Expecting active-duty, spouses and dependents from all five military branches in the National Capital Region gathered at Fort Belvoir's USO Warrior and Family Center for a baby shower Saturday.
Spouses played traditional baby shower games and made one-piece infant bodysuits while talking to one another about their pregnancy experiences and receiving supplies they will need once their children are born.
"We tried to make it as normal a baby shower as possible," said K.J. Stevens, USO programs coordinator. "It's about introducing them to other mothers in the area that are going through the same things. They build camaraderie and we inform them about what's going on for them."
Stevens wanted to provide a baby shower for the expecting mothers since many of them won't be able to have one because they are either on active duty or married into the military.
"If they weren't in the military they would be home with their friends and Family who are there to throw them a shower, teach them stuff and buy them gifts," said Stevens. "They gave up that opportunity by either marrying into the military or joining themselves."
Expecting mothers came from Marine Corp Base, Quantico, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Fort Meade, Md., the Pentagon and Fort Belvoir to socialize with other expectant mothers, but also to learn what they could from one another's experiences.
Patricia Sirtori of Colyer Village is expecting her third child and came to the shower for social interaction.
"It was an opportunity to get out of the house and to do something fun," said Sirtori. "It helps, when otherwise you are constantly in the house not doing anything."
The spouses received a gift bag at the end of the shower that contained a fleece blanket, diapers, a receiving blanket, two bibs, a burp cloth, three one-piece infant bodysuits and a pacifier.
Sirtori said she enjoyed getting the benefits of a shower from the USO since this is the only one she will have for this baby.
"There's a lot that goes into having a baby and the equipment is very expensive," said Sirtori. "So, it's nice to have Family and friends help you with some of that stuff."
Kera Franklin, a Burke, Va. resident, is expecting her first child and will deliver at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. She wanted to learn about the hospital's labor procedures and if the other mothers feel Franklin should expect solid care.
Franklin added she felt a sense of relief being able to talk to other expectant mothers who have gone through delivering their first child.
"It's nice to hear about their experiences with the hospital here since it's my first time," said Franklin. "It's nice to be able to talk to other moms and know that somebody else is going through what you are going through."
Child, Youth & School Services was at the shower and informed the expecting mothers of child care programs on and off the installation.
"A few of the women here live in Woodbridge or Culpepper," said Marie Grayson-George, CYSS Youth and Outreach Administrator. "So, we want to give them a broad point of view as far as what their child care options might be."
George educated the spouses about a program for Army Families called Army Child Care in Your Neighborhood. The program is contracted with off-post facilities to provide child care comparable to the cost of on-post child care.
Considering the current economic constraints on Families, George especially wanted to highlight ACCYN to the mothers.
"Department of Defense sets child care fees based on total Family income," said George. "Off-post facilities charge based on the age of the child, so with infants you are going to pay a higher price than a pre-school aged child."
Building a sense of camaraderie and receiving the information and supplies they need to care for a newborn child are the benefits the expecting mothers received on Saturday. Stevens said that is the goal for the shower since servicemembers in the region sometimes miss out on community support because they are so spread out.
"A lot of people don't live on base, so they don't know about programs offered and the free child care offered on base," said Stevens. "This is a way to build a community for them."