On Saturday, a sailor on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the aircraft carrier’s medical department, complaining of stomach pains.
The ship’s doctors would soon discover why: The sailor was pregnant.
Hours later, she gave birth to a 7-pound baby girl.
The infant’s date of birth? Sept. 11.
The place of birth: At sea, somewhere on the Persian Gulf.
“Both the mother and the baby are healthy and are doing well,” Cmdr. Bill Urban, a 5th Fleet spokesman, told The Washington Post in an email.
The baby may have come as a surprise to more than the other service members aboard the carrier.
The Navy was not aware of this pregnancy, Urban said. A Navy official said the mother claimed to be unaware of the pregnancy as well.
According to Navy policy, a servicewoman must notify her chain of command of her pregnancy no later than two weeks after a physician confirms it.
While a naval ship is in port, a pregnant servicewoman can remain onboard up to her 20th week of pregnancy. Servicewomen who are discovered to be pregnant while deployed are transferred to shore as soon as possible. “Under no circumstance shall a pregnant servicewoman remain onboard past the 20th week of pregnancy,” Navy policy states.
“While it would have been preferred to send her to her homeport earlier, per policy, we are now focused on caring for the health and welfare of our Sailor and the newest member of our Navy family,” Urban said in his email.
Urban would not say whether there are standard repercussions for a servicewoman failing to self-report a pregnancy.
The Navy’s pregnancy FAQs include information about maternity uniforms and breastfeeding at work. But there does not appear to be a section that addresses what happens if someone does not notify chain of command of her pregnancy.
“As I said, the Navy is focused on the health and welfare of the mother and baby right now,” Urban said.
The Navy did not release the sailor’s name but said she is assigned to a squadron in Carrier Airwing Three.
The USS Eisenhower has been deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, part of the U.S. military’s intervention against the Islamic State. The aircraft carrier departed Norfolk on June 1 with more than 5,000 service members and civilians on board.
Despite being a formidable nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the “Ike,” as the warship is nicknamed, was also surprisingly prepared for childbirth.
Urban said the family practitioner who delivered the baby Sunday aboard Ike is certified in childbirth and had prior experience delivering babies. In addition, many members of the ship’s medical department have been trained to deliver and care for a newborn, Urban said.
Infant diapers, baby formula and an incubator were flown out to the carrier on the day of delivery, the Virginian-Pilot reported. After a successful delivery on board the ship, the baby and mother were flown to a hospital in Bahrain by helicopter, Urban said.
The Navy confirmed that the mother is a U.S. citizen and said it is working on verifying the baby’s citizenship with the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain.
According to the State Department, “in general, a person born outside of the United States may acquire citizenship at birth if the person has at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen” and that parent “meets certain residence or physical presence requirements” including time spent abroad in the U.S. armed forces.
The Navy does not keep definitive records on babies delivered at sea. A Navy spokeswoman said in May 2003, a Marine gave birth aboard the USS Boxer while the ship was on deployment in the Persian Gulf.
“That is the last time this has occurred,” the spokeswoman said in an email.
This would, however, be far from the first time a woman gave birth without realizing she had been pregnant. Last year, a woman in Massachusetts only learned she was carrying a child about an hour before she delivered her baby.
“Tuesday morning I woke up and I had crazy lower back pain,” the woman told Boston’s CBS affiliate. “I thought I had put on some Christmas season weight, but I never thought I was pregnant. Never.”