First north country baby of 2023 born at Samaritan Medical Center

Jan. 2—WATERTOWN — The north country's first baby of 2023 wasted no time arriving on the scene.

Little Julian J. Vega came into the world at 1:38 a.m. on New Year's Day, 21 days early, after only two hours of painful labor catching first-time mother Hayley Wood-Rutten, 20, of Watertown, by surprise. He weighed in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces.

Although the baby was planned, Ms. Wood-Rutten said she "did the math not long ago" and realized that she was pregnant about 10 days before she and her boyfriend Jonathan J. Vega had decided they wanted to try to have a child together, so even conception was ahead of schedule.

On New Year's Eve, Ms. Wood-Rutten and grandmother Linda M. Baker went to a gathering where they played games and sang karaoke. After a fun evening, Ms. Wood-Rutten said she went home, went to bed and at 11:11 p.m., her water broke.

Because she didn't have any contractions, she called her grandmother, drove to her house and they went together to Samaritan.

"I'm excited. I always wanted to be a mom," Ms. Wood-Rutten said on Sunday afternoon while cuddling her New Year's Day baby with Mrs. Baker sitting in a chair by her side, "I've always had that maternal instinct. I just think if there was one thing I was meant to be, it's a mom, before anything else."

She added that it is "that unconditional love between a mom and her kid" that attracted her to motherhood and she is already feeling that deep love for Julian.

Mrs. Baker has also been by her granddaughter's side, taking care of her and her two sisters since Ms. Wood-Rutten was 3 years old.

That is when Mrs. Baker's daughter and the mother of the three girls, Tammy J. Rutten, died of cancer at 28 years old.

Mrs. Baker was also at her side in the delivery room and didn't sleep all night because she was so focused on supporting her granddaughter

"These early years are so special. They (babies) are so sweet," she said, saying that she thinks Ms. Wood-Rutten will be a good mom, "And if she don't, I'll be right behind her with my foot," causing her granddaughter to grin and give a half-giggle.

Although Mr. Vega is not currently able to be with his girlfriend and baby, Ms. Wood-Rutten said he is happy about Julian and ready to "step up" and into being his father.

Now that she has Julian, Ms. Wood-Rutten is ready to face what she expects to be her biggest challenge as a mother.

"I just want to make sure I teach him to be a good person. I know I'll always be able to provide for him and he'll have the things he needs and wants, but I just want to make sure I'm teaching him the right things," she said.

And the fact that Julian is the first baby of 2023 makes both women happy.

As they were leaving the delivery room, Mrs. Baker said she was handed a framed certificate that says Julian is the first baby, and as they were walking by the nurses station, she held it up and the nurses all gave a cheer and clapped.

Ms. Wood-Rutten said she is happy her son will always have something that makes him unique — being the first baby — and quietly acknowledged that it makes her feel pretty special, too.

A baby girl was also born at Carthage Area Hospital at 6:26 p.m. Jan. 1.

Courtney Benson, 22, of Carthage, gave birth to 6 pound, 11.8 ounce Kaya Hubbard who is also the daughter of Jermaine Hubbard, Carthage.

There were no New Year's Day babies born at the St. Lawrence Health System, the hospital said.