No one thought Melissa Rodriguez would deliver so quickly.
When she arrived with her husband, Anthony, at Tampa General Hospital on Friday, doctors figured she'd be in labor for several hours. At 10:30 p.m., the 37-year-old Tampa woman was not even considered as being in active labor.
But when doctors checked again at about 11:50 p.m., Rodriguez was fully dilated. Things started moving fast.
Less than 15 minutes later — at 12:01 a.m. Saturday to be exact — Samantha Marilyn Rodriguez was born, becoming the Tampa Bay area's first baby of 2011. She is 5 pounds and 8 ounces and 18 inches long.
"It's kind of exciting," her mother said about 12 hours later. "I couldn't believe the big deal everyone made of it being New Year's Day … but it is neat. It is special."
Samantha is Rodriguez's third child. She also has a 4-year-old daughter, a 16-year-old son and a 15-year-old stepdaughter.
Hospitals usually take pride in delivering the first baby of the year, officials said, but with Samantha's delivery, there was no planning. In fact, even as late as 11:30 p.m., officials at Tampa General figured they were far off from any births that night.
"There was no special timing," said Susan Smith, the attending physician. "We didn't really realize we were getting so close to the New Year until it was almost all over."
Smith called Samantha's birth a "perfect textbook delivery."
"We didn't see the ball drop," Smith said. "We saw a nice baby delivered, which was better."
Less than an hour after Samantha's birth, another baby girl made her way into the world at Spring Hill Regional Hospital, becoming Hernando County's first baby of the year.
The last thing of 2010 that Miguel Esteban remembers was looking at the clock.
"Give me the epidural," his wife shouted.
Aileen Almirall's due date was Jan. 14 but her water broke on the morning of New Year's Eve. At 12:42 a.m. Saturday, the 39-year-old gave birth to a girl, whom they named Alanis Esteban. She was 7 pounds, 3 ounces and perfect, Esteban said.
This is the Spring Hill couple's fourth daughter. They have no sons. Esteban said he's used to being outnumbered.
"Some people say she's got my nose," said Esteban, 41, a truck driver. "I just hope she looks like my wife."
A few hours later, Jonathan John became Pinellas County's first baby of 2011.
He arrived at 3:18 a.m. at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, weighing a little more than 4 pounds. A few weeks premature, he is the first child of Shady and Heba John, both 27, of Clearwater.
In Pasco County, no babies were born on Saturday.