 2012. âI have never had a parent ask me to schedule or induce a pregnancy to meet a tax deadline,â Dr. Deighan said. âBut in this tight economy, I am sure there are many who would opt for the tax deduction over the title of Parent of the New Year Baby.â
Dr. Deighan said Chicago births in 2009 were reportedly down by 16 percent and she sees that trend reflected at Gottlieb and Loyola. âThere are still plenty of women with due dates this season, but the field is definitely narrowing,â she said. âEveryone should want a healthy baby and mother, first and foremost,â she said, adding, âYou may lose the race for the first baby of the new year, but you are in good shape to win the record for lifetime achievement.â Here is a playbook from Dr. Deighan on understanding the game of âFirst Baby of the New Year.â Who Makes the Call? - The circulating nurse makes the official call on the time of delivery. âThereâs no uniform clock or official system of timekeeping that I know of. We donât all synchronize our clocks with each other on a certain day or hour,â Dr. Deighan said. âParents of January 1st babies are more likely to report their childâs birth in relation to midnight, such as âone hour after midnight,â or â90 seconds after midnightâ to get proximity to the new year.â Defining What Constitutes âBornâ - Unlike a basketball in a hoop or a football carried across the goal line, the definition of when a baby is officially born may confuse the layman. âThe time of birth is always called when the baby is completely outside of the mother,â Dr. Deighan said. âIt is not when the cord is cut, or the head crowns.â Proof Positive - âMost hospitals do not allow births to be filmed for legal reasons as well as for safety reasons, and certainly a film is not required to be submitted for proof as there is no overarching regulation group. It is kind of the honor system,â said Dr. Deighan, who readily volunteers that there will always be grumbling dissent from competing hospitals.
Smile for the Camera - âThe media always wants to interview the mother and photograph the baby but that requires signed consent from both parents for themselves and again as guardians for the baby,â Dr. Deighan said. âOften, what is publicized as the first baby of the new year, is actually the first baby whose parents gave the hospital permission for publicity.â
Extra! Extra! - Members of the media routinely call hospital media representatives around midnight in a competition to be the first outlet to announce the baby. âHospital media members are in constant contact with nurses in their birth unit, and they are the ones to alert the media,â Dr. Deighan said. The Spoils of Victory - âThe first baby born at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital is presented with a gift basket of clothing and toys, regardless of the time of delivery,â said Dr. Deighan, acknowledging that occasionally local businesses may also contribute a gift. âGetting a lifetime of diapers, or a college scholarship is pretty rare; just having the media publicity is usually the reward.â Physicians, medical staff and hospitals do not receive any monetary benefit from the distinction of delivering the first baby of the year but welcome the publicity. âLoyola in Maywood had the first baby of Chicago in 2009, and everyone at the hospital liked seeing our name in the papers and on camera for such a happy occasion,â she said.
Ways to Cheat - âIf a patient is actively in labor, there may be encouragement for her to hold off on that final last push during the final clock countdown to the new year,â Dr. Deighan said, adding that if a mother is overdue, inducement of labor could be orchestrated with the new year. âA physician could also perform a strategically scheduled Caesarean section,â said Dr. Deighan, who added that she has never timed delivery or surgery to coincide with the new year. Like many hospitals, Loyola and Gottlieb will not unnecessarily perform a C-section before a healthy baby is 39 weeks. âWe really only perform C-sections when there is a specific medical reason to safeguard the health of mother and child,â she said. Many âFirstsâ - âThere may be one baby that is proclaimed as the official first baby born in Chicago, but suburbs and hospitals also usually celebrate and publicize âtheirâ first baby,â Dr. Deighan said. âI delivered the first baby of 2010 at Gottlieb, and she arrived about 36 hours after the new year, but she still got her picture and name in the area papers.â
Training Now to Have a New Yearâs Baby? - âThe average pregnancy is 40 weeks, so you will want to become pregnant in April to be a contender,â Dr. Deighan said. âThere are many October births, perhaps created by some ardent New Yearâs celebration, but at no other time of year nor holiday does the world so closely herald a newborn.â