It was 3 a.m. on Tuesday and the contractions were coming quick for expectant mother Linda Black Bear, whose due date was estimated for Jan. 3.
An early arrival might have been OK, except Black Bear was in Box Elder, and in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, she had no one to drive her to the hospital in Rapid City.
So with her unborn baby kicking away, she got behind the wheel, and as she also fielded a flourish of phone calls from her mother, Black Bear drove the roughly 10 miles to Rapid alone with a mix of determination and desperation.
Black Bear made it to Rapid, got a ride with her sister to Regional Hospital, and after three hours of labor gave birth to a boy who became the first baby born in Rapid in 2013.
Caden Blaze Black Bear was born at 6:48 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2013; he weighed nine pounds, six ounces and was 19 inches long.
Black Bear reflected on her wild ride Tuesday while she held her bundled-up baby as TV cameras and reporters hovered about asking questions of the lucky New Year’s mother.
"I was kind of scared; I didn't want to,” she said of her solo drive. “I was trying to hold off until his due date on Jan. 3, but he just wanted to come.”
Black Bear’s family had predicted — and hoped — she would have a New Year's baby.
Black Bear barely beat out another mother for the honor of having the first Rapid City baby of 2013, and at least one more mother was going through labor Tuesday afternoon. Hospital staff said the number of babies birthed on any given day could range from two to 10.
Regional Health offers the mother of the first baby of the New Year a gift of baby clothes and other prizes. Black Bear expected to take Caden home today, where his brothers, dad and cousins await him.
The pregnancy went off without a hitch, something Black Bear is grateful for. "I'm just glad I didn't have a C-section," she said.
Though Caden got a few extra gifts for being the New Year's baby, whether he'll get short-shrift later in life — gifts on only a birthday or Christmas, not both — remains to be seen.
But Black Bear suspects holiday celebrations and birthdays likely will fuse into one.
"Probably it will be a big old celebration, since New Year's is his birthday," she said.
And it all started with somewhat harrowing drive from Box Elder, followed by conversations with family on the phone while going through labor.
"I drove into town from up there. I had three contractions on the way. My mom was like, 'Even though you get pulled over, just keep going,'" Black Bear said. "My phone was blowing up while I was in labor."