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A new father in the nick of time

Had Mother Nature held out three more days, Rick Carlton would have had to wait another year to celebrate Father's Day. But good luck, good health and gentle encouragement have made today a special day for the proud new father.

Carlton's wife, Jackie, gave birth Thursday to their first child _ Carlton's ticket to officially celebrate today's day of dads. Shanley Lynne Carlton, whose Gaelic name means "child of an old hero," weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces. She measured 20{ inches after being born at 6:44 p.m. at Spring Hill Regional Hospital.

Shanley's birth surprised the couple. Doctors were planning to artificially induce the birth Monday because Shanley was late.

"I was worried at first that I'd have to wait a whole year to have Father's Day," Carlton, 30, said Friday. "I was hoping (Jackie) would have it by the weekend. I didn't want to wait a full year."

Shanley was supposed to arrive Tuesday. When she didn't, beating the Father's Day deadline became a team effort for the Carltons.

"We were both trying our best to get her to come," said Mrs. Carlton, 25. "Plus, I was tired of being pregnant anyway."

The couple took long walks to induce the birth naturally.

Labor started Wednesday night, with contractions coming Thursday morning. Less than 12 hours later, after hours of walking, Shanley arrived.

"It was totally amazing. It was like everything stopped," Carlton said, describing the delivery. "You saw the head come out and the baby looked around. There was total silence in the room. I'll never forget that moment in my life.

"Hopefully she'll be a daddy's little girl. I'll spoil her. This whole thing is truly something. I want a second one."

The Brooksville couple are hospital employees. Mrs. Carlton is a nurse at Brooksville Regional Hospital, a sister facility to Spring Hill Regional; her husband is a budget officer for corporate parent Hernando Healthcare Inc.

Of course, the baby means more than just Father's Day cards. It means new responsibilities, familial and financial.

Carlton already is planning for Shanley's future.

In the near future, he plans to spend a lot of time, including today, holding the baby and helping his wife.

In the long term, he wants to teach Shanley golf, his favorite sport, so she can earn money for college scholarships and, perhaps, break into the professional circuit.

"Maybe the first thing I'll get her is a miniature putter," Carlton said.