TAMPA — In her left arm, Jocelyn Bear cradled her newborn daughter, Jenna, born on the last day of 2011.
In her right arm, she held Jenna's twin sister, Leah, born on the first day of 2012.
"It's a great way to end the previous year and start the new year," said Blake Bear, 34, of New Tampa, now a father of three.
Delivered at midnight Sunday at Tampa General Hospital, Leah Bear appears to be the Tampa Bay area's first baby of the new year. Jenna Bear, born at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, may well be the last baby born in 2011.
Both are healthy, the parents reported, with Jenna weighing 6 pounds, 15 ounces, and Leah weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces.
Matching bassinets and clothes await the baby girls at home, but these twins will always have separate birthdays to distinguish them.
Babies are born every day. But it has become tradition to celebrate the first baby of the new year as a bit of a good luck charm, said Tampa General spokeswoman Ellen Fiss.
"Every hospital is proud of the chance of bringing in the first baby because of the novelty," she said.
Many Tampa Bay area hospitals engage in friendly competition, she said, with nurses calling around to see which hospital happened to deliver the first.
This year, baby Bear arrived just one minute before a 12:01 a.m. birth at Brandon Regional Hospital.
Haley Kay Tyson, 25, of Plant City had planned to spend New Year's Eve with friends.
With her hair and makeup done, she posted a joking Facebook status: "Dear Paisley," she wrote, "Today would be a good day for you to come."
As Tyson was getting ready for the evening, her water broke.
Debuting two weeks ahead of schedule, baby Paisley Faith Tosca carries the names of her parents' two favorite country singers. She surprised her father, Daniel Seth Tosca, 31, of Seffner who was out of town for her birth.
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Dan and Kandace Melzer had given up on giving birth.
Married in 2001, the Largo couple soon discovered that conception would not be easy. They used fertility medication, and Kandace got pregnant with twins in 2002. She lost them in the second trimester. In 2003, she got pregnant — twins again — but again lost them in the second trimester.
Rather than deal with more heartbreak, the Melzers decided to adopt. First they adopted Ty, now 3, and then added Katy, 19 months. They thought they might adopt one more, said Dan Melzer, 36, a pharmacist, but wanted to wait a few years.
Then last fall, Kandace, 37, noticed something — her clothes were getting tighter. When the doctor told her she was five months' pregnant, she didn't believe it. Three positive pregnancy tests later, she did.
Sunday at 8:48 a.m., Trey Daniel Melzer arrived. At 4 pounds, 7 ounces, he was the first baby born in Pinellas County in 2012.
"We had pretty much just given up on having kids by ourselves," said Dan. "But God had a different plan for us."
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The Melzers had a low-key New Year's Eve planned, but that was interrupted about 7:30 p.m. Saturday. They checked into Bayfront Medical Center at 8:48 p.m., 12 hours before Trey arrived.
When they get back home, Dan needs to work on something he had planned to do New Year's Eve. He needs to build a bassinet.
• • •
Brianna Elizabeth Reyes, 7 pounds, 1 ounce, was Pasco County's first baby of 2012. She arrived at Spring Hill Regional Hospital at 6:06 a.m.
Brianna is the first child for Cecilia, 33, and Michael Reyes, 39, of Spring Hill.
The delivery was very painful, and a bit harrowing, said Michael, an independent contractor. But both mother and baby were recovering well Sunday afternoon.
"Hopefully, 2012 will be a great year," he said.
Stephanie Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443. Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or email@example.com.