Dec. 31, 2012 — -- Sarah Grillo was lying on an operating table last New Year's Eve as doctors prepared for her cesarean section when she heard people singing Auld Lang Syne down the hall.
"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, they could really be New Year's babies," she said, adding that her water had broken about five weeks before her twins were due. "We weren't looking to be the first of the year."
Ten minutes later, baby Grace and her one-minute-younger brother, Luke, became Boston's first babies of 2012.
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But in other cities, like Chicago, a 12:10 a.m. baby would probably be too late to be crowned first baby of the year, said Dr. Karen Deighan, the director of OB/GYN at Gottleib Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
"People will be, like, 12 midnight and two seconds," she said.
Since so many babies seem to be born seconds after midnight in Chicago, Deighan said she thinks it's probably "a little artificial." A normal day will have eight deliveries over 24 hours in her hospital, though a day without births isn't unheard of.
Dr. Lauren Streicher, who was an OB/GYN for more than 20 years in Chicago, said she'd left a party to deliver a baby one New Year's Eve and realized it was close to midnight. She told her patient she had a choice: She could either give one final push or wait five minutes.
At midnight, the mother gave one last push, but she was a few seconds too late, Streicher said. Another baby made it out first because that mother was holding back, too.
"They were all doing it. They were all panting, panting, panting," said Streicher, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's medical school. "Particularly if someone has had an epidural, they can hold back. Many times, someone is trying not to deliver, waiting for the doctor to get there, waiting for the husband to get there. In most times, there's more control than you think."
Although most years Streicher's patients aren't interested in having the first baby, she said she recalls one other patient who wanted to wait the 30 seconds before midnight to deliver.
"She wanted me to put a hand on the baby's head and hold it," Streicher said, adding that the patient was having a hard time controlling her pushing. "It was 30 seconds. The baby's heart rate was fine."
The odds of having a baby in the first minute of the year aren't far from the odds of getting struck by lightning, said Dr. Jennifer Austin, an OB/GYN at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. According to the National Weather Service, the odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 775,000. Because there are 526,600 minutes in a year, the odds of giving birth at 12:01 on Jan. 1 are 1 in 526,600.
"Unless you're having a scheduled c-section, it's impossible to predict exactly when and where your baby will come," she said. "And no doctor is going to do a scheduled c-section in the middle of the night. It's not safe."
Births are rarely scheduled for New Year's Eve because hospitals have reduced holiday staffing, Streicher said. More likely, they're scheduled for the last few days of the year so mommy and daddy can get a tax break.
The Grillos may have missed last year's tax break, but the twins are now almost a year old and getting ready to celebrate their first birthday in Boston. And this birthday, daddy won't have to handle media calls and interviews.
"They had their 15 minutes of fame early," Grillo said.
One day when the twins are older, their parents will have to tell them that Grace was actually the first baby of the 2012, not Luke, but that's OK, father Chris Grillo said. Grace is the one who likes the limelight. Luke is "the strong, silent type."