FORT WAINWRIGHT - As Nancy Cone awaited the arrival of her 13th grandchild at Bassett Army Community Hospital last weekend, the atmosphere was intense, she said.
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And Cone wasn't just referring to her daughter-in-laws labor. Cone could hear the wails of multiple expectant mothers or new arrivals echoing through the hospitals maternity ward Sunday.
"There was like five or six babies born the day we came in," Cone said. "You could see the nurses just moving."
Nine months after the return of the 1st Stryker Brigade, 25th Infantry Division from a long tour in Iraq, Bassett hospital is poised to break an all-time record with the number of babies being born this fall, said hospital spokesman Mike Berry.
This month, 69 babies had come into the world on the Army base as of Thursday morning with Army projections showing 41 more are due today. Eighty-seven births are expected for the month of October. The hospital typically averages 40 births per month, according to the U.S. Army.
The baby boom has caused the hospital to bring in a nurse from a medical facility in Seattle, officials said. Vacations have been curtailed, workers are logging longer days and doctors are juggling near-simultaneous deliveries. Officials said they are also scrambling to make sure every expectant mother has a bed.
"Weve said, All right, the next one through the door, and we may have to improvise," said Maj. Matt Packham, chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the hospital. "This is sometimes as busy as it gets when you have six or seven deliveries in a day."
Packham has had to ask one mother not to push so that he could deliver a baby in another room down the hall, he said.
"Sometimes, you get the baby delivered and you have to leave before the placenta is out," Packham said.
Hospital officials anticipated the baby boom, said Maj. Ruth Garbett, the maternity wards nurse manager. Bassett can accommodate 10 expectant mothers, she said. A few beds are available outside the maternity ward for mothers recovering after a birth.
If the hospital really felt squeezed, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital has agreed to take in expectant mothers, Garbett said. But that hasn't happened yet.
"Weve been very lucky," Garbett said. "When someone is getting close to delivering, weve been able to discharge someone else and turn the room over."
The hospital usually keeps new mothers for 48 hours. Some mothers have been discharged after 24 hours, the major said.
Maggi Rader, a recently certified nurse midwife, is taking advantage of the baby boom to hone her baby-delivering skills, she said.
Rader works part-time as a registered nurse at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and volunteers at Bassett.
"I usually come in two days a week. Its pretty much busy," said Rader, who has delivered seven babies at the Army hospital.
Stryker soldiers expanding their families is only one reason for the baby boom, officials said. An increasing number of soldiers are being stationed at the Army post.
The baby boom would be bigger but many Stryker soldiers left Fort Wainwright for another duty station after returning from Iraq, officials said.
The opening of the new medical facility this summer has helped the Army base cope with the increase in births. The new hospital houses six more beds for expectant mothers than the old facility next door.
The baby boom is expected to continue through March of next year, according to a statement from the Army.
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