Monday, May 2, 2005

BERLIN — American soldiers returning to their German base from Iraq are undergoing their own small “baby boom,” becoming parents in such numbers as to strain the resources of the base military hospital.

The 1st Armored Division usually produces one or two babies a month at Baumholder in central Germany.

But the rate of births is expected to shoot up to 40 a month in the next five months. In all, 400 couples at the base are expecting a child, 350 of whom will be born before the end of the year.

“Some are already here,” Madeleine Dwoiakowski, a spokeswoman for the base, said. “You see women on the base with these tiny, little 3-day-old babies. It’s lovely.

“We will have to make sure there is more formula in the department store and more diapers. In the longer term, we will have to take on more child-care service providers. We are being proactive about this, making sure we are prepared. We are bracing ourselves.”

Preparatory visits are being arranged for some of the expectant mothers, with advice that “although the civilian hospitals may look different from our hospitals, they are of the highest quality.”

The U.S. military has contracts with four local hospitals to provide health care for its soldiers. Two of them are setting up English-speaking birth centers for the impending rush.

“They are being really nice about it,” Miss Dwoiakowski said. “I was talking to one of the new mothers this morning, and she was very happy with the care she had received when having her baby there.”

Christiane Caspary, the manager of the Birkenfeld clinic, where some of the women have delivered their children, said: “There is really no difference between the treatment the American women and German women receive when they have their babies here.

“We make sure that the Americans have English-speaking midwives, but apart from that, it is business as usual.”

More than 5,000 soldiers from the base served in Iraq for 15 months, returning home in July — nine months ago.

The most fruitful months for the soldiers’ wives — and female soldiers — seem to have been from July to October.

Miss Dwoiakowski said it seemed to be a matter of sensible family planning.

“When you are in the military, you have to work these things out,” she said. “The soldiers are going back to Iraq in November, and many wanted to have a baby as early as possible before that.

“I reckon that about a quarter of the pregnant women are soldiers themselves.”

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