First Berkshires baby of 2016 born to North Adams couple


PITTSFIELD — Althea Eloise Sampson wasn't supposed to be a New Year's Day baby.

Mother Stephanie LaBonte was originally scheduled to give birth Jan. 16. Then her due date was moved up to Jan. 9. Then LaBonte's water broke on Wednesday.

After a false alarm on New Year's Eve, LaBonte finally gave birth to her first child at 8 a.m. Friday at Berkshire Medical Center. Althea, who came into the world at 6 pounds, 14 ounces and 20 inches long, was the first baby born in Berkshire County in 2016, according to officials from Berkshire Health Systems.

"It's been a long week," said LaBonte, 37, who lives in North Adams. She was in labor for 16 hours.

"When I got here on Wednesday there were seven other women having babies," she said. "And they all had their babies."

Ironically, the couple live within walking distance of the former North Adams Regional Hospital, which closed two years ago. It has since re-opened as BMC's North Adams campus, but officials do not deliver children there.

LaBonte described the time waiting for her daughter to be born as "very surreal." But the baby's father, 40-year-old Jamie Sampson, was more succinct.

"She was absolutely worth the wait," he said.

Because LaBonte's water broke two days before she gave birth, Althea contracted an infection, and was born with a fever. She was given antibiotics by BMC staff after being born. Her temperature had stabilized by Friday afternoon, and she could be seen resting comfortably in her mother's arms.

"It was very stressful not having any experience (in having children) and with the fever and infection, and the baby's just not coming," Sampson said.

"But as soon as she came, Steph's pain was gone, and suddenly, it was just, smiles," he said.

LaBonte and Sampson have been together for 10 years. They originally met while living in the San Francisco Bay area, but moved to the Berkshires four years ago on Father's Day. LaBonte is a North Adams native, while Sampson is originally from Michigan.

The couple both currently work at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Sampson in maintenance, LaBonte as a bartender.

Giving birth to the county's first baby of 2016 was "awesome," LaBonte said, adding that she always reads the first baby stories that are published annually in The Eagle and that were written in the former North Adams Transcript.

When LaBonte went to the hospital for a stress test last week, a nurse told her that she might be the subject of one of those articles this year.

"She was saying, a New Year's Day baby is a big deal," LaBonte said. "We [all the area hospitals] compete to see where it will happen first.

"Pretty cool."

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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