Sunday, November 16, 2008

From the New York Times

A baby shower for 1,000 new and expecting mothers was held Saturday at the Crown Exposition Center in Fayetteville, N.C.

At Army Base, Stork Landed With the Airborne

Published: November 15, 2008

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Joanne Chavonne saw pregnant women everywhere in town, shopping at Target for diapers or dining at a Mexican restaurant.

The base has seen an estimated 50 percent surge in births.

Then she heard that so many families were calling the medical clinic at nearby Fort Bragg for the results of pregnancy tests that the Army had to install an extra telephone line.

And finally, over the summer, an administrator told her that the hospital on base was overrun with women in labor, and was delivering nearly 300 babies a month. “I was shocked,” said Ms. Chavonne, whose husband, Anthony, is the mayor here. “That’s 10 a day.”

For the first time since the Gulf war, the entire 82nd Airborne division was deployed during the surge in 2007. Nearly 22,000 soldiers joyously reunited with their families when they began returning last October. The base is also host to 29,000 soldiers from other units, which all contributed to what by August was an estimated 50 percent surge in births at Womack Army Medical Center, the base hospital, compared with the previous year.

The community has turned this into a celebration. On Saturday, about 1,000 recent mothers and mothers-to-be gathered as guests of honor at Boots & Booties, billed as the largest military shower ever.

Under billboards with fuchsia butterflies, at the Crown Exposition Center, pregnant women in stretchy pants and flip-flops drank red punch and helped themselves to deviled eggs and cupcakes spread out along a buffet table. Sarah Deady arrived at the extravaganza right from her recovery bed — she had had a Caesarian section on Thursday and walked gingerly.

Catherine Robinson, 35 and pregnant with her third child, was experiencing contractions. “I have long labors,” she said, explaining why she decided to come anyway.

The impact of the baby surge is being felt all across Fayetteville, a city of 210,000, from the registries at Fleishman’s Tiny Town to the civilian hospital, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where the overflow of military patients sometimes has to labor in the waiting room until beds become available. Dr. David A. Schutzer, who runs the Highland Ob-Gyn Clinic in town, said that last month his practice delivered 50 percent more babies than usual, most of them military.

It is impossible to walk through the produce sections of the commissaries on base without seeing bellies or newborns in car seats. “Overseas, our soldiers concentrate on their mission,” said Tom McCollum, the public affairs officer for Fort Bragg, which occupies the north and west sides of Fayetteville. “But they can’t wait to get back home.”

At Dads 101, a class for new and soon-to-be fathers that helps ease the transition from soldier to caretaker, attendance has doubled. Maternity-size Army combat uniforms in the digitized, sand-patterned camouflage used in Iraq and Afghanistan are on backorder at the base clothing sales store. And in anticipation of growing demand for home visits and other family services, the base’s New Parents Support Program has increased its staff from 5 to 19.

Baby furniture is selling so quickly at the Target on Skibo Road, a few miles southeast of the base, that pregnant women are despairing when they cannot find matching cribs, dressers and changing tables. “They’ll be, like, ‘I just called and y’all said you had it,’ " said Tyneisha McRae, a clerk working the night shift, when the infant department gets restocked. The store opens at 8 a.m., she said, “and most of the time, we’re sold out by 8:30 or 9.”

Lisa Olivares, a manager at CCE Headgear Plus, a kiosk at the mall that offers custom embroidery, has been inundated with requests to stitch unit crests and nicknames onto baby onesies, polka-dot bonnets and camouflage diaper bags. “It’s all I do,” she said.

Soldiers have noticed the boom among their ranks. “Four females in my unit have had babies,” said Staff Sgt. Bill McSwain, as he held his own new daughter, Gabrielle, in his lap in the waiting room of the Ob-Gyn clinic at Womack.

For the rest of the story, click here


AirmanMom said...

This is such an awesome story!!! I couldn't help but grin through the entire read! Thank you for sharing!

~AirmanMom returning to her blog...

MightyMom said...

aaaahhhh, it'll be called the Baby Boomers II generation!!


Pam said...

Thanks for sharing this aricle. What a neat thing! I'm so happy for the expecting mamas!