Camp Lejeune’s ‘Baby Heaven’ Is Anything But 

Time hasn’t diminished the emotional pain or anguish parents still feel for the children they buried in Baby Heaven at Camp Lejeune. Miscarriages and stillbirths were frequent yet unexplained. One resident, Kathy, lost three babies during her time at Camp Lejeune and she was only one of many who experienced multiple losses. Most of the pregnant women blamed themselves, because as Kathy said, “I didn’t know the Government was killing me and the babies, and everything else.” Saying goodbye to her unborn daughters and deciding never to try to conceive again brought Kathy, a woman yearning to be a mother, to a dark place. “It was just an awful life. It seemed like it was impossible for all that to be happening.”

Countless women were told their pregnancies weren’t viable, or they gave birth to stillborn babies without any explanation. The children who did not survive were laid to rest in the Camp Lejeune cemetery in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in a section known as ‘Baby Heaven’ because of the many infants buried there.

Rows of graves in Baby Heaven cemetery at Camp Lejeune serve as a somber reminder of the tragedy countless military families went through while living there. Women recount the grim expressions of delivery room staff on what should have been a joyous day, and the sinking feeling that something was wrong. Heartbreaking stories involving grueling hospital stays in the pregnancy ward, preterm births, and babies born with cardiac defects are common themes for families of Camp Lejeune. News that another newborn son or daughter wouldn’t survive to see the next day, let alone a first birthday, brought misery to this military community for decades. Doctors offered few answers, numbed by these too-familiar occurrences.

Walking the burial grounds at Baby Heaven offers a glimpse into how many families were forever changed by time spent at Camp Lejeune. From 1953 until 1987, infant deaths and cardiac birth defects were so frequent that some families would forgo baby showers, preparing for the worst instead of readying their homes for a new little one. Even women who arrived at the base happy, healthy, and pregnant would somehow be met with tragedy from unexplained miscarriages. No one understood that these complications were related to the water at Camp Lejeune, information the Government kept hidden, leaving everyone searching for answers long after they left the base.

Answers for Camp Lejeune Miscarriages and Infant Deaths

A community losing hundreds of babies to miscarriages and infant deaths seems unimaginable now, but for too many families at Camp Lejeune, it was a reality. These faithful Marines would never have assumed the Government they served would poison their unborn children and lie about it. The Government concealed the contamination hazards, choosing to avoid accountability and Camp Lejeune miscarriage lawsuits instead of offering relief to grieving families.

The hazardous chemicals present in the water at Camp Lejeune from 1953 until 1987 included trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in contaminated water can lead to many pregnancy complications, including preterm births, stillbirths, and cardiac defects. These women weren’t at fault for their babies dying too soon—the water they drank, bathed in, and cooked with was toxic and killed their unborn children.

Nearly a half-century after Kathy had given up on having children, she’d get a letter explaining the contamination. The Government’s mailing cited a study about the contaminated water and diseases at Camp Lejeune. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) evaluated whether maternal exposure to drinking water containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) increased the risk of certain health conditions. Sadly, this confirmation did nothing to change the fact that three of Kathy’s children were resting in the baby cemetery at Camp Lejeune, or that her husband, Phelix, had already succumbed to diseases linked to the water’s toxins

Like Kathy and her husband, many young, newly married military couples settled into their lives at Camp Lejeune, ready to grow their families. No one imagined the tainted water on the base would diminish their chances of enjoying homes filled with happy, healthy children. The babies lost will never be forgotten. The Camp Lejeune miscarriage lawsuit keeps the memory of these children alive, giving those laid to rest in the baby cemetery the recognition they deserve.