It's A Boy: War Reporter's Baby Shower In Baghdad

Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers correspondent i i

Hannah Allam, a veteran reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, is five months pregnant. Recently, friends threw a baby shower for her in Baghdad, where she's been reporting from since 2003. It was an intimate gathering with special resonance for her and her fellow female correspondents. Leila Fadel for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Leila Fadel for NPR
Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers correspondent

Hannah Allam, a veteran reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, is five months pregnant. Recently, friends threw a baby shower for her in Baghdad, where she's been reporting from since 2003. It was an intimate gathering with special resonance for her and her fellow female correspondents.

Leila Fadel for NPR

Hannah Allam is having a baby shower. Her son, Bilal, is due in four months. And unlike most baby showers, the guests at this one are more accustomed to donning helmets and flak jackets than writing out advice for the new mother on small blue cards.

That's because Allam's shower is being held in Baghdad, where she is a veteran reporter for McClatchy Newspapers.

Allam isn't the first foreign correspondent this year to be pregnant in Iraq. Deborah Haynes from The Times of London paved the way, giving birth to a boy. Nada Bakri from the The New York Times was in her eighth month of pregnancy when she left to give birth a few months ago, also to a boy.

In a room festooned with blue bunting, Allam reflects on covering a war while pregnant.

"The reactions started to change when my belly got bigger and definitely with the military. I spent most of the first trimester here. I was at the Iranian border, I was on a Chinook, I was on a Blackhawk, no problem. Second I start showing, they took one look at me and said we're not putting you on a Blackhawk," Allam says.

Despite the legions of women that have covered conflicts, whenever a female war correspondent is profiled the phrase "one of the few women to have made their name as a conflict reporter" constantly creeps in. It creates a false impression that we are the few. Editors these days are as likely to send a woman correspondent into combat as a man.

Among the guests at the baby shower: Liz Sly, veteran reporter from the Los Angeles Times; Jane Arraf who has been in Iraq since before the war and now reports for The Christian Science Monitor; and Leila Fadel from The Washington Post.

There are so many others. Since the war started, dozens of women have been sent to cover this conflict. It's been our choice, but for many of us, home and family have had to be parked at the blast wall gates.

Allam says she has been criticized for working in a war zone while pregnant.

"Yes, it's dangerous, yes, I am responsible for another life, but I don't see how it's that much different than a man who comes here while his wife is pregnant at home. You are still putting a parent at risk, you are still putting your child's future at risk," she says.

Of course, Iraqi women give birth in the country everyday, and that has its own challenges and difficulties. But Fadel of The Washington Post says a special sisterhood developed among women correspondents.

"You sort of bonded over being married to your job, and it's really an exciting thing to be able to celebrate somebody who's been able to not only be an excellent war correspondent, but also is married to a really wonderful person and is about to have her baby, and five months pregnant, she's still coming here," she says.

And she says she thinks it's important for Allam's son to know what his mother did before he was born.

"I threw this baby shower for her because [Iraq] has been a part of her life since 2003 as a person. So now she's going to have this memory for her son," Fadel says.

As she looks around the room, Allam gets teary eyed.

"I hope to come back. Everybody keeps asking me, when are you going to come back, are you going to come back? And I say, see you in a year," she says, laughing. "Don't tell my husband that, though."

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