It had been many hours since her first contraction, and Lacey Mandoli, 26, remained in labor as the year changed from 2020 to 2021.

Zackary Morrison, 26, the baby's father, and Mandoli began to wonder if their baby would be the first born in 2021. After a long and lonely pregnancy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were hoping for an extra positive start to the year.

"I was getting excited thinking maybe we would have the first baby of the new year," Morrison said.

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At 11:58 a.m. on Friday Jan. 1, Kinzley Morrison indeed became the first baby born in Carlton County in 2021, according to county hospital officials. The baby girl weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces and was born at Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Cloquet.

“We started 2021 off with a very, very powerful bang,” Morrison said.

The baby being the first born in the county during the new year was a “blessing in disguise,” Morrison said, and a positive outcome of a difficult pregnancy.

Mandoli, a Cloquet native and health care worker at Plainview Estates assisted living facility, said pregnancy during the pandemic was an isolating experience. She also faced safety concerns due to her job as a health care worker.

According to Mandoli, the experience was not as joyful as it should have been, and she was not able to see most people in her life for the duration of her pregnancy.

“You don’t get to have a baby shower or, you know, have family come to the hospital or ... basically celebrate a new life with anyone,” she said.

Morrison echoed Mandoli’s feelings about the pregnancy, and said it was a challenging time. He was unable to attend doctor's appointments with Mandoli because of COVID-19 restrictions and said he was grateful to be present for the baby's birth.

Zackary Morrison and Lacey Mandoli pose with their new baby, Kinzley Morrison. Kinzley was the first baby born in Carlton County in 2021. (Photo courtesy of Community Memorial Hospital)
Zackary Morrison and Lacey Mandoli pose with their new baby, Kinzley Morrison. Kinzley was the first baby born in Carlton County in 2021. (Photo courtesy of Community Memorial Hospital)

Mandoli has three other children in addition to the newest baby, two of which were also born at CMH. She said her experience with the hospital has always been a positive one.

“They are great staff,” Mandoli said. "They're so attentive. They're caring. They're very family-orientated ... they're just amazing people."

Morrison is originally from Barnum, but currently lives in Cloquet with Mandoli. He works as a machine operator at Altec Industries in Duluth, and said he hopes 2021 continues on the upward slope on which it began.

Both Mandoli and Kinzley are healthy and have returned home. Mandoli said they hope to get back to normal life and be able to have family come visit the new baby soon.