Baltimore, Md. — Shandi Robinson recently gave birth to a baby girl. But having just moved across the country from California to Maryland, the eight-year Navy veteran didn’t know anyone in the area who would throw her a baby shower.
She got one Saturday from an unexpected source: the Baltimore VA hospital.
Robinson and about 25 other women who have delivered or are expecting babies in 2018 were part of an inaugural baby shower event hosted by the VA Maryland Health Care System for veteran women and spouses of veterans. In the weeks surrounding Mother’s Day, more than 60 other VA sites across the country are following suit, celebrating approximately 2,400 new and expecting veteran moms.
“We know that women veterans are really growing as a population within the veteran population, and so we really want them to know that VA is here for them. We are providing comprehensive, gender-specific care,” said Danielle Corazza, national outreach coordinator for the Veterans Affairs Department Center for Women Veterans. “I think the important thing is that it’s not your grandfather’s VA.”
Corazza said many women veterans don’t realize VA offers provides preconception, prenatal and infertility services, in addition to primary care, and seven days of newborn care after delivery. Many of the larger hospitals employ maternity care coordinators, and new moms can also get breast pumps, nursing bras, nursing pads and other items through the VA.
The breast pump she received through the VA was a favorite of Robinson, who doesn’t remember them being so “high tech” when she had her last baby 12 years ago. The mother of three said she’s always had a good experience with the VA health care system, both in Maryland and California.
“They’re realizing that there are women that served and we’re just as equal as the men who have served before in the past, so I really appreciate that,” she said.
Like any good baby shower, the VA’s included a mixture of games, prizes and cake, as well as educational resources and information about VA services. In Baltimore, moms got lessons in breastfeeding, stress management, infant CPR and other baby-related advice. They also left with gift bags full of baby supplies from the VA’s corporate partners.
Mother-to-be Fara Flanders appreciated the extra spotlight on women veterans for the day. She was recently hospitalized for a week at the Baltimore facility and said, at 35, she was the youngest person on her floor — and the only woman.
“It’s very cool what they’ve done for us veterans,” said Flanders, who is expecting a baby boy boy next month. “The level of education and the level of gifts, it surpassed anything that I would’ve guessed or asked for.”
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.