By Marcie West
Pregnancy and life as a new mom can be stressful – but expecting military moms stationed in the Pacific face a particularly unique set of challenges compared to the average mom-to-be.
With time differences and vast distances between them and friends and families back home, many service members and military spouses have to tackle pregnancy and new parenthood without a traditional support system.
That’s where the USO, Heidi Murkoff and Target come in.
The Birth of a Support System
A few years ago, Heidi Murkoff, the author of the “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” series, was inspired by a baby shower for a soon-to-be military mother and decided she wanted to share this experience with other military moms.
In collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD), Murkoff and the USO created the Special Delivery program and hosted the inaugural baby shower for military mothers-to-be in 2013 on Kadena Air Base in Japan. The event featured now-signature parts of every USO, What to Expect and Target event: traditional baby shower games, a Q&A session with Murkoff and a donated copy of a “What to Expect” book for every participant, courtesy of Heidi and Erik Murkoff.
Most importantly, the event created a safe, relaxing atmosphere where military moms-to-be could connect with each other in order to build their own local support system.
Since that first event, the Special Delivery program has traveled throughout the world and the Pacific, delivering baby showers and other community events to moms in Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea.
Forging Connections While On Tour in 2019
In 2019, despite Super Typhoon Hagibis and tensions in the region, USO Pacific delivered a total of eight mom showers, four dad showers, and four reunions during the Pacific Special Delivery Tour. A total of 621 moms, 88 dads and 155 family members participated in the programs.
In addition to enjoying the joyful baby shower atmosphere, new and expectant mothers used the event as an opportunity to have frank conversations about the challenges and realities of pregnancy and motherhood while living far from home.
From post-partum depression, to being an unaccompanied expectant mom, to navigating motherhood in a foreign country, the 2019 USO Special Delivery showers in the Pacific allowed these women to bond over their shared experiences.
At every stop in the tour, moms shared phone numbers with each other, exchanged tips and answered questions for one another during the Q&A sessions with Heidi, building a community of expectant mothers.
“We appreciate the passion, energy and – most importantly – the engagement opportunities for the moms,” USO Guam Area Director Leigh Graham said.
“It means so much to the moms and the whole island to have them here.”
In Camp Humphreys, South Korea, the excitement around the What to Expect USO tour visit was particularly notable, given that for the first time ever this November, mothers will be able to deliver babies at the hospital on-base.
In addition to hosting a classic USO event for military moms-to-be, the Pacific tour also included an additional shower “for military dads and other co-parents-to-be.” For the first time in the Special Delivery program history, the wives of two pregnant mothers attended this special co-parent shower, ensuring that all members of the military community feel supported during this major life change.
Special Delivery continues to fill a meaningful connection void for new moms and dads stationed overseas and provides them with the support and meaningful connections that every parent deserves as they prepare for the birth of their child.
- Content Marketing Specialist Danielle DeSimone contributed to this report.
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