*In honor of National Military Appreciation Month and Armed Forces Day on Saturday, May 18, we're thrilled to feature advice geared specifically to military mamas!*
Congratulations! You just found out that you’re pregnant. You’re excited, nervous, and eager to share your big news with your family and friends. Then you realize that you’re a thousand miles away from everyone you know and love. Your spouse is in and out of the field, off to trainings, and scheduled to deploy soon. What’s a military spouse to do? (Cue the freak-out.)
Although this isn’t how you pictured it, don’t fret. One impressive aspect of being in the military community is the amount of support you will receive from other military spouses. It may not be what you’re used to, and you may be a little (or a lot!) out of your comfort zone, but you’ll meet people who will help you through this transition. You’ll gain a broader perspective and outlook, where strangers become friends, and those friends become family. These will be the people who will go with you to appointments if your spouse is away, throw you a baby shower, and even be there with you through the birth of your new bundle (or babysit your other kids while you’re at the hospital).
The catch is, you can’t be afraid to ask for help. Nine times out of ten, another military spouse would be more than happy to help you with any aspect of the pregnancy process. Having a support system is crucial, even if you don’t think you need it or feel uncomfortable asking.
Outside of the community itself, the military branches offer official programs to help support parents, namely the New Parent Support Program. The staff consists of nurses, social workers, and home visitation specialists, and is supervised and monitored at the installation level by the Family Advocacy program manager.
The program focuses on providing one-on-one support for new and expectant parents through home visits, but some installations offer parenting classes and groups. Services vary by service branch and by installation, but they can include infant CPR and first aid, childproofing and child safety, and information for financial assistance through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. And the icing on the cake? If your servicemember is home and attending classes with you, they will get to try on the “baby belly.” (Trust me, that is a picture you’ll never get out of your head!)
Another popular class is Budget for Baby, offered through the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (or other organizations). It provides practical advice on budgeting techniques when adding an additional member to your family, as well as some freebies and coupons for baby supplies. In addition, many local hospitals offer pregnancy support services, which can give you even more knowledge and help.
You do so much to prepare for the arrival of your little one, and the fun continues once he or she arrives! After you have settled in, be sure to explore the opportunities to get together with other new parents and try out different programs. When your babe gets a little older, there are fun activities that give them the opportunity to be physically active, like soccer with Tiny Troops Soccer, a developmental program for ages 2-4 that is near several military installations. There are also music programs, baby sign language classes, and infant massage workshops that you and your baby can attend together.
In all of the commotion, don’t forget to take time for yourself. Being a new mom or a mom with little ones can sometimes be stressful. Add being a military spouse on top of that, and things can seem overwhelming. Self-care, whether that is taking the time for a prenatal massage, seeking out a friend to watch your little ones so you and your spouse can have a date night, or even just making sure to get out for a quick walk and some sunshine each day, is critical during this stage. And don't forget how great comfortable clothes can make you feel. Check out Kindred Bravely's super cute camo print French Terry Maternity and Nursing Bra!
Most importantly, remember how special and significant this time is. You may have mixed emotions, especially if your servicemember is gone, and that is okay. The support from peers and programs is helpful, but keep in mind that you were chosen for this, and you can do it. You’ve got this, Mama.