SILVER SPRING – Becky McDermott hadn’t planned on a millennium baby, so when she learned her first child was due on New Year’s Day, she was more worried than happy.
“I had heard of all these people trying to conceive in time for the millennium and imagined them all stacked up in the maternity ward, like a Civil War battlefield,” said the University Park resident.
It won’t be that bad, but hospitals around the state said they are expecting at least a slight increase in New Year’s Day births this year, given the fact that some people were trying to conceive in time for a New Year’s Day delivery.
“We are expecting a 7 percent rise in the numbers of babies delivered at our hospital,” said Mary Lou Baker of the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.
Because babies tend to follow their own schedules, any woman who is due to deliver two weeks before or two weeks after Jan. 1 is considered to have a good chance at giving birth on New Year’s Day. That puts more than 5,000 babies in the running to be the first-baby-of-the-millennium in Maryland, although only about 150 New Year’s Day births are actually expected.
An average of 185 babies were born each day in Maryland in 1998, but only 125 babies were delivered on that New Year’s Day, said Isabelle Horon, of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “But one would have to be a soothsayer to say what will happen this year,” she said.
Debbie Hagopian, of Churchton in Anne Arundel County, said she was surprised to learn that her third baby, a boy, was due on New Year’s Day.
“I will be even more surprised if the baby actually comes that day,” she said. But, she added, “I have been exactly on time with my other two children, so it’s possible.”
Like McDermott and her husband, John Filler, Hagopian and her husband, John, 41, were not planning a millennium baby. In fact, they weren’t planning on a baby at all.
“I was thinking of going back to my job as a computer programmer to work on the Y2K problem,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t realize at the time that I would have to start worrying about it myself.”
Y2K fears notwithstanding, millennium babies have spawned something of a cottage industry.
Web sites offered conception kits around April 8, supposedly the best date to conceive a Jan. 1 baby, and now they are peddling everything from silver cups to clothes to cribs, all specially designed for babies arriving in the new millennium. Some sites are monitoring couples from around the country to see who delivers first and another site suggests special names for millennium babies — Xena, Skylar, Apollia, Akyra, Vida and Soleil, among others.
“My two kids are called Kimberly and Stephen,” said Hagopian. “There’s no way I am going to give my third child a weird name.”
She is not buying into the millennium excitement of other prospective parents.
“I had heard of other people planning to have Y2K babies, but what does that mean? What difference will it make?” Hagopian asked.
Her 5-year-old daughter, Kimberly, is excited enough to be “counting down the days on a calendar,” Hagopian said. But one sister-in-law needed to be told her due date three times. “I would ask her how she could forget a date like that?” Hagopian said with a laugh.
As the date draws closer, however, “some of my friends are beginning to get really excited,” she added.
McDermott and Filler said their families are also caught up in the millennium mood.
“They are betting to see when the baby comes,” Filler said. “My mother is hysterical.”
McDermott said that even strangers get excited about her due date.
“It acts as an instant ice breaker. Everyone has some advice on how to make sure the baby comes on the right day — someone suggested I try eating spices to induce birth if the baby didn’t come on New Year’s Day,” she said.
She is not planning to try any of that. For now, just the wait is a lot of fun. But she is not entirely ignoring the possibility that she and her baby may make it at the right time.
“I’ll pack something special (for the hospital), do my hair … I don’t want to look too bad if I’m on TV,” she said.