MANHATTAN — There are New Yorkers who can’t start their day without first stealing a glance at the horoscope. And then there are New Yorkers like Qiao Chen, 34, who plan their families around it.
The Elmhurst mom, who is expecting her second child early next month, was among those trying to squeeze in a last-minute visit with the obstetrician on Mott Street before the Lunar New Year on Jan. 23. If all goes according to plan, her son will be among the first New Yorkers to be born in the ultra-auspicious Year of the Dragon.
But he’ll be far from the last.
"It’s so lucky," Chen said, explaining why she and so many others among New York’s 500,000 strong Chinese community had timed their biological clocks to the Zodiac. "He’ll be brave, like a samurai."
The dragon is widely considered the luckiest sign in the Chinese calendar, imbued with virtually every positive attribute imaginable — fearless, healthy, rich.
With an official due date of Feb. 7, Chen should deliver the dragon baby she planned, landing her among the larger-than-ever number of Chinese New Yorkers expected to welcome a little bundle of joy this year. Meanwhile, other would-be dragon mothers are resorting to drastic measures to ensure they get one, too.
"We’ve had some patients cancel their scheduled C-sections to hold off until next week," said one Downtown Hospital labor and delivery nurse, who asked that her name be withheld because she was not authorized to speak with the press. "I just had another patient who said she wished it would hold off until next week."
Downtown’s maternity unit will likely see a 25 percent spike in deliveries in 2012, she said.
"We’re bracing ourselves," she said. "Right now is the calm before the storm."
There were some 6,100 babies born to Chinese New Yorkers in 2000, the last dragon year, roughly 15 percent more than in surrounding years. But that pales in comparison with the more than 8,000 babies born to Chinese parents here in 2010 — the relatively inauspicious Year of the Tiger, and the most recent year for which statistics are available.
New York’s Chinese population on the whole has ballooned, growing by more than 120,000 since 2000.
All of which means that maternity wards in the city’s three major Chinatowns — in Lower Manhattan, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Flushing, Queens — could be deluged by unexpected patients in the coming months.
"It is entirely possible that someone planning to have a baby in the Year of the Dragon has not received pre-natal care yet, or possibly not even conceived yet," said Michael Hinck, a spokesperson for Flushing Hospital Medical Center in Queens.
The 2012 dragon in particular has many potential parents excited. The so-called Water Dragon is believed to balance less-desirable dragon qualities, including arrogance and a fiery temper.
"Many people are very excited for this dragon year," said Queens mom Shino, 31, as she tried to stretch a new jacket around her pregnant belly at a mall on Main Street in Flushing. "My family is very happy," her baby will be born under the auspicious sign, she said.
Clinics, too, were seeing an above-average number of patients.
"This year will be a lot of pregnant women,” said Wanda Chen, 41, who works as a nurse at Bayard Street Obstetrics and Gynecology. “There will be a lot of patients—a lot more than last year."
Among those patients is Mei Chen, 26, who, with any luck will celebrate her 27th birthday and the birth of her first child just days after Lunar New Year begins.
"I'm very excited to be having a dragon baby — especially a boy in the dragon year," said a glowing Chen, who is also a medical assistant at the bustling clinic, located in the heart of Manhattan's Chinatown. "It's my first baby and I'm very excited for it."
The clinic is even offering extended hours beginning in February, in part to manage the expected spike.
“The Chinese love the dragon,” nurse Wanda Chen said. “They think it’s very special.”