Becoming a New Father While You’re Deployed
Don’t let the stress of deployment spoil the bliss you feel as an expectant father. Even if you won’t be there for the delivery, you can still experience the joys of new fatherhood.
Planning for your baby’s birth
Reduce pre-deployment stress by helping your partner prepare for the baby’s arrival. Here’s how to get started:
- Communicate with your partner. Before deploying, talk about both of your expectations for the birth and about the ways you can stay in touch throughout the pregnancy and birth. Don't forget to let your command know how to reach your partner.
- Seek support from family and friends. Your baby's mother may need help emotionally and physically during her pregnancy. If so, encourage her to seek help. Family, friends or family readiness groups can be great resources.
- Create a plan with your partner. Work together to plan how she will get to the hospital and back home after the birth, and arrange assistance in the first few weeks.
- Help your partner select a birth coach. Your partner's birth coach will help her through labor and delivery. Talk with the birth coach about how you can be involved during labor.
- Help your partner make a birth plan. Create a birth plan ahead of time so you and your partner can lay out your wishes for the birthing process. This will let the hospital staff and your partner's birthing coach know what she prefers.
- Contact TRICARE. Enroll your partner in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS, to be eligible for medical benefits if he or she qualifies. Confirm enrollment through your installation's personnel office, by calling the Defense Manpower Data Center at 800-538-9552 or online at TRICARE's DEERS website.
- Take parenting or childbirth classes. Encourage your baby’s mother to enroll in a parenting or childbirth class before deploying. If you can, accompany her to some of the classes. It will help educate you on what to expect when your baby comes home.
- Call the New Parent Support Program. The New Parent Support Program provides one-on-one support for expecting and new parents. This free service has information, support and guidance on pregnancy, parenting and child development, and can provide information about classes, including those just for fathers. Go online to MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to find your installation's program.
- Pick out a car seat together. Before you deploy, you may want to help your partner pick out an infant seat so your child will be safe in the car.
- Decorate the nursery together. You can also help your partner pick out baby furniture or paint the nursery. You'll feel more involved and your spouse will appreciate the help. You can also leave one of your old T-shirts in the nursery so your baby can touch it, smell it and hold it.
- Make a plan for emergencies. Create an emergency plan in case of a natural disaster, including an evacuation plan and a way for you to get in touch with your family. Also, help your partner put together an emergency kit for the car.
- Take care of finances and other necessities. You may want to make sure your partner has a power of attorney before you leave. Visit your installation's legal assistance office for help. Also, be sure to take care of any car repairs or home maintenance.
When your baby is born
You can still be part of your baby's birth from halfway around the world. Try these ideas:
- Explore video chat or other communication technologies. Figure out the best ways to stay in touch with your partner, such as through video chat. The hospital may help your partner make special arrangements so you can take a more active role in the labor and delivery.
- Keep a journal. Keeping a journal of your time away from home can help you deal with the separation, and it makes a wonderful keepsake for your baby. You can also ask your partner to keep a journal or online blog.
- Encourage your partner to seek help when necessary. Taking care of a baby can be tiring, especially if your partner's away from extended family. If your spouse is having a difficult time, encourage him or her to seek help. Your installation has support services that can help, like the New Parent Support Program. In a state of crisis, she can contact the Military Crisis Line 24 hours a day (800-273-8255 and Press 1). She also can start a conversation via online chat or text (838255).
As your homecoming gets closer, start thinking about your reunion. Try these suggestions to help you to settle into a new routine:
- Give your baby time to get to know you. Try not to be disappointed if your baby doesn't bond with you right away. The excitement of your homecoming may be overwhelming to a baby.
- Keep up your baby's routine. Try not to disrupt the baby’s routine as much as possible. Plan trips or visits after you've both settled in.
- Help with feeding, bathing and routine chores. It can be easy to let your partner continue doing all the household and caretaking chores, but getting involved with bathing and feeding will help you and the baby get to know each other.
- Spend time alone as a couple. Spending time alone with your partner is important to your whole family. Take advantage of friends who offer to babysit or hire a sitter so you two can get to know each other again.
You can help make the deployment cycle easier for everyone by arming yourself with information on what to expect. Get prepared before you leave so you can better experience the joys of new fatherhood when you're away.