OCEANSIDE — Nine months after many of the 20,000 Navy and Marine personnel came home from the Persian Gulf to Camp Pendleton, the predicted baby boom has come to pass.
Both the base's Naval Hospital and community hospitals are reporting a sharp jump in the number of babies born to military families, a trend that began in late December and seems to be continuing.
"We certainly are seeing a major increase in the last six weeks," said Denise Stearns, spokeswoman for the Fallbrook Hospital District, where the number of births to military families rose to 46 in January, up sharply from the average of 25.
"There's your boom, so we're off and running," Stearns said, adding that February is shaping up to be just as busy.
At Tri-Cities Medical Center, which serves Oceanside, Vista and Carlsbad and takes some of the overflow from Camp Pendleton's hospital, the average is 380 births a month, but 418 children were born in December and 430 last month. "We are averaging 50 extra births a month, the majority of which are military," said Karen Ladley, assistant administrator at the hospital. "That's a fairly significant increase."
The brevity of the Gulf War prompted Ladley to predict that this boom will be short-lived. But "we're projecting that certainly it will go through May and possibly June," Ladley said.
Navy Capt. William Rowley, commanding officer at the Naval Hospital, also believes that the baby boom is leveling off. Many couples may have decided that "it's no time to start a family" because of the high cost of living and military staffing reductions that have put career plans in doubt, he said.
"It's rough to be a serviceman in California, it's so cotton-picking expensive," Rowley said.