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Baby Irvin arrives first in Tampa, just as Mom predicted

In the first minutes of the new year, 100,000 people crowded Trafalgar Square in London, dozens of cars were torched in France, firecrackers injured 458 in the Philippines, and, in a delivery room in Tampa, a baby boy was born.

Irvin Beacham III came into the world at 12:57 a.m. at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital, at 7 pounds and 19{ inches, with a full head of hair and what appeared to be a broad smile, like his mother's.

He was the first baby born in Tampa in 1999, just two minutes ahead of a baby girl who arrived at Tampa General Hospital across town.

His first-place finish made his mother, LaJemma "Anna Mae" Courtney, 25, mighty proud, but it was, of course, just luck.

Across the bay in St. Petersburg, a little girl named Ariana Victoria Stipp beat him for the title of Tampa Bay's New Year's baby, born at Bayfront Medical Center at 12:08 a.m. The first babies in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties came hours later.

In the big scheme of things, it's just happenstance that one baby arrives first when the calendar year begins. But society makes a habit of recognizing firsts, even ones that happen by accident.

So that's why Irvin's mother predicted Wednesday, when doctors scheduled her son's early delivery, that he would emerge shortly after midnight on New Year's Day.

"I was telling them this is going to be the first baby of the year," she said.

She even bet her neighbor $5 on it.

Irvin was due Jan. 11, but earlier this week, doctors told Courtney they would induce labor for medical reasons. They had planned to deliver Irvin this weekend, but on Wednesday, an appointment opened up for New Year's Eve.

Courtney arrived at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital on Thursday morning on her own. Her 28-year-old husband, Irvin, had to take care of her other three children, Robyn, 7, Roddick, 6, Ianna, 1, and stepdaughter Alexus, 2.

"I was, like, "Irvin, get your butt over here,' " she told her husband over the phone.

He came quickly, but once doctors had administered some medication to induce labor, things bogged down. By evening, Courtney thought she would lose her bet.

But about 11 p.m., the process accelerated unexpectedly. In the delivery room, Courtney's husband stood by her side trying to reassure her, she said.

"He was, like, "It's going to be okay, sweetie,' " Courtney recalled.

She was in so much pain she had lost track of time.

"I was thinking: Why do I keep going through this?" said Courtney, who promised herself last time that her third child would be the last.

By midnight, she just wanted it to end. She didn't care if her son was the first of the New Year. "I was, like, forget it."

And, then, just in time, it was over.

"I was just, like, one push, and he just popped out," she said.

LaterFriday morning, she was holding Irvin in her arms as he slept soundly, wrapped in a blanket. Reporters were visiting her hospital room, and television cameras were taking pictures of her new son.

"Maybe we will get some Pampers, a life supply of Pampers _ it's not like we don't need it," Courtney said.

She doesn't know how her family will support so many children, but, she said, "The Lord doesn't put anything on you that you can't handle."

Courtney's husband had to leave Friday for a business trip in Indiana, but he too hoped their son's first-of-the-year arrival would bring his company, Pryde Records, some fame.

"I feel like when I get interviewed, I want it to come up," he said of his son's distinction. "I will make it come up."

He added, though, "It wasn't a race. I just wanted him to come out safely."

Courtney plans to collect on her $5 bet with her neighbor, too.

"I hardly win anything," she said, a smile coming over her, "but I've won something big."

_ Information from Times wires and staff writer Eric Stirgus contributed to this report.

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