NORTH Essex’s first baby of 2013 was quickly followed by one long-awaited arrival and a contender for the year’s fastest birth.

Carol Shorter and her husband Reg described their daughter Lilia as a miracle.

Carol, 40 and Reg, 53, of Groom Park estate, Clacton, had been trying for 13 years to have a baby before a third and final round of IVF treatment from Bourne Hall Clinic in Colchester proved successful.

Reg said he was not surprised Lilia had arrived on her due date.

He said: “When we got the due date everyone said it will come on New Year’s Day, because Carol is very regimented.

“We were happy whatever time she came.”

Carol added: “I think it’s still sinking in - she’s here. She’s our miracle.”

The first baby born in the area in 2013 was Lucy Girdlestone who was born at around 1.42am at Clacton Hospital’s maternity unit weighing 7lb and 10oz.

David, 31, and Marie Girdlestone, 30, were expecting Lucy to arrive later as their son Ollie, two, was several weeks late.

David, of Brightlingsea, said: “It was a very long New Year’s Eve.

“The contractions started early and we went for walks and ate pineapple to speed things up but even then it took us by surprise.”

David said he had nothing but praise for the helpful and professional staff at the ward, who helped Marie.

He added: “Marie has kick-started what is hopefully going to be an absolutely fantastic 2013.”

A little over 90 minutes later at Colchester General Hospital’s maternity ward, Laura May gave birth to Amelia, weighing 7lb and 3.5oz.

Laura, 22, had been a regular visitor to the ward for more than three months as she had been suffering from migraines, high and low blood pressure and other ailments.

She had been due to be induced on Friday but the “brilliant” and “reassuring” hospital staff decided it was safer to get her in yesterday morning.

Laura, who lives in Marks Tey with partner John Dilley and daughter, Fiona, who turns two on Monday, said: “We are over the moon.

"January 1 was my partner’s nan’s birthday as well, but she passed away, so this has made the day much nicer.”

William Cooper was not quite 2013’s first born but with mum Abigail Wills giving birth to him just seven minutes after arriving at Colchester General Hospital, he could well become the year’s fastest birth.

He came into the world at 6.07am weighing 7lb and 8oz two days past his due date.

Abigail, 34, said: “His older brother was five days early so we thought he might be a Christmas baby but I think a New Year baby is much better."

In total, Abigail and partner Stephen Cooper only spent about four hours in hospital before returning to their Shrub End home with son Daniel, two.