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Napa County welcomes Noemi Cervantes Ceja, first baby born in 2021
Happy New Year

Napa County welcomes Noemi Cervantes Ceja, first baby born in 2021


Ceja and her husband stand with Dr. Dushyant Oza, director of Newborn Services, by their new daughter Noemi. 

Perhaps Noemi Cervantes Ceja knows something about 2021 the rest of us don’t quite yet.

Noemi, the first baby to be born in Napa County in 2021, arrived at Queen of the Valley Medical Center on Jan. 1 at 4:53 a.m., almost seven weeks early, according to her mother, Napa resident Rebeca Ceja. She must have been too excited about the year ahead to wait, Ceja agreed.

“She just wanted to come out,” Ceja said.

Noemi, who was born at 33 weeks, came out “crying and with mature lungs,” according to Dr. Dushyant Oza, director of newborn services at Queen of the Valley Medical Center. She is breathing comfortably with the help of a small CPAP machine, Dr. Oza said, and is expected to be out of the NICU in two to three weeks.

Queen of the Valley is able to care for infants as young as 32 weeks, according to Dr. Daniel Hersh, Noemi’s delivering physician. (Dr. Hersh has also delivered two of Ceja’s three other children, he noted.)

“We had a very good outcome,” he said of the birth. “And (Noemi) didn’t have to get transported to San Francisco for care.”

Ceja, who has three other children — including a soon-to-be 1-year-old, Noemi’s Irish twin, who was born at 34 weeks — said Noemi’s siblings are excited to meet her. Ceja and her husband, Noemi’s father Julio Cervantes, are taking shifts visiting Noemi in the NICU and taking care of their other children, Ceja said.

Ceja was admitted to the hospital on New Year’s Eve, she said. It was a little stressful, she said. Precautions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 meant she couldn’t have a “support person,” her husband, by her side until the actual delivery, but ultimately things went smoothly.

“I was shocked — I honestly didn’t think Noemi was going to come (that morning),” Ceja said. Nurses told her there was another patient going into labor, too, and joked it would be something of a race between the two women to see whose child would be the first born in Napa County in the new year.

They brought her a cup of sparkling apple cider just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Ceja added.

After Noemi was born, the hospital gave Ceja and Cervantes a “humongous” gift basket, according to Ceja — something the hospital’s Obstetrics Unit gives to the parents of the first child born each year.

“Each of the nurses contributed a little something to it, and that was so appreciated,” Ceja said. “They said to me: After everything you’ve been through, it’s well deserved. Little things like that make such a difference.”

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Sarah Klearman’s most memorable Napa Valley Register stories of 2020

Sarah Klearman's most memorable Napa Valley Register stories of 2020

On a Sunday in mid-March of this year, I stood watching as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the coronavirus had arrived in California - and that the state would soon shut down to prevent its spread. He began listing impacted businesses and industries; the moment I heard 'wineries,' I knew I was on the clock. 

It feels now like that press conference, held just before the nation plunged deep into lockdown, was a clear demarcation of 'before' and 'after.' In both my professional and personal life, I've sometimes struggled to come to terms with just how much has changed this year, and with how much has been lost: 300,000 dead from the coronavirus in the United States. So many small businesses seem to be facing extinction. It's enough to make my head spin, and that's not even touching upon the wildfires that ravaged Napa County this year.

So I've been making sense of everything that's happened to our community through my work at the Register, because my reporting this year has been all about listening. I've lent my ear to anyone who will talk to me: folks made homeless by the wildfires; communities, including the valley's agricultural workforce, disproportionately impacted by the virus; business owners and their employees who rightfully fear for their future. This list - my top five stories of this year - is all about them. 

Catch up on Napa County’s top news stories

Catch up on Napa County's top news stories

In case you missed it, here is a look at the most-read stories on

You can reach Sarah Klearman at (707) 256-2213 or

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Wine Industry Reporter

Wine industry reporter at the Napa Valley Register.

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