As Long Islanders rang in 2011, a Hempstead couple welcomed a baby girl into the world, leading Nassau University Medical Center to claim the distinction of having the first baby born on the Island this year.
Jalen Ruby Castillo Zepeda arrived at 12:03 a.m. at the East Meadow hospital.
Jalen, who weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and was 20 inches long, was to have been due Monday. But her mother, Elida Zepeda, 23, went into labor at 8:30 p.m. Friday. She and her husband, Juventino Castillo, 28, rushed to the hospital from their home for what became a quick delivery.
"I'm very happy," said Zepeda, who added that she was hoping to have the baby right at the beginning of the new year. "I wasn't expecting that she would be born . . . I was very surprised."
Zepeda said she is delighted that her baby is healthy and looks forward to seeing her grow.
She and her husband, both originally from Guatemala, have a 5-year-old son who is living with family members in Central America. They said they plan to remain in the United States and raise their daughter.
"It's the best gift I could have had," said Castillo, a construction worker. "I want to give thanks to God."
Shelley Lotenberg, a hospital spokeswoman, said she has been calling the hospital on New Year's Eve for more than a year to check whether the hospital has Long Island's first birth of the year.
This year, NUMC got its wish. "I'm thrilled we finally have the first baby of the year," Lotenberg said.
Calls to more than a dozen other Long Island hospitals found no challengers to her claim.