The birth of your child will be one of the most thrilling and emotional experiences in your life. When you're a military spouse or significant other, there is the chance that your significant other will be on deployment when your due date arrives. If he can't be there, the following information will help you be sure you have plenty of support and bridge the distance between you and your partner.
Before your due date
The military offers many resources for expectant parents. You can learn what is available through your military and family support center. It's also important to do the following:
- Enroll in the TRICARE region where you live – Visit TRICARE for information on covered services and other maternity care programs.
- Enroll in childbirth or parenting classes – Find out about classes from your installation's New Parent Support Program, military and family support center or your hospital.
- Meet other parents – If you are new to your installation, you can meet people by getting involved with volunteer organizations, family readiness groups and spouse's clubs.
- Ask a close friend or family member to be your labor coach – It can be reassuring to have a familiar face with you during childbirth. Through a program called Operation Special Delivery, you can sign up for the volunteer services of a doula. A doula provides information as well as emotional and physical support during pregnancy, labor and just after the baby is born.
- Keep the phone number of your health care provider handy – It's a good idea to post this number by the telephone where you can find it if you have a question.
- Find out what support services your hospital or military treatment facility offers – Some facilities offer breastfeeding support for new mothers and hotlines to call when you have concerns about yourself or your newborn.
- Prearrange transportation to the hospital – Make arrangements with a close friend or family member to drive you to the hospital when you are ready to give birth.
- Pack your bag ahead of time – This will give you one less thing to do when you go into labor.
- Ask someone to take care of pets if you have any – Hire a pet sitter or leave a key with a friend or neighbor.
- Obtain a medical power of attorney – Choose a family member or trusted friend to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so. Your installation's legal assistance office can help you with this.
- Contact the local Red Cross – Find out what information the American Red Cross will need in order to contact your partner if you aren't able to on your own when you go into labor.
Including your spouse or partner during your pregnancy
- Send ultrasound pictures – You are likely to experience at least one during your pregnancy so be sure to send the pictures to your partner.
- Record your baby's heartbeat – Record your baby's heartbeat at your prenatal checkup and send the recording to your partner.
- Send regular photographs of your growing belly – Take pictures every other week or weekly as your due date nears. Photographs like these can become a treasured record of your pregnancy.
- Keep a journal or write a blog – You can post pictures, describe the kicks and flutters, and write about your thoughts on the progress of your pregnancy.
- Consider sending a surprise celebration package in advance – You can address this to one of your partner's buddies or someone in the chain of command.
Helping your significant other connect with the birth
During the time when your baby is born, you'll want to be sure that your partner feels as connected and informed as possible, despite the distance. There are several ways to create a connection, including:
- Stay in touch by phone or video-chat – If you can, call your when you go into labor and after the baby is born. Check with your hospital for rules on video-chats.
- Ask the people who are with you to write down their thoughts and experiences – Your partner will get a better feel for what the day was like by reading what family, friends and your labor coach have written.
- Email a photo to your partner – Take a picture of your baby right after birth and have a friend or family member email it to your significant other.
- Contact the leader of the volunteer family support group for your partner's unit and the rear detachment commander – They will want to know that you're in the hospital so others in the group can help support you.
When you and your baby return home
- Ask for help – A new baby requires some big adjustments and you may feel overwhelmed doing it all alone. Take advantage of your hospital's support services and home visits through your installation's New Parent Support Program. If it's possible, ask a friend or family member to stay with you for the first few days as you get used to the responsibilities of caring for a baby.
- Know the signs of depression – Keep in mind that many new mothers experience a mild, short-lived form of depression after childbirth. Symptoms include feelings of anxiety and sadness that last for about a week to 10 days. Some new mothers experience a more serious form of depression called postpartum depression, which can start any time within the first six months after the baby is born. If you are having signs and symptoms of depression that don't lessen or go away within a few weeks, or if they interfere with your everyday life, call your doctor. If you are confused, having strange thoughts or having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call your doctor immediately.
- Help your partner celebrate – You can send a package including things like bubblegum cigars and your baby's identification bracelet.
- Continue your online blog or keep a journal about your baby – You can include photos, descriptions of milestones in your baby's development and funny stories.
- Ask your partner to record readings of bedtime stories – Play these so your baby will become familiar with his or her parent's voice.
- Prepare your partner for the change at home – Your partner may not realize how much time and work a newborn requires, so be sure to explain the baby's schedule, including night feedings. Talk about how the rhythms of your days have changed and how becoming a parent has shifted your own priorities.
When your partner returns home
- Give your partner time to get to know the new baby – Try not to be disappointed if the returning parent doesn't seem as attached to the baby as you are. It's likely to take some time to develop a bond with this new person in his life.
- Let your partner pitch in – You've been caring for the baby on your own and are probably comfortable with your routine. But it's important to teach your partner to take part in the baby's care. Taking an active role will help returning parents build confidence.
- Encourage your significant other to enroll in a parenting class – Many installations offer baby boot camp programs for new parents. Check with your New Parent Support Program or your military and family support center.
- Encourage your partner to talk to other parents – It can be comforting to talk with others who have had similar experiences.
- Ask your partner to bring the baby to medical checkups or to go to the baby's medical appointments with you – Pediatrician appointments offer an opportunity to learn about the baby's care, to ask questions and to learn what is and isn't normal for a baby.
- Make an effort to spend time together as a couple – The two of you are likely to have a lot of catching up to do.