Merced County Times Newspaper
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Third Time’s The Charm For Mercy’s Baby New Year


Expectant mother Arianna Joya Flores entered Mercy Hospital in Merced a couple times in late December with early labor symptoms. But the mom-to-be ended up leaving empty-handed because, well, it wasn’t time yet.

Not so, on New Year’s, when the 19-year-old Joya Flores gave birth to the first baby of 2024 at Mercy — 19 minutes past midnight.

It’s a baby girl, 5 lbs., 12 oz, with a long name: Alejandra Arianna Cataleya Joya-Morales.

Little Alejandra also continues a family tradition.

“She has the same birthday, Jan. 1, as my mom,” Joya Flores told the Times. “I’m just happy. She’s my first.”

Congrats also goes to grandmother Sophia and father Alexander Morales of Modesto.

Mercy Hospital’s first boy of 2024 is Angel Noel De La Torre who was born at 2:01 a.m. His mother, 20-year-old Alina Sanchez of Atwater was laboring for two days before she was appropriately wheeled into delivery room #2024 — no less. The father, Angel Sr., remarked: “It took a while, but it was worth it. Now I have another reason to work more.”

The last baby born at Mercy in 2023 is little Kayslee, who joins a Merced family with three older brothers.

“Finally a girl in the family,” said her mother, 33-year-old Hailee Hernandez. “Everyone is so excited.”

Congrats goes to dad, Juan Hernandez, grandmother, Lorisa Light, and all the other family members.

Local family practice physician, Dr. Timothy Johnston, helped deliver some of the babies in the early morning on Jan. 1, including Baby New Year. He said he has been involved with up to 10,000 deliveries in his career, but he said this particular day is always special. He even showed up later to hand out gift baskets and silver spoons to the new moms and newborns.

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