Timing is everything and I’m certain that West Point has ingrained that principle in the minds of all its graduates along with so many other important aspects of military life. As a supporting wife, I tried to comply with all the rules, regulations, long and short separations, running our home and keeping the proverbial chin up during difficult times. This is something all military wives share—we are a tough bunch. However, the Army cannot control the human body, at least not mine.
We were stationed in Baumholder, Germany. When I told this story at an A-2 gathering and mentioned Baumholder, there were audible groans from a good portion of the crowd. Must admit, I liked Baumholder. Maybe because it was our first assignment and I had nothing to compare but I endured, even climbing to our 4th floor quarters.
Denny was in a tank battalion commanding Alpha Company. Baumholder could not accommodate tank gunnery, so the entire battalion moved to Grafenwoehr in the late summer for 8 weeks. Here is where the timing comes in…I became pregnant in the winter and my due date fell on the day the battalion was to return. Oops.
The beginning of my 9th month, it was discovered that we were expecting twins. No ultrasounds in those days (1971). The battalion commander allowed Denny to return for a week, but those babies were holding tight. He had to resume his command at Grafenwohr and I chose to move in with another “waiting wife” rather than spend weeks in the hospital as my OB/GYN suggested. Luckily, I was surrounded with many supporting battalion wives, wives of classmates and those classmates in other units that were also assigned to Baumholder. A-2 classmate, Norv and Kris Eyrich lived in the next building from where I was staying, coincidentally, Kris was pregnant at the same time and due almost on the same day.
So, of course, my labor started the day before the battalion was to return. I knew Denny would be extremely busy making sure his tanks were being loaded on to trains, tying up loose ends and preparing for the long, 12-hour journey back to Baumholder.
I placed a call to the rear-detachment officer. His wife was also pregnant. There must have been something in the water! Anyway, he was just a little riled by this news wondering if he was the designated driver to get me to the hospital. I knew that wouldn’t be a problem because in about 20 minutes there were 6 or 8 wives in my friend Nancy’s living room all trying to figure out who would be able to transport me to Bad Kreuznach, about 40 miles away. I happened to glance out the window and there was Norv, walking his dog. Kris delivered their beautiful daughter a day or two before by C-section. I leaned out and yelled “Hey, Norv, are you going to visit Kris tonight?” He looked up and said “Yes, I’m leaving in a few minutes. Is there a problem?” I replied, “I’m pretty sure I’m in labor, and since you are going that way, I could really use a ride.”
God bless Norv. Without missing a beat, he said “Yes, I’ll bring the car to the front of your building.” My bag was packed and ready as I was instructed to do by the nurses at the OB clinic. I worked my way down the stairwell, with the help of all those ladies. They lovingly padded the passenger seat of Norv’s VW Bug with about 12 towels and off we went.
Norv mentioned that he knew a short cut through the countryside that was faster than the autobahn. Since I didn’t have a choice and the contractions were about 12 minutes apart, I hoped he knew what he was doing. After all, he did get Kris there, right? Right. Turns out a good portion of the road was under construction and the detours were rough surfaces to say the least. With every bump, I prayed my water wouldn’t break and I could tell the contractions were coming a little more frequently.
Meanwhile, back at Graf in the mess hall, Denny got the word about my labor, delegated his company responsibilities for their departure and was frantically searching for some sort of transportation to BK. It was getting dark and raining hard with poor visibility. Denny’s Battalion Commander found a helicopter pilot who volunteered to fly him to the hospital. Since that was the only offer, he took it. What could go wrong?
We thankfully arrived at the BK hospital and Norv escorted me to the admissions desk on the OB floor.
The staff behind the nurses’ station, looked at him then looked a me and then looked at him again. A male nurse sneered and said “Captain, didn’t you bring another woman here a few days ago who was also in labor?” Norv explained that yes, that was true, but he was helping a friend this time who was in Graf. I could tell the guy still wasn’t convinced, standing there as I gripped the wall tile with another contraction. He asked for my ID card and Denny’s unit. I handed it over and told him it was 2/68 Armor. I could hear him talking to someone saying 2/68 Artillery. He turned to me and said that unit doesn’t exist. Another sneer at Norv. IT’S 2/68 ARMOR, ARMOR NOT ARTILLERY, I yelled to him. At last it was confirmed, and I was escorted to the labor room. Norv tried to reassure me it would be alright and went to Kris’s room.
I wasn’t sure it would be alright. I was admitted at about 8pm and Denny arrived, looking very pale, at around midnight exclaiming he had one hell of a ride.
At 6:08 and 6:15am, Kelly and Scott came into this world by natural childbirth.
Later that morning, the doctor who delivered the children, drove Denny back to Baumholder. Dr. Roth (Werner Roth, MD, a German contract OB) had clinic hours that day at our little dispensary.
It wasn’t at all how I pictured this event would evolve but thanks to bad timing and good friends, it was an experience I will never forget.