Little Maria Rose Sansone's arrival at 1:56 p.m. on Sunday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital was special in several ways, beyond it being the first day of 2012.

Her mother, Mariane DeLeon Sansone, 38, a native of the Philippines, is a devout Roman Catholic and a member the Legion of Mary, a Catholic action group inspired by the Virgin Mary.

January 1 is also the day Catholics celebrate Mary's motherhood of Jesus Christ, said Maria's father, John Sansone.

"We were hoping to be the first (birth) in California," John Sansone said. They likely have to settle as the first in Sonoma County.

Maria, who weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce, was conceived around Easter, another special day for Catholics, he said.

Mariane's water broke around 7 p.m. Saturday night and she was in labor all night, first at home and then at a birthing center, which sent her to the hospital at 9 a.m. Sunday.

"It was tough," Mariane said softly, lying in a maternity ward bed.

"I've never felt such affection for her," John said. "I wish I could have done some of the labor for her."

The Santa Rosa family expects to go home today, John's 45th birthday.

The couple married in December, 2010, confirming a union that resulted from John's placement of an online notice seeking an au pair for his two children after his divorce from their mother.

Mariane, who's from the city of Baliwag in the Philippine province of Bulacan, answered his advertisement. John went to meet her in the Philippines, and they fell in love, he said.

Mariane is an assistant teacher of religion at Holy Spirit Church in Santa Rosa; John is a flight instructor.

Maria is her first child. John's children, Cole, 7, and Mae, 6, split their time between him and their mother.