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Heidi Murkoff, right, author of the best-selling “What to Expect” book series, attends a Special Delivery baby shower at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2022.

Heidi Murkoff, right, author of the best-selling “What to Expect” book series, attends a Special Delivery baby shower at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2022. (Alex Wilson/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — About 50 new and soon-to-be mothers laughed, cheered and chatted alongside the author of a best-selling pregnancy guide this week, part of a USO program that brings the baby shower experience to future parents who are far from home.

The Special Delivery program in the past decade has feted more than 30,000 military moms and dads to-be at showers on U.S. bases around the world, according to the U.S. Navy Office of Information.

The events feature food, games, prizes, Q&A sessions and guest speakers.

At Yokosuka’s Officers Club on Monday, new and expectant mothers were joined by the program’s co-founder, Heidi Murkoff, author of the bestselling “What to Expect” book series, and parents in attendance received copies of her books.

The series, which began in 1984 with “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” are guides that focus on pregnancy, giving birth, and parenthood. The series has been translated into 44 languages and sold more than 42 million copies, according to Murkoff’s website.

Being pregnant is difficult enough, but the challenges only multiply thousands of miles away from home, Murkoff told Stars and Stripes before the event. Programs like Special Delivery are meant to bridge that gap.

“These moms are so far from their family and friends and their network of support. They won’t necessarily have a baby shower - at least not an in-person one, especially if they don’t have a lot of friends in the community yet,” she said. “This is a way to celebrate them and shower them with love and gifts and all the things you would get at a baby shower.”

The program was born in 2013, when Murkoff and her husband, Erik Murkoff, attended a shower at Fort Belvoir, Va.

“We went to the shower, and we were immediately hooked; we knew we had to do this,” she said. “And a month later, we were doing our first baby showers.”

Monday’s shower was the second this year at Yokosuka. Combined with events at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni near Hiroshima, Special Delivery has celebrated with more than 230 parents-to-be this year, according to USO area coordinator Natalie Rowland.

“What the USO does, our sole purpose, is to connect our military service members and their families to home,” Rowland told Stars and Stripes on Monday. “Having an event like this is our opportunity to support the mothers and mothers-to-be to have a tradition that they would normally have at home.”

Games included Pass the Paci, where mothers passed a pacifier around the table and awarded each other for “mom superlatives” such as who had lived in Yokosuka longest and who has the most kids. The mom who had the most “unique pregnancy craving” — buffalo sauce with lemon — won the pacifier.

In another game, moms used Play-Doh to sculpt something related to babies, being a mom or pregnancy. Murkoff and others visited each table to guess each sculpture.

Heidi Murkoff, right, author of the best-selling "What to Expect" book series, speaks with guests at a Special Delivery baby shower at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2022.

Heidi Murkoff, right, author of the best-selling "What to Expect" book series, speaks with guests at a Special Delivery baby shower at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2022. (Alex Wilson/Stars and Stripes)

First-time mom Heather Johnson, 31, of Dunnellon, Fla., said learning about concepts such as “baby-led weaning,” a method of introducing solid foods to infants, made the shower a positive, informative experience.

Emily Osgood, 30, of Boston, said the event was a great way for off-base residents like herself to make new friends and connect with other military moms.

Jasmine Iyer, 32, of Dallas, recommended all expectant mothers to attend Special Delivery.

“It’s a great event,” she said. “Heidi has such great energy.”

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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