Fort Lee holds first post baby shower
October 12, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 12, 2011) -- Fort Lee's first installation-wide baby shower drew 40 expectant mothers to the Liberty Chapel Tuesday. The participants heard parenting tips and received a variety of gifts from the community and Virginia's first lady Maureen McDonnell.
Like a pregnancy, this labor of love took months to plan, said Susan Garling, Army Community Service marketing program manager.
ACS, Operation Homefront Hampton Roads, the Defense Commissary Agency, Fort Lee leaders and community members came together earlier this year to plan a shower for expectant mothers where information, baby paraphernalia and heart-felt appreciation for their service would flow like baby formula.
With the sanctuary in the chapel filled with diaper cakes, balloons, photo albums and every conceivable baby item imaginable stacked on the stage, Carol Berg, Operation Homefront executive director welcomed the mothers-to-be.
"This was a fantastic collaborative effort by a lot of organizations," Berg said. "We received support from not only the agencies on the installation but also many of agencies off post that support the installation."
Berg told the group that they were all glowing as she explained the event was for the expectant mothers to enjoy.
ACS New Parent Support Program home visitor Elaine Sexton enthusiastically explained that the program offers classes and home visits to new parents and parents with children to age three.
Sexton introduced the "Happiest Baby on the Block" philosophy as a revolutionary way to calm babies and help them to sleep better at night. After watching a brief video of Dr. Harvey Karp's techniques, the expectant moms practiced swaddling baby dolls using a square blanket. Each mom was given a blanket and a copy of the "Happiest Baby on the Block" video.
"We are here to help and the best thing is we are free," Sexton said.
Berg began the first of several prize giveaways where hooded towels, receiving blankets, onesies, outfits and digital baby monitors were given away in drawings. The Kimberly-Clark Corporation presented one lucky mom with an Apple iPad.
Michelle Hodge, spouse of Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge, Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general, welcomed the women and introduced Virginia's first lady.
"It's wonderful to have each of you here today," Hodge said. "We are so thankful to Operation Homefront. I hope you are enjoying what you've experienced this morning and the events we have planned after lunch."
McDonnell, a one-time military wife and mother, shared stories of her own pregnancies.
"I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you hosting me here today," McDonnell began. "I am almost jealous of y'all. I loved having my babies. I loved being pregnant, and I'm one to cry at baptisms now because I don't think I will be baptizing any more."
McDonnell congratulated the moms to be and said they were the unsung heroes and offered the governor's and her support to them all.
McDonnell briefly spoke of the program she recently launched -- the Serving Our Service Member Families initiative -- before presenting a gift of a baby-bib embroidered with the state seal and a message from Governor Bob and Maureen McDonnell.
The moms dined on chicken and pasta provided and served by Carrabba's Italian Grill and chatted with McDonnell, Hodge and each other before more activities.
After lunch, the women heard briefings from the Family Advocacy Program about stress management and budgeting for a baby, participated in pre-natal yoga session facilitated by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Massages -- Breath Deep with Hands.
First time mom, Hannah Smith was delighted and surprised by the shower.
"The information they gave us is fantastic," Smith said. "I don't have any experience with newborns and since this is my first baby, it's all very educational for me. I never knew they did things like this -- it's a great idea and I am happy to be here."
Terese Vaouli, who is expecting her fourth child, said she was thankful for the shower and the information the moms were getting.
"The video about swaddling was very informative, and I think my husband should watch it too," she said. Vaouli said she was learning a lot even though she is a seasoned mom.
"With five years between my youngest child and the baby on the way, I feel like I have forgotten everything," she said.
Before the shower concluded, more prizes -- this time, a car-seat, stroller, pack-n-play, bassinet and crib -- were given away through a raffle.
Operation Homefront provided "Baby's First Duffel Bag" to all the expectant moms and the one mother who arrived with her 11-day-old daughter along for the outing.
For more information about Fort Lee programs available to parents, call (804) 734-6388.