Last-of-the-year babies win tax-deduction sweepstakes

Dionne Johnson finishes getting her son Jai'Cionn dressed after changing his diaper Wednesday at Lawrence+Memorial Hospital. Jai'Cionn was the last baby to be born at L+M in 2013.
Dionne Johnson finishes getting her son Jai'Cionn dressed after changing his diaper Wednesday at Lawrence+Memorial Hospital. Jai'Cionn was the last baby to be born at L+M in 2013. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

While the special attention typically paid to the first babies of the year may be nice, being born on the last day isn't bad either.

"I definitely wanted him to be born on the first of the year," said Dionne Johnson of Westerly, cradling her newborn son Jai'Cionn, born at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London at 11:23 a.m. Tuesday, more than 12 hours shy of the new year and six days before his due date. "But he chose the day. I celebrated the end of the old year and the start of the new one with him."

For having her son come into the world in the last hours of 2013 instead of in 2014, Johnson can take a $1,000 tax credit on her 2013 return, a perk at least four other mothers in the region will be able to enjoy. The region's first baby of the new year was born at 5:35 a.m. at L+M, followed by a baby girl at 4:10 Wednesday afternoon. The mother of the first baby declined to be interviewed.

The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich had no babies born on New Year's Day, but had welcomed two on Tuesday.

One of those was Sherily Santiago, a Norwich resident and teacher's aide at the Dual Language & Arts Middle Magnet School in Waterford. She gave birth to Isabelle, her second daughter, just before 6 p.m. Tuesday, eight days before her due date.

"I was really hoping to have her on Christmas," said Santiago, who spent New Year's Eve watching TV in her room at Backus with her husband and their newborn, staying up until midnight to see the ball drop in Times Square.

Santiago, who turned 26 on Dec. 23, said that despite Isabelle arriving a few days later than she'd hoped, her new daughter's birthday makes the season of celebration even more special.

"She's like a Christmas present and a New Year's present and a birthday present for me all at once," Santiago said.

New mother Kimberley Pettey of Mystic said she and her partner, Ken Kliphon, slept through the turn of the year with their newborn son, Theodore James, in her room at L+M. But if all goes according to plan, they won't miss out when the turn of 2014 to 2015 coincides with his first birthday.

"We normally go to a huge party at a hotel in Pennsylvania, so he's invited for next year," said Pettey, as Theodore napped in her arms. "He's got a great birthday with a built-in party."

Theodore was born just past noon on Tuesday, after 36 hours of labor.

Pettey said the advantages of the timing of his birth were about the farthest thing from her mind by the time she'd recovered enough to send cellphone photos of her newborn to friends and family.

"But just about everyone responded back that he'd be a tax deduction," she said.

A few hours before Theodore was born, Daphnee Appolon of Groton was delivering her second child, Hannah Abigael Raymond, by cesarean section at L+M, six days ahead of her due date. Appolon said Dec. 31 was the day she chose because that's when her regular obstetrician was available to do the surgery, not for the tax windfall.

New Year's Eve, she said, passed in a fog of recovery and excitement over the new baby.

"I couldn't sleep all night," she said.

For maternity nurses at both Backus and L+M, the first babies of the year have long been the source of extra excitement.

"You have some moms that want the baby to come before the end of the year and some who want to be on the first day of the year," said Karen Bongo, a registered nurse in the Labor and Delivery Department at L+M for 18 years.

Typically there's a bit of friendly competition between the two hospitals to have the first baby of the year, with nurses from the two hospitals calling each other to check whether the other had the first birth yet.

"Of course everybody wants to have the first baby. It's kind of a letdown when you don't," said Angela Shirey, registered nurse in the Labor and Delivery Department at Backus. "It rings in the new year with a nice, positive note."

As of Wednesday evening, no New Year's Day babies had been born at Backus, so nurses would have to wait until later this week to award the special basket of gift certificates, clothing and blankets they'd put together for the first baby.

"We're waiting anxiously," Shirey said.

j.benson@theday.com

Daphnee Appolon rests while her daughter Hannah Abigael sleeps Wednesday at L+M Hospital. Hannah was one of the last babies to be born in 2013 at L+M.
Daphnee Appolon rests while her daughter Hannah Abigael sleeps Wednesday at L+M Hospital. Hannah was one of the last babies to be born in 2013 at L+M. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo
Kimberley Pettey holds her son Theodore James Kliphon Wednesday at L+M Hospital. Theodore was one of the last babies to be born in 2013 at L+M.
Kimberley Pettey holds her son Theodore James Kliphon Wednesday at L+M Hospital. Theodore was one of the last babies to be born in 2013 at L+M. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo
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