Sgt. Mike Mayer and his wife, Crista, admit raising a family is hard, especially when dad is half a world away.
Their 2-year-old daughter, Emma, was born while Mayer was deployed in Afghanistan. The couple got pregnant with their now 11-month-old son, Mike Jr., when Mike, 26, returned in June 2009. The couple, who lives on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is expecting their third child in June and knows one thing for certain.
“I’m anticipating chaos,” said Crista Mayer, 25, as she pushed her two children in a dual stroller. “Lots and lots of chaos.”
On Sunday, the Mayers joined other military families for some organized chaos at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey for “Operation Baby Shower,” where about 45 vendors packed Marcus Pavilion to provide free formula, wipes, eye and teeth checks and information about finances and schooling.
The event’s sponsor, which partnered with the Association of the United States Army, said about 950 people signed up for the shower, a number which was evident by the line packed with parents, strollers and crying babies wrapped halfway around the pavilion.
The shower was designed to line up with the anticipated baby bonanza at Madigan Army Medical Center on JBLM that will soon fill the air with plenty of crying and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the song Madigan plays whenever a baby is born.
With more than 18,000 soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan returning in waves last March and some of the largest homecomings taking place over the summer, officials at Madigan say they are prepared for a post-deployment baby boomlet.
And when the Mayer family welcomes its newest member at Madigan, they could be part of history.
Madigan expects a peak in births to take place in May or June. It anticipates delivering between 280 and 300 babies in those months, said Lt. Col. Jason Pates, Madigan’s chief of obstetrics.
The previous peak month was March 2009, when 250 babies were delivered at Madigan. More typically, the hospital delivers 200 or fewer babies each month.
Pates said Madigan has added staff to prepare for the increase in births.
“We enjoy taking care of the soldiers and their families, and we’re glad to have them back,” he said.
Sgt. Willie Aquino has been home from Iraq since the summer of 2008. Snaking through the pavilion, Aquino held a bag full of diapers, toys and lots of brochures for his wife Patricia, 30, who is due next month. Patricia said she had particular interest in booths providing information about education and local museums.
Willie, 28, said it’s hard to believe the couple is having a baby, though Patricia admits her husband has handled the pregnancy pretty well, except for sometimes failing to understand her mood swings.
And it wasn’t just soon-to-be mothers taking advantages of the free services Sunday.
Katie Probst, 23, heard about the shower on Facebook and brought her 3-month-old twins Kayla and Carson, leaving her husband cleaning at their Lacey home.
She said it’s hard raising babies with a husband constantly away for training. And with the number of diapers and clothes that will be required for two bundles of joy, Probst said she was looking forward to all the freebies at the shower.
“With twins you need anything,” she said.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646