YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The mothers didn’t really care about the competition. They had other things to think about — like giving birth.
The rest of Japan may have spent New Year’s Eve counting down the seconds to 2008, but the only thing Petty Officer 2nd Class Valarie Roberts counted was the time between contractions.
Her eyes stayed glued to the television monitor but it wasn’t tuned to the Times Square ball drop; it showed her son’s preparation for his launch into the world.
“A nurse came in and said, ‘My money’s on you,’” Roberts said.
The nurse was right.
Her son, Devin Burr, showed up at 4:25 a.m. – the first military baby on mainland Japan of 2008.
And, after 23 hours of labor, Yokosuka spouse Jennifer Weber didn’t mind that she got second-place distinction when Caitlin Noelle Weber appeared a tad later at 6:43 a.m.
“I’m OK with that,” Weber said Wednesday. “It (the competition) was not on my mind at the time.”
The competitive aspect of “New Year’s Baby” distinction mostly comes from the staff, and mostly because they too — like the prospective mothers and fathers in the ward — are working on New Year’s Eve and not partying with everyone else, said Dr. (Lt. Cmdr.) Joel Ahlgrim.
“We didn’t even realize it was New Year’s until we saw the fireworks outside over Yokosuka,” said Ahlgrim, who delivered both Devin and Caitlin. “We have two healthy babies and two healthy moms — and that’s what we like to see. But having a New Year’s boy and a New Year’s girl — we used it as an excuse to give them both gifts.”
The two deliveries capped off a busy week for the Yokosuka obstetrics ward staff, which delivered nearly 20 babies in the three days following Christmas.
Part of it was expected, said civilian nurse Crystal Hyatt. Staff predicted 45 births in December and 75 in January using their tried and true methodology.
“Here, it’s all based on ship movements,” said obstetrics ward Lt. Aaron Myers. Count back nine months and you get the time period just before the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier went to sea, Hyatt said.
But the surge happened a little earlier than expected, Hyatt added. The ward, which has eight postpartum beds, three outpatient beds and three labor beds, saw 19 births in the week of Dec. 23 with vast majority taking place Dec. 26-28, she said.
This bumper-to-bumper baby traffic changed Caitlin Noelle’s birthday from Christmas to New Year’s, said Weber. After missing her original Dec. 23 due date, a labor induction was scheduled, but Weber was asked to wait until after the boom, she said.
She’s glad her daughter won’t have to share her special day with Christmas. “I like the idea of a New Year’s birthday better,” Weber said. “Then she’ll get a big party every year and won’t have to split presents.”