Giving birth during deployment is never ideal, but sometimes we don’t get a choice. Military wives sometimes have to have the baby when their husband is deployed. No matter how you arrange it, that is a scary and stressful situation.
My husband was there for the birth of babies #1, #2 (barely!) and #4. He was deployed for baby #3’s arrival. Statistically, I guess 3 out of 4 is not bad, but oh! was that third birth a challenge! Not only was my husband in Afghanistan and without video access (no Skype), but there was a Category 3 HURRICANE at our house, the hospital lost power, the nurse woke me up that night to shelter in the hallway for a TORNADO WARNING, and then there was no food except granola bars and fruit snacks. Oh, and the base was shut down, so I had to spend an extra day and night in the hospital as a non-patient, which meant no food at all unless I walked myself and the baby downstairs and outside to buy some. You can read the full crazy story here. So yes, not my favorite birth.
But a deployment birth doesn’t always have to be that hard! There are several things you can do to plan ahead and reduce your stress so you can focus on what you need to do.
How to plan for a deployment birth:
- First, make arrangements for your other kids, if you have any. If your labor could happen at any time, maybe have a few plans (one for daytime, one for night, etc). Can a friend or neighbor stay with them? Can your parent, sibling, or in-law plan a visit? Can they go home from school with a classmate, or stay for a sleepover? If you have friends on speed-dial, you will feel a lot more calm when labor begins. You know what else will make you calm? Knowing you have enough diapers and baby supplies. Use this affiliate link to stock up on anything you need. 🙂
- Know your communication options with your husband. This will vary greatly depending on their location in the world, military branch, and electronics available, so don’t depend on other people’s stories! Discuss the communication options ahead of time. The chain of command usually tries to assist as much as possible, but they generally won’t fly a service member home for a deployment birth (unless it is for scheduled R&R.) If he has Internet and a webcam, he may be able to Skype. If he has a Sat phone, he may be able to call. Try to practice with different apps ahead of time to see what works best. In our case, the command let him spend the day in the Comm tent, so he had computer access and could send me messages on Google Chat. So I got some weird looks as I was clutching my phone and texting furiously, “getting ready to push!” But that was the only connection I had to him, and I was grateful for it.
- Know how to send a Red Cross message. In today’s tech world, your husband will probably have some way to get in touch with you and know if you are getting close to having the baby. And you can contact your Family Readiness Officer (Or FRG or Ombudsman) to relay a message quickly to his chain of command. But a Red Cross message is still an important official step to giving him any kind of liberty or special privileges during the deployment birth. (It can also be used for emergency notifications, like a death in the family.) The message usually will not be sent until you have actually been admitted into the hospital, so save the information in your phone, and then once you make the call, they will ask to speak briefly to an admitting doctor or nurse to verify. To send a Red Cross Message, call 877-272-7337, and have the following information ready:
- Service Member’s full name
- Rank / Rating
- Social Security Number
- Military Address (Deployment Address or Ship)
- Deployed unit and Home base unit
- Contact info for the doctor at the hospital
- Invite a friend to be your hospital buddy. Giving birth alone can be extremely frightening, stressful, and painful. You have to make decisions for yourself and your baby. And no matter what medical options you choose, there is going to be some pain and discomfort. Having someone to hold your hand can calm you down, help you manage pain, and literally lower your heart rate (which is a really important thing during birth.) Ideally, it should be a close female friend, who has already given birth before, makes you feel relaxed, is not squeamish, and has a good sense of humor. If you know someone who doesn’t quite fit all those categories, go ahead and ask them anyway. Having someone there is better than being alone.
- Get a doula through Operation Special Delivery. This is an amazing program where doulas volunteer their services to military widows or wives whose spouse is deployed. (Note: when I used this service, it was free. They now charge for their services based on military rank and paygrade.) What is a doula? It’s basically a birth coach who is there to support and defend YOU. They are most often used for natural births, but the doula can be useful to anyone, and is there to help you in your birth plan. She has medical training, so she can ask the doctor questions, help you make a decision, or voice your wishes when you can’t. For example, my doula communicated with me when contractions started, advised me when to go to the hospital, met me at my house, drove me to the hospital, and stayed with me throughout the check-in process. When they originally wanted to turn me away because I wasn’t ‘in labor enough,’ all I wanted to do was cry. But the doula gave the staff some of my contraction details and asked the doctor specific questions. She then told me my options and helped me make a decision. Once I was admitted, she stayed with me the entire time–talking, getting me ice chips, holding my hand, telling me to breathe, helping me get comfortable, giving me my phone, and even taking the first photos of the baby! (As my husband said, “Oh, she basically does my job!) You can visit their website, Operation Special Delivery, during your pregnancy to apply and select your doula. She will then come to your house for an interview, where you can meet her, ask questions, and discuss your birth plan. This interview alone was so helpful to put my mind at ease, and give me confidence to believe that I really could do this!
So if you are pregnant during a deployment, it’s ok to feel scared and intimidated. But know that you are not alone! There are thousands of other military wives who have gone through it and survived! It isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I hope that these tips will give you the peace and confidence to face the mighty challenge that lies ahead! You can do this, mama!