Joanne Chavonne started seeing pregnant women everywhere in town, shopping at Target for diapers or dining at a local Mexican restaurant.
Then she heard that so many families were calling the medical clinic at nearby Fort Bragg for the results of pregnancy tests that the Army had to install an extra telephone line.
And finally, over the summer, an administrator told her that the hospital on base was overrun with women in labor, and was delivering nearly 300 babies a month. “I was shocked,” said Chavonne, whose husband, Anthony, is the mayor here. “That's 10 a day.”
For the first time since the Gulf War, the entire 82nd Airborne division was deployed in 2007. This meant that nearly 22,000 soldiers were joyously reunited with their families when they began returning last October. The base is also host to 29,000 soldiers from other units, which contributed to what by August was about a 50 percent surge in births at Womack Army Medical Center, the base hospital, compared to the previous year.
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The community is turning this into a celebration. On Saturday, 1,000 women who are pregnant or have had babies in the last six months were gathering to be the guests of honor at Boots & Booties, billed as the largest military shower ever.
It is impossible to walk through the commissaries or the Wal-Marts without seeing bellies or newborns in car seats.
“Overseas, our soldiers concentrate on their mission,” said Tom McCollum, the public affairs officer for Fort Bragg, which occupies the north and west sides of Fayetteville. “But they can't wait to get back home.”
The impact of the baby surge is being felt all across Fayetteville, a city of 210,000, from the registries at Fleishman's Tiny Town to the civilian hospital, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where the overflow of military patients sometimes has to labor in the waiting room until beds become available.
Dr. David Schutzer said that last month his practice delivered 50 percent more babies than usual, most of them military.