Kalei Ryan Johnson meant major heartburn for his mom during gestation, but he emerged adorable Monday morning, the first baby of 2018 born in La Crosse.

Kalei had been scheduled to be delivered today, but mother-to-be Amanda Craig had high blood pressure upon arrival at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare around 9 p.m. Sunday, and went from the emergency room to labor and delivery.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune
Kalei Johnson, the first baby born in La Crosse in 2018, was born at 6:49 a.m. at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare. Kalei weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Craig said when asked about six hours after Kalei’s 6:49 a.m. arrival how she felt about having the first baby.

“I’m in shock — not really thinking about that yet,” she said, to which several relatives and friends gathered in her hospital room assured her it would be only a matter of time.

Kalei, who tipped the scales at 8 pounds, 13.5 ounces and measured 21 inches, barely beat the arrival of the first baby at Mayo-Franciscan’s crosstown rival, Gundersen Health System, where Jennifer and Keith Branes of Holmen also welcomed a boy, at 7:23 a.m. The lad, who weighed 7 pounds, 0.2 ounces, was awaiting his name Monday.

Asked whether Craig’s pregnancy had had any rough patches, Kalei’s dad, Jacob Johnson, quickly responded in the negative, until someone mentioned that was easy for him to say — and he deferred to Craig.

“Only heartburn,” Craig said, adding, “major heartburn.”

Despite the old wives’ tale, which some studies support, that women who experience severe heartburn in pregnancy give birth to babies with full heads of hair, Kalei’s follicles appeared to be about average for a newborn, everyone in the room agreed.

Craig wasn’t feeling well Sunday, so Johnson took her to Mayo-Franciscan, and the high blood pressure propelled the doctor’s decision to induce her at 12:30 a.m.

“Her water broke at 2:30, and it was bam from there,” said Craig’s mother, Rose Smith of La Crosse, who welcomed her third grandchild.

Kalei’s sister, 4-year-old Elaynah, “saw him for the first time in a video and rushed to hold him” when she entered the hospital room, said the 29-year-old Craig.

Craig expressed hope that Kalei will follow in his sister’s onesies when it comes to temperament: “She cried for two minutes and that was it.”

For now, “He will be in our room, so that will be easier getting up at night,” she said.

Johnson, 21, whose parents are Hawaiian and who was adopted when he was 14, said Kalei is a Hawaiian name meaning last-born son. Among other meanings of the moniker is “one who works for the king.”

Kalei’s middle name is in honor of one of their friends who took his own life, Craig said.

A graduate of Holmen High School who wrestled and played some football, Johnson works at L.B. White in Onalaska, and Craig graduated from Logan High School and works at Metallics Inc. in Onalaska.

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