When Heidi Murkoff wrote “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” she didn’t expect that her book would become a staple in most homes as they prepare for the birth of their children. And she most certainly didn’t expect that she would be attending baby showers for military spouses, service members and moms-to-be. Now she, along with the USO, are partnered together for baby showers that have gone virtual in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Much like many new moms, Murkoff had hundreds of questions that she couldn’t find the answers to during her first pregnancy. She knew others were in the same boat. It was from all these questions — and her experience throughout her pregnancy — that the idea of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was born. The brand has since grown into a book series, a website, an app and even a podcast.
However, it is Murkoff’s nonprofit organization, the What to Expect Project, that brings her immeasurable joy. When baby showers were in person, she says it was a “love fest … every shower is filled with love and hugs.” Although she has no military affiliation herself, Murkoff contacted the USO after attending another organization’s baby shower.
“After hugging my way through a crowd of moms, we were hooked. We wanted to do more baby showers for military moms,” she said.
It has been eight years since the What to Expect Project first partnered with the USO, and they have held hundreds of baby showers since.
Murkoff’s first three baby showers, dubbed the USO Special Delivery, was held in Okinawa in the heat of the summer.
“The center’s AC was broken. Everyone was hot and sweaty,” she said.
But despite the uncomfortable venue, everyone had an amazing time. Since then, the showers continue to have games, lunch, cake and a Q & A session along with individual photos with Murkoff. Moms are able to enter raffles and win prizes like car seats, strollers, and diapers. But the most important part, according to Murkoff, is the connections these moms are able to make with one another.
“We bring together moms who otherwise might not have ever met, so they build a community when they need it the most,” she said.
You don’t have to be a first-time mom to attend the USO Special Delivery baby showers either.
“The ones on their sixth baby can give advice to first-timers,” Murkoff said. “We even have baby showers for dads which are so much fun, even if they get voluntold to come. They always have an amazing time, and ask even more questions than the moms do — and take notes!”
She even gets to see families as they grow. Since she has been doing the baby showers with the USO for so long, she often sees families come back for another shower with their older ones in tow.
“No matter where in the world they have met me, they come and bring their entire families,” she said.
Although the baby showers are currently virtual because of COVID-19, Murkoff still reflects fondly on some of her favorite memories of the in-person baby showers.
“I had [a mom go into labor in Naples]. .. all the moms at the shower jointly decided to give the car seat (one of the raffle prizes) to her, because she had just PCS’d and didn’t have one,” she said.
But the virtual baby showers are made to be just like the in-person ones, as much as possible anyways.
“We do it via Zoom. I [still] meet each mom personally, take a photo with each mom, we play games in small groups so they can meet other moms, I do a Q & A and we have raffle prizes and gift bags,” she said.
And she can’t wait to get back to in-person baby showers so that her hugging privileges can be restored.
Since she started the USO Special Delivery baby showers eight years ago, the military community has continued to be a special part of Murkoff’s life, professionally and personally. She has helped work on legislation in the Senate to address the challenges and needs of military families and has continued to advocate for them whenever possible.
“I always knew military families had a harder time than most families, but I never fully understood the sacrifices until I started meeting the families and hearing from the moms. These moms are so far from their friends, family, network of support … They deserve all the celebration and support we can possibly provide. They inspire me every single day,” she said.
The virtual baby showers are open to active duty and military spouse moms-to-be. Registration is through your local USO Center. For more information, and potential dates for in-person USO Special Delivery baby showers in the future, check out the USO Special Delivery page.