Fruitland couple welcomes first baby of 2016

Noel Lyn Smith
"I'm tired but it's worth it. Totally worth it," said Melissa Wheeler after giving birth to the first baby born on New Year's Day at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The first baby born in 2016 at San Juan Regional Medical Center slept in her mother’s arms Friday afternoon.

Asunta Marie Wheeler was born at 3:57 a.m., weighing in at 8 pounds and 6 ounces. She is the daughter of Melissa and James Wheeler of Fruitland.

Melissa Wheeler, who initially thought she would have the last baby of 2015, described her newborn as “mellow” in an interview Friday afternoon.

“It’s a great way to start the new year. It’s a blessing,” she said while holding Asunta in her arms.

James Wheeler watched his new daughter, who periodically flexed her fingers and toes.

“She’s beautiful. I had tears in my eyes,” he said.

Asunta Marie Wheeler was born at 3:57 a.m. on New Year's Day, according to her mother, Melissa Wheeler. Asunta rests on Friday after her birth at the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.

He was in the delivery room when Asunta was born and said he knew his daughter wanted to be the hospital’s New Year’s Day baby.

Asunta slept through the visit despite a Daily Times photographer's flash illuminating the room from time to time.

“She’s going to sleep right through it all,” Melissa Wheeler said with a chuckle.

Asunta means “beautiful flower” in the Cherokee language and the name was selected by the baby’s grandmother, Melissa Wheeler said.

The newborn wore a black one piece bodysuit with the words, “Happy New Year,” in pink letters. She was wrapped in a crocheted blanket made by the hospital’s auxiliary program.

Each year the group celebrates the first baby born in the new year by presenting the family with a gift basket filled with items for the new arrival.

Melissa Wheeler said among the items was clothing, and crocheted baby hats, booties and blankets.

“Somebody spent a lot of time doing this,” she said.

Melissa Wheeler and Asunta Marie Wheeler rest on Friday at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington. Asunta was the first birth at the medical center on New Year's Day.

Laura Werbner, a hospital spokeswoman, said the auxiliary program is “very happy” to contribute.

“I know they get excited. They love babies,” Werbner said.

Asunta arrived almost two weeks before her Jan. 14 due date, which was not a surprise to Melissa Wheeler, who said she delivered her two other children early.

She delivered Asunta via emergency C-section after the baby turned in the womb, making natural childbirth impossible.

The couple’s children, daughter Makayla Wheeler, 6, and son Connor Myer, 13, stayed with their grandmother, but visited early Friday.

Melissa Wheeler said Makayla often talked to her baby sister.

“Every day she touched my belly and talked to her sister. Now she’s got a face with a name,” she said.

Visiting the family Friday afternoon was the baby’s uncle, Gary, who declined to provide his last name.

“I got all excited to see my new niece,” he said.

As Melissa Wheeler rested, she continued to keep an eye on Asunta.

“I’m tired but it’s worth it, totally worth it. I wish I could sleep as good as her,” Melissa Wheeler said with a laugh.

Mother and daughter are scheduled to go home on Sunday.

“I already got her bedroom set up,” James Wheeler said.

When asked if Asunta’s bedroom has a theme, he said it was dragons because he and his wife like the mythical creatures.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.