Kelle Lalko didn't have anything exciting planned for New Year's Eve -- just a quiet dinner with her husband, Steve, and 2-year-old daughter, Emma.
"We were just going to keep it low key," she said.
Instead, the Aurora woman ushered in the new year at Edward Hospital in Naperville, delivering a healthy baby girl early Wednesday morning -- the first baby of 2014 for DuPage County.
Lalko went into labor around 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Ella Marie Lalko arrived about three-and-a-half weeks early at 1:11 a.m. Wednesday, weighing 5.8 pounds and 18 inches long.
"It was very unexpected, but we were very excited," said Lalko, 33, originally from Naperville. "We're just glad that she's here and healthy. Being our second (child), we were a little bit more calm about the whole situation and just excited that it was going to happen."
"We just have all the family down visiting and traveling through this weather to be here," she added.
Though she hadn't planned it that way, Lalko said she was excited to learn Ella was the first new year baby born in DuPage County.
Marisol Verdin of Glendale Heights delivered the first baby of the new year in Cook County.
Elizabeth Ariel Hofmann clocked into the world at 1:18 a.m. at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village. She weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce.
Verdin said she had been having contractions for about a week but knew early Tuesday that it was time.
"I woke up at six in the morning, getting ready for work and she said, 'I think we need to go to the hospital,'" said her partner, James Hofmann.
It is the first child together for the couple, though Verdin has a 5-year-old son at home and Hofmann has an adult daughter who lives elsewhere.
"We had the bags packed and baby seat in the car," Hoffman said.
But it became a waiting game. Just after midnight, doctors were prepared to induce labor, but then nature began to take it's course and Elizabeth arrived on her scheduled due date of Jan. 1.
"She definitely hit the target," Verdin said. But there was some drama, too.
"We were actually competing with the couple next door," she added. "They were two or three minutes behind us. It was a very fun, exciting experience."
Verdin said she had been apprehensive because of difficulty with her first pregnancy but was calmed and supported by hospital staff.
"Everything has turned out amazing," she said. "Everybody is doing well. We're all happy and grateful."
Several babies were born Wednesday in DuPage, though none arrived quite so early.
Jillian Bryant and Javier Amezcua of Downers Grove. welcomed their first child, a baby girl born at 2:56 a.m. Wednesday at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. The baby weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces and was 21 inches long. Hospital staff surprised the new parents with a gift basket, Adventist Midwest Health spokesman Chris LaFortune said.
Meanwhile, Erika and Christian Knuth of Wilmette also welcomed their first child, Lukas Knuth, who was born at 6:43 a.m. Wednesday at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. Lukas came in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces and is 20 inches long. He was delivered through a water birth by a certified nurse midwife, LaFortune said.
Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.