FORT MILL, S.C. (AP) — Alyssa Ann Farley can’t talk yet, but someday she’ll be able to say something generations of Fort Mill residents can’t. She was the first born there.
Farley arrived at 11:34 p.m. on Sept. 14 at 7 pounds, 15 ounces and 19.75 inches long. She’s the first baby born at the town’s first hospital, Piedmont Medical Center — Fort Mill. Parents Becky Hatton and Chris Farley met their third child after a scheduled induction.
“It’s a crazy thing for her to be the first one born here,” Hatton said Friday afternoon. “It’s very special.”
Alyssa is the first of her kind, and likely will be the first of many. Traditionally, expectant mothers in Fort Mill have gone either to the long-time Piedmont hospital in Rock Hill or have left the county for maternity care. Often across the North Carolina line to one of several hospitals there.
There are outliers.
There are or have been birthing centers that serve delivering mothers. There are midwives who assist in home births. There are mothers who don’t make it to the hospital, like the 2017 baby boy born in a Chevy truck on an interstate on-ramp beneath peach trees. But overwhelmingly, babies are born in hospitals.
A state health department publication detailing 2018 statistics notes about 98% of babies born in South Carolina, are born in hospitals. Several recent Centers for Disease Control studies show similar figures for the country.
The first baby born at the Fort Mill hospital won’t be a town resident once the discharge papers are signed. The family moved from Virginia to Rock Hill in December. Yet there’s reason to believe the hospital set to serve Fort Mill and Tega Cay will see plenty of births in coming months.
State health department records show from 2015 to 2020, York County residents delivered more than 2,900 babies per year. Annual births held fairly steady in that span.
Two zip codes cover the Fort Mill area.
Combined, residents in those zip codes averaged 760 new babies per year from 2015 to 2020. The 29715 area, which has downtown plus southern and eastern parts of the township, welcomed 458 babies in 2020. That figure is up 26% in five years. The 29708 area of northern and western Fort Mill along with Tega Cay, saw 388 births in 2020. That number is up 24% in four years.
Piedmont’s Rock Hill hospital, which has served York County and neighboring areas for decades, delivered almost 11,000 babies from 2015 to 2021. It’s more than 1,500 babies per year. Figures were a bit higher prior to than during the pandemic. At a high point in 2017, Piedmont staff delivered 1,691 babies.
Future delivering mothers would do well to experience the care Hatton did.
“I enjoyed our experience, being the first ones here,” she said. “They were very excited when we came in for induction. They had their own little welcoming committee.”
At a ribbon cutting the day prior to Alyssa’s arrival, hospital and Tenet Healthcare officials spoke eagerly of welcoming a first baby. Hatton met several hospital officials who helped celebrate with her family.
“We definitely have all the visitors,” Hatton said. “She’s a little famous around here.”
Chris Farley, who like Hatton lived his whole life in Virginia prior to the recent move, said he can’t go out for a haircut of late without hearing excitement in Fort Mill for the new hospital. It’s two decades in the making.
Having been through the birth of three children in the family now, both mother and father compare the Fort Mill site favorably.
”It’s a brand new facility,” Farley said. “I would compare it to some of the best hospitals. To me it’s comparable. Everything looks and seems just like it.”
Everything from the induction scheduling — Hatton didn’t get that opportunity with the older children — to care after Alyssa’s birth was a positive for Hatton.
Alyssa lay for one of her first photos in a pink bloomed bow and a long-sleeved onesie with “Fort Mill Original” across it, her hands and feet nestled inside it. For future Fort Mill families, the new hospital likely will give generations of people a more literal use of the term, born and raised. Countless records from birth certificates to Wikipedia profiles for famous residents are much more likely to list Fort Mill now as the start of someone’s life. For Alyssa’s family, a new life starts now.
“Settling in,” Hatton said two days after her daughter’s birth. “Getting used to a family with three children. We’re all scheduled to go home tomorrow. She’s passed all her tests. She’s got a little personality on her already.”
Hospital officials at the grand opening spoke almost wishfully of a new baby born in Fort Mill. As if they knew something of the family who would welcome that baby. Big sister Gracie, 6, tossed a coin in and wished on a fountain a while back for a baby sister. Big brother Nathan, 4, figures it must have worked.
“Ask him where babies come from and he says, well, if you wish for them it happens,” Hatton said.