News: Moms find out ‘What to Expect’ at maternity event
Story by Lance Cpl. Natalie Rostran
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan - There’s a small sense of relief in the room filled with first-time mothers, expectant mothers and mothers of several children as they share advice and ask questions without shame or embarrassment.
Military moms, both service members and spouses, and Status of Forces Agreement moms participated in the inaugural Special Delivery event, a USO and What to Expect-sponsored baby shower for expectant mothers with special guest Heidi Murkoff Aug. 7-9 at the USO on Kadena Air Base.
Murkoff is the author of the New York Times best seller “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book and founder of the What to Expect Foundation.
The foundation’s mission is to educate and empower mothers in need and promote healthier pregnancies, safer deliveries and healthier, happier babies.
“This is a new collaboration between the USO and Heidi Murkoff,” said Kerri Needle Ray, a USO program manager. “We hope to support an important part of the military family population — expectant and new mothers. We know that Okinawa is a place where lots of babies are born, so we came up with this baby shower idea, and invited Heidi to come out here to make moms feel supported and part of a community.”
In 2012 alone, there were 1,097 births at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, creating a large demand for an active and involved maternity community due to the geographic separation between many of the expectant mothers and their extended families.
“Being an expectant mom or just a new parent is difficult under the best of circumstances,” said Murkoff. “Those who have a whole network of support of family and friends are lucky. Some moms do not have that. When they are thousands and thousands of miles away from home, they can really use that affection.”
For many participants, the feeling of loneliness and going through this experience alone is a daily reality.
“It’s hard being a military mom,” said Desiree M. Lilley, a Marine spouse and first-time expectant mom. “Sometimes it feels like you’re doing it on your own, especially with deployments, long work weeks and being far from home.”
The atmosphere was designed to make sure that all the participants felt relaxed, so they could ask the questions they might not have felt comfortable otherwise asking.
“Everyone’s favorite part is the question and answer portion with Heidi,” said Needle Ray. “People are a little shy to ask questions at first. Once we get started and everyone feels comfortable, they get excited to ask their questions and learn new information.”
Approximately 290 mothers, representing all services on island, attended the event over the three days.
“We brought everyone together not just to meet them and answer their questions, but for them to connect with other women on base and hopefully form friendships,” said Murkoff. “Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood.”
The event also encouraged open discussion for the women to share their personal advice and what has worked or not worked for them.
“That’s the great thing about having so many pregnant women in there,” said Needle Ray. “There are first-time moms and some on their fourth or fifth child. They can all offer each other support and give each other comfort.”
The event included games and prizes, free gift bags, free raffles for baby essentials, book signings and a meet-and-greet with Murkoff.
“This was really great,” said Lilley. “I hope this continues for years to come. It helps first-time moms like me get questions answered, and it gives the women in the community a chance to get together and share. Just hearing what everyone else’s questions were, and knowing that I wasn’t the only one going through this helped.”