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Robin Moeller on Tuesday holds her daughter, Kaylin, and her newborn son, Ethan, who was conceived about two weeks after Moeller's husband Matt, returned last year from deployment on the USS Kitty Hawk. The Moellers are part of a February baby boom at Yokosuka's base hospital. Ethan was born Monday.
Robin Moeller on Tuesday holds her daughter, Kaylin, and her newborn son, Ethan, who was conceived about two weeks after Moeller's husband Matt, returned last year from deployment on the USS Kitty Hawk. The Moellers are part of a February baby boom at Yokosuka's base hospital. Ethan was born Monday. (Nancy Montgomery / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — First, they made war. Then, they made love. Now, on the labor and delivery ward of Yokosuka’s base hospital, they have babies. Lots and lots of babies.

This month wasn’t exactly full of Valentine’s Day romance for those staffing the hospital’s obstetrics unit. It was hectic, hard labor, although not as hard as the labor of the 53 women who’ve given birth at the hospital so far this month.

With 10 more babies due in the hours before February turns to March, the month’s baby tally will be more than twice the number of last February and a third higher than the average month.

Still, this month’s baby boom wasn’t unexpected. February is nine months after May. In May, the USS Kitty Hawk’s 5,000 sailors returned home to the arms of their loved ones after four months at sea. “It’s a mini-honeymoon period. You’re more likely to have a favorable environment for getting pregnant,” said Lt. Katherine Robinson, a nurse on the unit.

And it wasn’t just any four months at sea. Last March, the Kitty Hawk, with USS Cowpens and USS John McCain were, as Kitty Hawk Capt. Thomas Parker put it, “prowling around the Persian Gulf, looking for trouble.”

The Kitty Hawk launched 3,000 sorties, delivering 900,000 pounds of bombs and missiles, and lost a pilot to friendly fire, according to the Navy. The Cowpens was the first ship in the gulf to launch a Tomahawk into Baghdad. They were, in two words, at war.

Many people believe that after wars, fertility rates rise, possibly as an unconscious, collective attempt at self-preservation.

“It’s a well-known phenomenon," said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Quiner, a family practice doctor at Yokosuka. “We saw it after Desert Storm. They’re gone longer” than on a routine deployment. “There’s more anxiety around the whole thing, so there’s probably a bigger baby boom.”

It’s an interesting theory, but finding data to support it is another matter. Even substantiating that the bulk of the February babies have fathers who were part of the Kitty Hawk battle group last year is difficult.

By Feb. 24, 48 babies had been born to parents from 23 different commands. Of those 48, 26 — more than half — had a parent associated with a ship, Arnold said. Seven were from the Kitty Hawk and 11 from the Naval Air Facility at Atsugi, home of Carrier Air Wing 5, the Kitty Hawk’s jet fighters.

But Ethan Moeller is not theoretical. Doctors called him “the Buddha” because he weighed 10 pounds when he was born Monday morning — nine months and two weeks after his father returned from the Persian Gulf aboard the Kitty Hawk.

“We were talking about having another baby,” said Robin Moeller, Ethan’s mother. “We just weren’t expecting it to happen so fast.”

She could say the same for her husband’s next deployment.

Just as the babies were being born, the Kitty Hawk was gone again. It left port Feb. 18 and will be at sea for some undisclosed weeks or months. Robin Moeller and her husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Moeller, a weather forecaster, thought he’d be aboard. Robin planned to give birth alone, then care for herself, her infant son and daughter Kaylin, 30 months, until Matt returned.

“I kept telling myself, ‘I can do this. I can do this. It’s been done before,’” she said.

Instead, Matt was holding her hand when Ethan was born. He was able to switch places temporarily with someone at Atsugi so he’d be home for the birth.

But in a few weeks, just as his visiting mother-in-law returns home to Iowa, he’ll be flying out to join the ship.

“I’m not thinking about that part,” Robin said. “We’ll have to take it day by day. He’s in the Navy, and that’s his job. I know I’m not the first military wife to have a baby. And I have some good friends. We do a little network. If anybody needs anything, we’re just a phone call away.

“I could dwell and cry and boo-hoo,” she said, “But he’d still be in the Navy.”

Matt said, “there were a lot of last minute baby-leave requests” on the Kitty Hawk. “The captain was getting a little irritated.”

Chief Petty Officer Maria-Christina Mercado, a Kitty Hawk spokeswoman, said by phone from the ship that a few sailors had requested baby leave. Whether it would be granted depended on what department a sailor worked in, its staffing level and other factors, she said. “If the command can accommodate it, they will.”

Maria Teresa Oliveros is in the same situation as Robin Moeller and, as Moeller points out, many other a Navy wife.

She gave birth early Monday at Yokosuka to a boy, Darren, her first child. Her husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Joel Oliveros, must ship out March 6 from Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, to the USS Safeguard.

But for the Oliveroses, the hard part is over. Maria Teresa didn’t get pregnant when her husband returned from deployment. She got pregnant after 10 years of trying, until, finally, she was successfully artificially inseminated with her husband’s sperm.

As for her husband’s upcoming absence, a tired but blissful Maria Teresa said Tuesday, “I can handle it.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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