Military Dad Gets a Hero’s Welcome from Family Maternity Suites

Decorated hospital door for new daddy, Justin Painter, staff sergeant in the U.S. Army

On a Sunday morning in January, Alicia Painter delivered her first child after a 24-hour labor. It was a tough, medication-free birth that the new mom had hoped to experience with her husband by her side. Justin, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, however, was doing his best to travel to Springfield from Okinawa, Japan, where he and Alicia had been stationed for his three-year tour.

Not wanting to leave their families out of their pregnancy journey, Alicia had moved home for the final four months of her pregnancy, with the assumption that Justin would join her two weeks prior to her due date.

On Jan. 20, with the due date approaching, Justin tried to fly home but couldn’t because of inclement weather. The next morning, Alicia woke up to find her fluids were leaking. She was admitted to Memorial — which she had chosen after a tour of the Family Maternity Suites weeks earlier — and waited for word that her husband was on his way to her. Still yet to have experienced a contraction, Alicia was in tears out of fear her husband wouldn’t make the birth. Eventually she got word that he was on his way, but his trip would involve 20 hours of traveling.

Once contractions began, Alicia labored for 16 hours with the help of her FMS nurses.

“For the situation I was in, I had the best possible birth experience,” she said. “I remember a day nurse (Lindsay Matthews, RN) coming in at shift change and telling me that she was going home for the day and she would see me in the morning, hopefully to see the new addition. It was nice of them to let you know what was going on.”

Alicia’s night-shift nurse, Amy Armstrong, RN, coached her throughout the long night along with Alicia’s mother and midwife.

“I will never forget how amazing everyone was to me, especially her,” Alicia said. “She stayed by my side if I needed or wanted her to; she made everything OK. My nurses were calm, patient and very understanding throughout the whole process. It was the soothing voices and clear, concise communication they give that somehow makes it through the fog of pain and helps you get through it.”

Baby Cash first opens his eyes

At 7 a.m., Alicia began pushing. She recalls Lindsay making it back to her room to assist with the delivery after coming back on duty, appearing genuinely happy that she had made it back on time.

Baby Cash Painter was born at 7:33 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2012, weighing 6 pounds, 14 ounces. As soon as she delivered him, Alicia’s cell phone rang.

“It was my husband,” she said. “He had made it to Seattle and was waiting to hop the next flight to St. Louis. He was standing at his gate waiting to board when he heard his baby’s first cries. Everyone at the gate applauded and congratulated him.”

As the new mom and newborn settled in to rest as they awaited Justin’s arrival, FMS nurses got to work.

Bernie Polley, RN, who was one of Alicia’s post-delivery nurses, and the rest of the FMS team wanted to make the pending reunion extra special. She called the Dietary manager and made a special request, and the manager said she’d see what she could do to meet it.

“Around 3:30, Dietary staff delivered a beautifully decorated red, white and blue sheet cake with ‘It’s a Boy’ written on it,” Polley said. “Our unit was busy, but our clerks and techs scurried to decorate her door with ‘Welcome Home, Daddy,’ in military décor. Her husband arrived 30 minutes later. … It was very heartwarming when we took the cake into the room to see them break into tears and hugs and take pictures of the cake, which they shared with their family and staff, too.”

Justin, Alicia and Baby Cash

The gesture was “such an amazing surprise,” Alicia said. “Never in a million years would I ever have thought that the staff would have gone out of their way like they did for us.”

“Birthing a baby is, of course, an experience you are never going to forget, but the nurses at Memorial made it a positive memory and a story we will tell for the rest of our lives.”