Military moms whose babies were born too soon or too sick were treated to a very special baby shower September 20 at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) courtesy of the March of Dimes and Operation Shower. Moms and dads – who never had their own baby shower – received gift boxes filled with baby supplies, clothing, toys, books and much, much more courtesy of March of Dimes top corporate supporter Kmart, and many other generous donors to the March of Dimes and Operation Shower.
The Portsmouth baby shower was hosted by actress Wendy Davis, who plays the role of Lt. Colonel Joan Burton on the Lifetime Television show Army Wives. Davis’ character on Army Wives is a new mom and female lieutenant colonel.
“Portraying Joan Burton on Army Wives has been such a fulfilling experience because my character was blessed to become a new military mom. I am also a mother in real life. I’m excited to participate in this special occasion because these families and their babies in the NICU have inspired me,” said Ms. Davis. “I am thrilled to partner with the March of Dimes and Operation Shower to show my appreciation as we honor these parents who put their lives on the line for our country.”
During the baby shower, the March of Dimes announced the re-launch of Mission: Healthy Baby(R), a program designed specifically for military families to provide free pregnancy and newborn health information and support services. The program was developed with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary VFW.
“Having a baby is a joyful experience, but it’s also one that comes with anxiety and concerns. Being in the military – whether as a serviceperson or as the partner of a serviceperson – can cause extra stress,” said Liza Gene Cooper, LMSW, director, March of Dimes NICU Family Support(R). “Our Mission: Healthy Baby and NICU Family Support programs are designed to give families the information they need to cope with the stress of having a sick baby.”
“Operation Shower is thrilled to work with the March of Dimes, Kmart and the other donors of Operation Shower to help bring these showers to the military moms. We felt this fit very well with our mission to support military families who may not otherwise have a baby shower. We are grateful for the opportunity to support these families,” said Chief Shower Officer, Lena Morrissey.
“Operation Shower is a special thing to do for military families in circumstances where the spouse is either deployed or they are far away from immediate families,” said Cmdr. (Dr.) Robert Englert, a neonatologist and medical director of PNMC’s neonatal intensive care unit. “The fact that the Operation Shower concept was developed by mothers for military mothers in need is inspiring.”
Very high levels of stress, such as the stress caused by a deployment, may contribute to premature birth or low birthweight in full-term babies. Military moms and dads can request Mission: Healthy Baby materials by sending their
name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are 75 March of Dimes NICU Family Support sites nationwide. The program at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center is the first military facility to partner with the March of Dimes to support families of babies in NICUs. The program offers education materials, empowering support programs, group education, opportunities for parent-to-parent support and staff education – all to help families navigate the NICU experience.
The Portsmouth Naval Medical Center serves all branches of the military and delivers more babies and has the most NICU admissions than any other hospital in the Department of Defense. Many infants in the NICU are born prematurely. Preterm birth is a serious and costly health problem and is the leading cause of death in the first month of life in this country. More than 540,000 babies – one out of every eight – are born too soon each year in the United States. Babies who survive an early birth face serious risks of lifelong health problems, including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss and other chronic conditions including asthma.
“Kmart is thrilled to support the March of Dimes and Operation Shower,” says Mark Snyder, vice president and chief marketing officer for Kmart. “In addition to our donation, we want to thank all of the new military moms for the sacrifices and contributions they and their families make to better our country each and every day. This donation is part of the Kmart for Kids(SM) program, which is our commitment to make it easy for all moms to take care of what they care about most.”
Operation Shower is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that recognizes and honors the sacrifices military families make by producing and coordinating baby showers for expecting military personnel and their families. For more information, please visit www.operationshower.org. (Click here to read our profile of the founders of Operation Shower!)
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com.