Women play a big role in the military, with some also juggling motherhood. Now, the Navy is taking steps to help expectant moms.
A new Maternity Pilot Program provides special uniforms to pregnant sailors. They are not serving at sea at the moment, but two Navy Lieutenants are serving the country from Connecticut.
“I’m in a military tour where I will be based on a shore for the next three years. So it’s a great opportunity for me to have kids during these next three years,” Lt. Taylor Alvarez said.
Alvarez, a naval academy admissions officer, already had one daughter while in the Navy, and is now expecting baby number two. Meanwhile Lt. Samantha Barzowski, staff submarine warfare officer at Yale ROTC, is preparing to welcome her first child.
They share something else in common: both their jobs require Navy attire.
“All five uniforms. I wear a new uniform every single day, and I constantly am wearing two, three uniforms per day based on our events,” Alvarez said.
“And I’m going to span all of the seasons,” Barzowski added. “So we’ll do the transition from our service dress blues over to our summer whites.”
It is why they are taking advantage of the Navy’s new Maternity Pilot Program, or MPP, which provides uniforms to pregnant women in the Navy.
Alvarez said when she was stationed in Washington and was expecting her first child, it was really tough to get maternity uniforms.
“I had a friend in San Diego who actually purchased all my uniforms for me, put them in a mailing box, and then sent them my way,” she said.
Now, MPP changes that.
“I mean, it’s like one-stop shopping for real,” Robert B. Carroll, branch head for the Navy Uniforms and Emerging Issues Division, said.
The federally-mandated program launched in December and is set to run through 2026. It is run by the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM).
A pregnant sailor approved for the program can bring her measurements to the nearest uniform shop or send them in from home. NEXCOM will then send a full seabag of Navy maternity uniform items. They will be shipped for free and arrive tailored.
“There’s zero out of pocket costs associated with this program, and that in-and-of-itself is a benefit,” Carroll said.
Once a pregnancy is over, NEXCOM inspects the items for wear-and-tear, and uniforms in good condition will go to other pregnant sailors.
“They’re definitely a hot commodity,” Barzowski said. “Hopefully the program can continue kind of like a rental closet, if you will.”
The moms-to-be feel it is one resource helping women in the military.
“It’s just amazing to be that representative for military women that do have family lives on the side. And so I can show like, yes, you can be pregnant. Yes, we have resources,” Alvarez said.
They hope it encourages others to join the ranks.
“Showing that the military is serious about supporting programs that support women, I think it’s definitely going to attract women to the military,” Barzowski said.