Service Stories: Six Months Pregnant, She Volunteered to Work on Oil Spill Response
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Tera Baird is shown here in early September on the job in Charleston, S.C. Credit: USFWS
Charleston, S.C. – A lot of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel who have volunteered to work on the BP oil spill response have left their families behind to do so.
Tera Baird took part of her family along. Specifically the baby boy she was six months pregnant with when she volunteered to work in the Mobile, Ala., Incident Command Center in late June and early July.
Baird is now back in Charleston, S.C., at her regular job, as a biologist in the Charleston Field Office working on the Coastal Program. She’s eight months pregnant, due Oct. 2, and yes, she does have a name picked out for the baby boy and no, she is not sharing it until he is born.
She still serves on the Southeast Region’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Steering Committee, which is what got her to Mobile in the first place, a few weeks after the Service began responding to the oil spill.
“Jason Duke, who heads the Southeast Region GIS Committee, asked for volunteers to go down to the Gulf and serve as a GIS liaison,” said Baird, a five-year Service employee. (GIS is a mapping system that can be used in numerous ways.)
“I thought it was a great opportunity to be of service to Fish and Wildlife and the people who needed help there,” she continued. “And it would allow me to learn more about GIS.”
She discussed the deployment with her husband Morgan, who manages a historic site for the state of South Carolina, and he agreed to take care of their daughter Adeline, then 13 months old.
“Just because I’m pregnant and have a young family, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t serve,” Baird said. “Everybody who has been to the Gulf has family or some kind of commitments outside the Service. I didn’t really think I was doing anything exceptional.”
Her superiors recommended an 11-day deployment instead of the standard 14 because of her pregnancy. But once she was in Mobile, she barely had time to think about her condition.
“You really just don’t have time to be tired. You’re just in the zone, responding to so much. I would be at the Wildlife Operations Room in Daphne at 6 a.m. most mornings to give a briefing, then spend the morning in Daphne, then drive over to the Mobile Incident Command, about an hour away, and sometimes work till 8 at night.
“Now when I returned, I was exhausted. That’s when I really felt it.”
Baird was tentatively signed up to do another deployment, but after talking to her supervisor and her midwife, decided to finish her pregnancy at work in Charleston. But she still thinks about going back to the Gulf if she is needed.
“Right now I’m going to have this baby, then do my maternity leave, then see what’s happening after that,” she says. “If they’re still asking for volunteers for mapping and I can serve without it being too much of a sacrifice to my family then yes, I would like to volunteer again.”