After the shock of your new life has settled in the next question many couples (and I am aware not all) ask themselves, “is when do we start a family?” When will the right time be? But, is there really ever “the right time”? I have met countless mothers who never expected their little bundle of joy. Many more who were faced with bringing that bundle into this world without the father present and for many reasons, mostly due to deployments. I was very fortunate to have my hubby at home for both of our boys’ births. I wish I could say from experience how it feels to delivery a baby without his/her father present, but I can’t. I can talk about having babies while being an active duty sailor and being far from family in a strange country. Over the years I have heard so many times how the wife doesn’t want to have children under certain living conditions, be it living overseas or husband will be deployed. But, naturally a woman wants what a woman wants (again, I realize some woman don’t) and to that I say:
1. Don’t wait for “the right time”. When your body takes over and the feeling of being pregnant is always on your mind act on it. Talk with your spouse about what it means to bring a baby into the world you live in. Don’t let deployments and duty stations stop you from living the life you and your husband want to live. If, you are feeling like making this next step is emotionally confusing seek counseling either with a chaplain or other trusted religious mentor. Get counseling for FREE at Fleet and Family Support Center. I believe that many wives are scared to start a family for fear they won’t have the support they need and that simply isn’t true. Remember that command spouse network I encouraged you to be apart of? Don’t forget to use it.
2. Another fear I often hear is having a good doctor. I had both my children in military hospitals; one stateside and one overseas. Do not fear the military doctor! The ones I had were amazing and I was well cared for. For some women having a baby by a civilian doctor is important and if that is the choice for you and your spouse then go with it. The best thing to do is call TriCare and ask for a list of local doctors that except our insurance and then start interviewing. Sometimes, TriCare representatives will say you “have to” see a certain doctor and that simply isn’t true. You may go to any doctor that excepts TriCare and if TriCare is willing to pay the doctor for your care. Again, do your homework and ask questions until you are satisfied. Your health and happiness is the most important and it starts with having a doctor your are comfortable with. One thing to always remember is that some duty stations have plenty of military doctors and you may not be allowed to use a civilian doctor. But, it never hurts to ask and if the answer is no, don’t worry it will be fine. Remember I had two babies at military hospitals and was very happy both times.
3. Once you have got the medical side taken care of take time and go to a parenting class. FFSC has some for both parents, some for just dads called Daddy Bootcamp (I think) and then there is Budgeting for Baby or something similar. When I was still working I had to attend one and I learned so much. Also, look into WIC. Again, like the doctor you want to see, it never hurts to ask if you qualify and that starts when you are pregnant. For those of you who work get going on daycare. I made the mistake of waiting till the baby was born and almost didn’t have anyone to watch him. Most Child Development Centers will allow to go on a waiting list while you are pregnant. Be ready for that dreaded day when you have to leave him/her for the first time. Take a tour of the hospital and see where you will be delivering, something I didn’t do the first time and wished I had. I think a lot of new parents are so excited about what happens when baby comes home that they sorta forget about the little stuff, like where to park when it is time or what floor is L&D on. Taking a parenting class will help guide through this. One thing to look into, too if you are not sure you can make the time is Military One Source. They have endless resources and you may find something to the equivalent on that website.
4. Make sure the command is aware of the coming addition to the family. Start planning what will happen when the baby comes. Will your husband be home or not? If not, who will help you when you go into labor? Who will take care of your other children if you have any? Always plan for the unexpected. My second baby decided he wasn’t going to wait for his scheduled delivery. No one was telling him when he would make is entrance into this world! To this day that child is controlling and we love him for it…. sorta. This was something I didn’t do. I was so sure my MIL would be there and our older son would be with her and all would be right with the world. How wrong I was! This lack of having the “what if” caused not only issues with care for our older son but with my husband’s job as well. Make sure your husband is communicating about your status with his leadership. Our dashing handsome men in uniform as much as we love them don’t always think “home” when they are at work. So, yeah… nag them about it.
5. To the spouses who aren’t pregnant in the command: help this new mother. Organize a baby shower and meal delivery and TELL the Ombudsman. While he or she may not be able to give out the contact information for all the spouses the Ombudsman can make the contacts for you. If the mom is on baby two, three or four have a diaper shower. I had one for my second baby and I don’t think I bought diapers for the first four months after he was born. Offer to assist with any other children or come over and help with household chores. Please don’t assume because family is visiting that your offer to help will be turned down. My MIL was more than thrilled to have a few extra meals she didn’t have to cook. Taking care of one or two small children and a recovering mommy is hard work! So offer and let the new mom and her family decide.
6. When the dust has settled and family has come and gone and the food deliveries have stopped DO NOT sit around waiting for those extra hands to come home. Don’t stay home (if you aren’t working) and be frustrated and sad because it is just you and this tiny human who cries non stop. Being a new mother especially if you are truly alone because your spouse is deployed is very overwhelming. Take long walks, find base events to go to, look into a Mommy and Me group (no baby is too young) or event story time at the library. Get out and meet other moms who are in the same boat. Those moms are living your life and they can best support you. I am so thankful for all the women in my life. We have helped each other at worst moments in life, like vomiting children and we love each other’s children like our own. Just like when you had to find your way as the new wife, you must find your way as the new mom, too. When I became a stay at home parent I had a 20 month old and was pregnant. I spent hours at playgrounds meeting other moms. I went to every luncheon and command event possible to get to know the other spouses. So, don’t be afraid to get out with your baby. It will be good for you! And, if mommy is happy then baby is happy.
Do not let being a military spouse stop you from having the life you want to live. If having a family is what you want, then go for it! I find military children to be the most resilient. These children make fast friends and that are life long in many cases. They support one another and they truly look to their friends parents as extensions of their own family. As parents we take the the place of missing aunts and uncles. In my children’s short lives they have seen more of this world than most American children their age. They have seen the Great Budda and ridden the world’s largest ferris wheel. Swam in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as The Gulf of Mexico. Seen Mardi Gras not once but going on three times and most likely a fourth, where as many kids may never experience that ever. I know kids who have toured Europe and many adult Americans will never do that in their life. So don’t be scared, think of what an amazing life your child will live. To be able to grow up so well rounded in 18 short years. When it gets hard and it will, I won’t lie about that! Ttake advantage of the resources available like FFSC and the Chaplain or all the MWR events. Because, from my perspective military children are the strongest by following their very strong parents lead and taking on life’s hardest challenges, like months on end with one parent or many moves to strange foreign places and making new friends. These children become the most successful because they can endure anything life deals them!
P.S. When they hate you because the parent they really want isn’t home there is wine for that because you will have those day. Oh, and call a friend or neighbor who is most likely your friend and ask to join you because I can promise that she is mostly likely feeling just as do. You are never truly alone and, remember what Scarlett O’Hara said best: “Tomorrow is another day!”