Friday, December 17th, 2010
“My Mom came up to D.C. with the Carter White House to work on urban revitalization. She knew Carter before he got into politics and worked on his campaign. I was about four when we moved here from Atlanta. I did most of my school here and then started doing development work in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
“In 2003, I got a call on a Sunday night, asking if I could go to Iraq that Monday for three weeks to work on a Department of Defense development project. I went and ended up staying for a year. Before I left, I didn’t realize that I was pregnant. While I was in Iraq, I was pretty sick, but thought that I had worms. The food was so bad and everyone was losing weight, so I didn’t think anything of it. Five months in, I went to a local doctor to get checked out. He told me that I was six months pregnant. I was shocked.
“At the time, the Americans did not know. I had pre-natal vitamins sent to me through my Army Post Office (APO) address, but someone opened my package and found out that I was pregnant. I finally had to inform everyone and they were definitely not happy about it. They were angry about the liability and resource issues given that we were in a war zone. But they said that I could stay in Iraq if I signed a release saying that if anything happened to me or my baby, the military would have no liability. I loved Iraq and the work I was doing. It was still during the time when people were optimistic and I thought that we could fix things.
“Three weeks before I gave birth, the Judge Advocate General (JAG) decided that he wanted me to leave Iraq and go to Frankfurt to have the baby. They were in the process of negotiating the arrangement when my water broke while unloading some cargo. My colleague took me to the Green Zone where the JAG and most of the doctors were upset about having to deal with this. They started bringing in U.S. military specialists from around the country to help with my labor. Right before I came in, the hospital got a call that there were wounded soldiers coming in. I ended up having a cesarean and was in-and-out in five minutes. With Alex, my baby, they had to modify everything. They put her in Tupperware and jerry-rigged a ventilator out of someone’s popcorn maker. All they had were death certificates, so they had to modify things to make a birth certificate.
“Amazingly, everyone there rallied around Alex. When she was a a little stronger, the nurse took her around to see the wounded soldiers. The whole place was packed with people with side arms passing her around. It was really surreal. When I got ready to leave the hospital, the JAG came by to tell me that it really upset him that I was going to have a baby there, but at the end, it really changed the morale of the place. He even asked to take a picture with me, Alex, and the birth certificate. She was born on an American base, so she is American, but her place of birth is Baghdad. That has put her on the no-fly list three times already as a six year old. I was the first American to have a kid like that, and I don’t think they have allowed it since.
“We got evacuated a few months later when the security situation got much worse. From there, I went to Jordan and then came back to D.C. Since being back, we have travelled a bit, but have stayed mostly in D.C. I think that traveling is a great way to raise a child, but Washington also has so many great opportunities to keep that connection to foreign places and cultures.”