Sunday, June 8, 2003

Fort having a baby boom

By Kimberly Hefling
The Associated Press

FORT CAMPBELL - One by one, after their husbands returned from fighting in Afghanistan late last summer, many of the soldiers' wives shared a secret: They were pregnant.

The births now of the "Afghani babies" - as the wives affectionately call them - about nine months after the soldiers came home is creating a mini baby boom. But the fathers aren't there to see their births because they are in Iraq.

So many of the wives in the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division are pregnant or with newborns that at times it feels like there is no one left to ask for help, said Krista Kalvaitis, 29, sitting back on a couch just days before she was scheduled to have labor induced.

"The people you would normally rely on are also pregnant, so you feel guilty" asking, said Kalvaitis, already a mother of two.

The phenomenon of postwar babies is as old as battle itself, but many of the wives say they were not expecting their husbands to be gone for the births. Only the division's 3rd Brigade deployed to Afghanistan, but the entire division left in February to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is now in northern Iraq.

There are no official numbers, but in the few months the men were home before leaving for Iraq, an estimated 50 to 75 soldiers in the brigade got their wives pregnant, said Cherrieann Diaz, wife of the brigade's command sergeant major.

"It's just so amazing at how these ladies hold up. They are so strong," Diaz said, adding that like the men, "they are doing their duty here."

In the brigade's 3rd Battalion, 23 babies have been born in recent days or the wives are expecting. In Alpha Company alone, 12 to 20 percent of the wives got pregnant shortly after the soldiers' return - including the company commander's wife, Alison Cox.

Cox, who gave birth last month to a girl, said the midnight feedings and other responsibilities alone are tough, but the hardest part is the men missing out on "sharing the good times. Sharing the exciting times. That's really it."

Cox said when her husband, Clint, received e-mailed photos of their new daughter, Madaline, it "just tore him up."

"He said it was a figment of his imagination until he got the pictures and then that made it real for him, and he was really sad because he couldn't touch her. That was really hard on him," Cox said.

Lucintia Billy, who also gave birth last month, said she usually only sleeps from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., but also tries to nap.

She said taking care of the newborn baby isn't as hard as disciplining her two boys, ages 3 and 5, which normally fell to her husband. The couple have seven children.

"When I ask them to do something, they turn around and say they miss Dad. That's their way of getting out of it," Billy said. "Then they cry to me and it hurts me because it's like I miss him too, so I how do I comfort them? So I end up cleaning up whatever mess they made."

Billy said she asked her husband to pick out a name for their new daughter before he left, but he did not.

"I said, if you don't come up with a name before you leave, we're going to come up with it on our own," Billy said.

She and the children came up with the name Aurelia Rosina Delia Sabone Billy.

"He just said, 'Oh my gosh, it's long," Billy said.

As the women look ahead to their husbands' return, theyall wonder who will be next - this time having "Iraqi babies."

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