About a half-hour after his parent’s ginger ale New Year’s toast, Levi Charles Marais arrived at NCH Birth Place in North Naples, making him Collier County’s first baby of 2013.
Levi, the first child for 23-year-old Rachel and Roger Marais, 25, of Golden Gate Estates, was delivered at 12:35 a.m. Tuesday, a week after his Christmas due date — and nearly an hour before Lee County’s first baby. Levi weighed 8 pounds, 2-ounces and was 21 inches long.
“We did shots of ginger ale for New Year’s because they thought he was going to be the first baby of the year,” Roger Marais, a server at Capital Grille in Mercato in North Naples, said of his wife, nurses and staff. “As soon as he came out, they cleaned him and gave him a New Year’s tiara and he was good to go.”
“It’s surreal. It really is. Honestly, it’s the best feeling other than our wedding,” he added. “I’m ecstatic, elated — and terrified.”
Not realizing he could stretch out yet, Levi lay quietly Tuesday afternoon in his mother’s arms, clad in a blue one-piece sleeper with multicolored bootees and 2013 hat knitted by hospital volunteers. Around him, the tumult of 15 family members, including his 2-month-old cousin, Troy Gabriel Sholly, filled the spacious room.
“He’s very calm,” said Melissa Artman, a registered nurse assigned to the couple.
Rachel Marais looked down at her son, his eyes clenched shut, his arms and legs curled and his hands balled up, not fully peeking out of his sleeper.
“Are you sure you were inside of me?” Rachel Marais asked him, noting, “He’s not fussy at all.”
Levi came 1½ years after their wedding. The couple met at Capital Grille. Marais served Rachel Malo and her date. Two weeks later, he saw the cosmetologist, again and she was single.
“So I asked her out and one thing led to another,” said Marais, who just graduated from Edison College with a degree in applied science supervision, but hopes for a management job at Capital Grille, where he’s worked eight years.
Now she plans to be a stay at home mother because she comes from a big family and hopes for the same. They’ve prepared for Levi’s future by setting up a Florida prepaid college fund.
“As soon as we found out we were pregnant, we started a college fund. My dad did it for us, so I wanted to do it for our kids,” he said of himself and his sister, Trudi Sholly, whose baby was born a few rooms away on Oct. 22, two weeks early.
On nearby tables, large gift baskets provided by nurses and hospital staff bulged with toys and baby necessities as children played and the adults took turns holding Levi.
“They treated us like royalty all night,” Roger Malais said as his wife agreed.
“They’ve really made this wonderful for us,” she said as she rested in bed. “This is definitely a one-time experience. It’s the best New Year’s we’ll ever have.”
Lee County’s first baby was born at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers. Mazil Izaira Morales, the first child for Sammy and Cynthia Morales of Lehigh Acres, arrived at 1:32 a.m. She weighed 7-pounds, 2 ounces and was 20½ inches long.
“Oh my God, it’s an incredibly amazing, mind-blowing experience,” said Sammy Morales, an installer for Cornerstone Tile and Marble. “She’s quiet in my arms. She definitely likes daddy.”