Kristine Kokoszka was waiting tables at an airport pub on Tuesday afternoon when she went into labor. After a round of congratulations from her customers, she drove herself to Carolinas Medical Center.
At 1:14 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Samuel Ryker Kokoszka arrived at 8 pounds, 2 ounces, the first baby born in a Charlotte hospital in 2014.
Mom and Dad are excited about the honorific. But as three TV cameras and one from the Observer filmed young Sam, he slept peacefully in the cradle of his mother’s left elbow, oblivious of the attention. He clasped his tiny fingers together on his chest and never opened his eyes.
Sam was born more than a week early, a whirlwind birth that caught Kristine and her husband, Peter, by surprise. She was trying to get in as many hours at work as possible before his due date, Jan. 10. Peter Kokoszka, an electrician, had just finished a job in Lenoir and was heading out for a beer with a buddy when Kristine telephoned.
Their baby was on his way.
“It was surreal,” said Peter, 33. He arrived at the hospital to find Kristine’s extended family already gathered in the waiting room, where they all celebrated the New Year, and then Sam’s birth. He’s a big boy, 21 1/4 inches tall, with a full head of curly brown hair.
“There was no champagne,” said Kristine, 28. “but that’s OK.”
Sam was ready
Kristine grew up in Charlotte, and Peter hails from Long Island. They met when they were in the Marine Corps, at a debriefing in New Orleans. She was a lance corporal, he was a corporal, both headed to the Horn of Africa as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Their second day together, Peter delivered two dozen pink roses to Kristine’s room.
Still, he said Wednesday, “Nine years ago, I never pictured us being here. It’s just the greatest day in my life.”
They had hosted a party at their house, announcing that the baby would be a boy. But they kept his name a secret until Wednesday. Kristine said they picked Samuel from the Bible and Ryker because it’s unique.
“I felt like I wasn’t ready, but he was ready and we went with it,” she said.
Ten minutes after Sam was born, Laila Rae Sharpling was born a mile and a half away, the first baby in 2014 at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. She is the daughter of Chelsea Taylor and Andrew Sharpling, and weighed in almost as big as Sam, at 8 pounds, 1 ounce.
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