CLEARWATER — Philip Chevere thought his wife had another three weeks before she’d deliver their first baby.
But there he was, in a birthing room at Morton Plant Hospital, with one eye on how she was doing and one eye on the clock as it ticked toward midnight and the start of 2018.
"Happy New Year’s, babe," Chevere said, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She didn’t seem to be listening.
The clock would tick a while longer before Rachel Chevere finally ended nearly eight hours of labor and gave birth at 12:46 a.m. to 6-pound, 10-ounce Lincoln Philip Chevere — one of the first babies born in the Tampa Bay area during the new year.
Across the bay in Plant City, Jessica Venegas was pushing through the last few minutes of labor early Monday after her Dec. 30 due date came and went. She gave birth to her daughter, Jasline, at 1:05 a.m.
"I kind of wanted a New Year’s baby, though my wife was thinking, ‘What if he comes before, so we can get a tax write-off?’?" Philip Chevere said.
Now, it doesn’t matter much either way.
"As long as he is here and he is healthy, whenever he comes — as long as he is able to be part of our family and he is fully healthy," he said.
Rachel Chevere, 31, is a hairdresser and owns her own business. Philip, 30, is a youth pastor at Clearwater First Assembly of God and also works in a shoe store.
They never gave a thought to the idea of a New Year’s baby. Mom was three weeks away from her due date when dad got a call from the midwife after he got off work Sunday.
"I thought I was going to have time to mentally prepare myself," Philip Chevere said. "Then she told me, ‘You’re going to be a dad in a day.’?"
No need to attend those last two birthing classes now, but the Clearwater couple will need to finish painting the nursery.
As tough as this first labor was, with mom longing out loud for a break that never came, she was already talking about the next baby once Lincoln had been placed on her chest, Philip Chevere said.
New Year’s celebrations, usually taken up with church youth activities during the couple’s first three years of marriage, will never be the same, he said.
"He’s just a blessing, something we couldn’t have done on our own — this was God’s timing, the first day of 2018. The year’s brand new and now we have a new life and new adventure to start."
Venegas, 16, had to wait a day and a half after her due date but was thrilled to welcome her first daughter shortly after 1 a.m. at South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City.
Jasline weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
Nurses and staff in blue scrubs smiled broadly as they posed for a picture with mom and baby.
It was a natural delivery, and relatively easy, said Venegas, a junior at Durant High School.
Until now, she said, she normally spends New Year’s Eve at home with family.
Like the Cheveres, Venegas and Jasline’s father, Sergio Pineda, 18, hadn’t given much thought to the idea of a New Year’s baby until the nurses in the delivery room pointed to the clock as it ticked closer to 2018.
"Now we get to celebrate her birthday and New Year’s together each year," Venegas said. "It’s pretty special."
Times staff writer Caitlin Johnston contributed to this report. Contact Dennis Joyce at [email protected]