FARGO — A long labor wasn't the only reason the birth of Sonja and Brad Nyhof’s daughter 20 years ago was somewhat chaotic.

The fact that she was the first millennium baby in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, born at the height of the potentially disruptive Y2K bug, added to the drama.

“It was a big deal,” said Brad Nyhof, 52, who spoke to The Forum recently with wife Sonja, 49, about the noteworthy delivery date of Jan. 1, 2000.

The Forum’s headline for the story the next day read, “Emily the first to arrive in Fargo.”

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The couple's daughter, Emily Nyhof, an elementary education major at Concordia College in Moorhead, who’s now 20 in 2020, said it seems to be a bigger deal to others than to her.

“I don’t really think of it as anything super special, but it’s something that you always look back on,” she said.

Her younger brother’s birth in April 2003 garnered less fanfare.

“She got a ride home in a limo, and I got a ride home in grandpa's car, I think,” Seth Nyhof, 16, said with a laugh.

Their parents met in college. Though attending different schools, they worked at the same auto dealership — she had a job in accounting and he worked in shipping and receiving.

“One day I needed a ride home from work, and I asked her for a ride. She accepted,” Brad Nyhof said with a smile.

They dated for five years and married, deciding to start a family after buying their first house.

Upon finding out Sonja was pregnant, they learned their baby’s due date was Dec. 24, 1999.

The day came and went with no baby, however, making everyone a little anxious.

In the meantime, people prepared for the possibility of the “millennium bug” or Y2K.

With Y2K, there were concerns of widespread trouble with computers and systems or machinery run by them as the calendar changed over from 1999 to 2000.

When Sonja went into labor on Dec. 31, she and her husband rushed to what was then Dakota Heartland hospital on South University Drive, arriving at 9:30 a.m.

Staff began discussing with them the small possibility of a hiccup in one or more of their systems.

For example, the couple was told in the event that power or heating systems were disabled, it may take a while for generators to kick in, Brad Nyhof said. Though they were assured mom and baby's care wouldn't be affected, a power blackout was not in their birth plan.

“It didn't really hit until we were actually there in the hospital because we thought we were going to already have a baby by then," he said.

With the calendar change approaching and Sonja’s labor progressing, everyone held their breath.

But once the clock struck midnight, staff saw that all systems were operating normally, which turned out to be the case in other locations across the metro area, almost universally.

Out came the celebratory hats and horns at the hospital.

“It was a party until Emily arrived,” he said.

Their daughter was born at 1:12 a.m. on New Year’s Day — a healthy baby with a thick crop of black hair.

“We put a bow on her hair right away, and she was ready for the camera,” her mother said.

Local media outlets arrived later to document the historic event.

The family received gifts including a handmade quilt, baby formula, diapers, flowers, balloons, a photography session and the aforementioned free limousine ride. Later, they received a book of North Dakota trivia, stating Emily might have been the first millennium baby in the whole state.

West Fargo High School senior Emily Nyhof scans the crowd during the school's graduation ceremony in June 2018.
West Fargo High School senior Emily Nyhof scans the crowd during the school's graduation ceremony in June 2018.

Some things haven't changed since, as Brad is still employed at Rusco Window Company and Sonja still works at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

But time has marched on in other ways, including with technology. The VHS tape they received with news coverage of their daughter’s birth is obsolete.

“We don't even have a VHS player any longer,” Sonja said.

The couple’s children were surprised by the notion that there could have been major disruptions with the dawning of a new millennium 20 years ago.

Even though a New Year's Day birth meant Sonja went more than a week past her due date, mother and daughter are both glad Emily wasn’t a Christmas baby.

“That's the challenge with having a birthday right around the Christmas season ... (figuring out) what to do for each one to make them special,” she said.