Lt. Col. Diane Adams has had her hands full. Every day. Last month, the hospital department she oversees in Fort Campbell, Ky., was responsible for delivering 242 babies.
That was a record. And they're not finished yet.
"That's more than 100 over our usual monthly average, " she said.
Adams delivered a few of those babies herself. She chuckled thinking about it. "There are moments when you think is anyone on Fort Campbell not pregnant?"
Adams is the chief of Women's Health Services at Blanchfield Army Hospital, and she expects the hospital to break the baby-delivery record again this month, and possibly every month into the winter.
"We were surprised to see how sustained it is. And we're now predicting over 200 births per month all the way through March, and we're starting to see women who are due in April already."
On Leave from Iraq, Time to Make a Baby!
It all began when Fort Campbell troops started returning home from Iraq last fall. Many were like Staff Sgt. Cory Yates and his wife, Suzy. They had decided, when they married, to wait to have children.
But after his second tour in Iraq, and knowing he'll face longer deployments in the future, they decided to get their family started now. "We decided that if we waited too long, it's never going to happen, " he said.
It did happen. Little Mason Yates was born in July. His dad is preparing to leave for Iraq again in a few months. Bittersweet, certainly, but Yates is simply glad he was home to see Mason born. "If I didn't believe in what I was doing, I wouldn't be doing it anymore. I think when he gets older, he'll understand."
His wife, Suzy, agrees with him. "We just try to do as much as we can while he's home and enjoy the time together that we have, " she said, adding that they have plenty of company as parents of a newborn on their military post. "You can't go into Wal-Mart without seeing or passing a pregnant person or someone with a newborn baby. They're everywhere!"
Babies Bring Hope to Troops
And it isn't just Fort Campbell that's experiencing a rotational baby boom. Adams says her colleagues at other Army hospitals report the same phenomenon: troops rotating home are tucking in babies between the long deployments.
"This time, they're starting to push out the door, next month, as early as mid-September, and they'll be deploying for 15 months," she said. "So for families who might have put off starting or adding to their number of children, they're seeing that 15-month deployment as a longer period of time, and thinking maybe now is the time to start."
That was true for Sgt. First Class Ray Brown and his wife, Heather. She became pregnant in September, not long after the 101st Airborne of Fort Campbell started rotating home from Iraq. They were elated throughout her pregnancy and during the delivery.
"I cried," said Ray, referring to the moment their son, Noah, was born, "the moment his head crowned, I cried."
And little Noah was followed within minutes by his little twin sister Karalyne. It has been a lot of work, and in this time of war, there is the ever-present uncertainty of what future deployments may bring. For the moment, though, they are just basking in the glow of two babies' smiles.
"You live for this week," Heather said, cuddling Noah. "And this year. You don't live for six months down the road." The constant deployments make the future unsettling to contemplate at times. Heather looks toward Ray. "He may very well not be here next year; he could be deployed. So you take advantage of the time you have."
A walk through the corridors of the maternity unit at Fort Campbell's Blanchfield Hospital finds many who share that outlook as they gaze upon their newborns.
Tiny Cheyenne Hancock was in her father's arms for much of the first few days of her life. "I don't want to put her down," said Warrant Officer Jason Hancock as his wife, Brandi, looked on. He, too, will leave for Iraq not long from now, his fourth deployment. He and Brandi had hoped and prayed that they could have their baby while he was home. Cheyenne was an answer to that prayer.
"This is, to me," said Brandi," the most important part for him to experience, her being born. And the first few months of her life."
Jason held Brandi in front of him as he rocked her to sleep. "I wouldn't trade it for nothing, " he said, watching her sleepy smile. "I wouldn't trade it for nothing."
It's a sentiment shared by thousands of soldiers returning from deployment, determined to make the very most of the time they have here at home.