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The first cry: Lancaster Medical Center staff almost as thrilled as parents at first new baby

For months, they’d anxiously waited for their first baby, planning every step, decorating and making sure everything was just right for the big day.

When at last he arrived in the person of a 6-pound, 9-ounce little miracle named Townsley Guy Stetzler at 12:10 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, the outpouring of joy felt almost like a relief. The moment they’d so fervently hoped for had gone off without a hitch.

Oh, and the parents were happy too.

That familiar cry

OK, Devon and Steven Stetzler, might have been just slightly more excited with the little guy than the staff at Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center‘s Family Birthing Suite ― but only slightly. Members of the staff had been building the program and the facility since July. The hospital officially opened for patients in October, but the team continued to prepare the Birthing Suite, putting the finishing touches on its private labor rooms with hydrotherapy tubs and spacious ante- and postpartum spaces. It opened on Nov. 14.

All that was missing was that familiar wailing sound.

“It’s very exciting to finally hear a baby cry again for the first time ever,” said Stephanie Brandt, an assistant nurse manager who joined Lancaster Medical Center during the summer from another hospital. “It’s something you never forget.”

And from the first day, Townsley hasn’t been shy in the noise department. On this, his second day on the planet, Townsley is in fine voice. He’s not a big fan of costume changes ― whenever anyone pops another onesie on him he lets them know loudly that other one he was wearing was just fine. It doesn’t help that family and staff are so geeked out that he’s here at last that everyone has a new outfit for him to wear for another photo shoot.

At around noon, he’s wearing jammies covered in drawings of little chocolate chip cookies. But then his adoring fans wanted to see Townsley in yet another ensemble for photos. This one is a little, white, one-of-a-kind onesie the staff designed and produced just for Townsley, with a drawing of the Penn State Nittany Lion on it and the words “Lancaster Medical Center’s FIRST CUB” on the front.

Someone wants him to pop on a Penn State hat for good measure. “It’s OK,” Devon says. “He likes hats.” A few hours in, Devon already knows the boy’s thoughts on headwear.


All the hubbub is worth it. Not only is there a new Stetzler to celebrate, when people check the history books years from now for the first child ever to be born at the region’s newest acute care hospital in 2022, it’ll say Townsley Stetzler.

The moniker is unusual to some ears, but it’s a family name. Somewhere else in the world, three other members of Devon’s family have the name Townsley. “We’ll call him T,” Devon said.

She and her husband, Steven, had walked into the Medical Center for the first time a few days earlier for a tour of the suite. Dr. Laura Hunter, medical director of obstetrics and gynecology at Lancaster Medical Center, was Devon’s obstetrician from another facility, and they were excited about the possibility that her baby might be THE baby. His due date was Nov. 16, and only one hour into that day, at around 1 a.m., he started angling for his entrance. So, the family drove back to the hospital they’d just seen. A few hours later, the history everyone wanted was made.

In fact, Townsley couldn’t have been more on time if he was carrying a smartphone in utero. Steven’s birthday is Dec. 16. Townsley’s 8-year-old sister Laci’s birthday is Jan. 16. Steven’s grandmother’s birthday was Nov. 16.

“I know, right?” Steven said, laughing.

The team in the birthing center knows. Townsley is special. In addition to the First Cub onesie, they bought the family a gift basket and a framed, blue-and-white plaque with the words “With LOVE, Your Lancaster Medical Center Family Birthing Suite team.” Everyone who participated in Townsley’s care signed the frame.

Twelve signatures, actually. Everyone had pitched in. Townsley was the only game in town.

Just like Christmas

The team also cleared out another hospital room for a catered, celebratory dinner for the couple that included crabcakes for Devon, lemon-basil chicken for Steven, (Townsley had milk) candles and special china. “We wanted it to have more of a restaurant atmosphere,” Brandt said.

The meal, however, isn’t just the hospital working overtime for the first baby. Rather, everyone who has a baby at Lancaster Medical Center gets a celebratory meal during their stay.

“It’s just Lancaster’s way of saying congratulations,” said Carol Newsom, director of Women’s Services at Lancaster Medical Center.

For Newsom and the others, the whole experience had a holiday feel. “For the team, yesterday was like Christmas,” she said. “It’s so nice to see the rewards of the hard work.”

First baby born at Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center

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