Giving Birth While Your Military Husband is Away
Whether it be deployment, boot camp, technical schooling, or any other reason- our military guys will most likely miss out on some very important times. Giving birth without your spouse is one of the many “sacrifices” that the military warns people (and their spouses or significant others) about. And if you were to ask my husband what his biggest sacrifice has been, he will tell you in a heartbeat that it was missing the birth of his son.
My husband was in boot camp (specifically the Air Force). I can not give any details on how this situation works with deployments or other branches of the military. But we learned several things that are worth sharing so other people may have a better experience.
First, and most importantly, Airmen have one year from the date that they sign up to complete boot camp. In most cases, boot camp can be pushed if it is going to interfere with something very important. My husband signed up for the Air Force and then got accepted into a 7-month police academy program. So they pushed boot camp until after the Academy was over.
Soon after that, we were surprised to found out that we were expecting and the due date was very, very inconvenient. It just so happened that our son was due the month after his one year mark. He spoke to several people about this and the answer always seemed to be, “there’s nothing we can do.”
So we made our peace the best that we could.
We tried not to really think about it. The closer the day came, and the more pregnant (and hormonal) I got- the more I dwelled on the fact that I wouldn’t have my husband there on the most important day of our life. What if something happened to the baby during labor? What if something happened to me? Well, as much and no one wants to think about that- the answer is that the red cross WILL send your airman home in a true emergency. Luckily, the only thing I had to call the red cross for was the birth announcement.
The date that my husband was leaving was 2 weeks before the due date. So I thought Maybe he will come early! and the closer the day came (with NO signs of baby day) the more I thought I WILL get this kid OUT! So I bounced on the damn exercise ball, and I ate eggplant parmesan and we went on insanely long walks every night but nothing worked. I had contractions for weeks that teased me but I was not dilated and he was not going to be born. He was happy in there and had no plans on coming out.
The day came where I had to bring my husband to the airport.
There were some bumps in the road after that. I was sad, lonely, scared. Weeks went by and I was still not even close to going into labor. I was in a weird limbo. My husbands not home, my babys not born. I was waiting. Waiting for both of them. My husband being gone was made harder by the fact that I was pregnant, and being pregnant was made harder by the fact that my husband was not home. I had a break down in the doctors office and they planned to induce labor a few days after his due date as my stress level was through the roof.
I went into the hospital and they started the induction with cervidil. This is a medication that is only meant to ripen your cervix and prepare it for labor. That is all my body needed to kick into labor (meaning, I did not have any pitocin). Still, I was dilating very slowly and the contractions were becoming very painful. My baby was no longer happy in there, the monitor kept picking up decelerations.
I stared at the fetal heart rate all night long.
Everytime his heart rate dropped, a team of nurses would run in, give me oxygen and flip me all around (which got significantly harder to do after the epidural). I was becoming very frustrated. They broke my water to try to speed things along (and there was meconium). Then when his heart rate dropped again, they re-infused fluids into my uterus to take the pressure off him. That didn’t work either. I didn’t care about my birth plan, I wanted him out safe. He’s all I cared about in that moment.
Finally, when his heart rate dropped to 70, the doctor came in and rushed me to my emergency C-section and delivered my son. She said that even if I did try pushing, he was not going to come out and would have ended up in a C-section anyway- he had shifted to the side and was stuck. They warned me that I wouldn’t hear crying immediately because they had to clean him before stimulating him to breathe because of the meconium. It was probably only a few seconds but when I finally heard him scream, it was the greatest sound in the world.
He was born on 7/7/15 at 1628.
I called the red cross around 2100 that night. When you call for a birth announcement you need your airman’s location, flight number, and social security number. I think that’s all I needed, but I did just have a C-section so forgive me if I forgot a few things! They will ask you a bunch of questions; when your baby was born, the weight, etc. They will also call the hospital to verify everything you tell them.
I got an email shortly after that the base was notified and that my airman will make contact. A day went by and no phone call. The Red Cross called the next day to see how I was doing. I let them know that I had not heard from my husband. They said that they would re-notify the appropriate people. Two more days went by. Finally, on 7/10/15 my husband called. He asked if our son was born that day and my heart broke a little. Turns out, even though the Red Cross had notified them immediately, whoever was in charge of delivering that message “forgot” and didn’t get to it for a few days.
What We Learned:
1. You’re the Talk of the Maternity Floor
Understandably, most dads are there for the birth of their kid, so when you show up and say “my husband is in the military, he won’t be here” you’re the talk of the town. Every nurse that came in my room said, “You’re the one who’s husband is at boot camp?” I was asked, “will you be able to Skype?” “can you call him?” “can he come home?” and many other questions. Perhaps in cases of deployment, or tech school the answers would have been different but we are all familiar with boot camp; no contact.
2. Have a Support System
BOTH OF YOU! My mom and my mother in law were my “birth partners” and my mom came into the surgery with me. Although I would have rather had my husband, it was helpful to have someone. Especially since my labor and birth was very stressful and scary and my husband not being there made it even harder. My husband became very depressed after the birth. He was so angry at himself for not being there.
He knew I was scared, and he felt like he let me down. Of course, I didn’t feel like he let me down, and I made sure to tell him how proud of him I was and how much I loved him in every single letter. I also sent pictures of our son in every letter. And I made sure to write EVERY. DAY.
As much has I tried to make him feel better, it was his flight that helped him through. They were there for him and his “journey” from waiting to become a dad, being notified of the birth, and receiving pictures. The whole thing brought the flight together. When we went to visit at graduation (and when daddy met his son for the first time) they all told us stories of when my husband was notified and how excited they all were to see pictures everyday. They were also all so excited to meet the baby they heard so much about.
My husband is a family guy, and it was clear all he talked about was me and our son. I think it helped everyone focus on something other than missing their families and it also helped the younger kids put things in perspective. Why am I complaining about the argument I got in with my girlfriend when he missed the birth of his son?
3. Have Him Tell EVERYONE
Turns out, he didn’t tell his superiors that his wife was pregnant when he got to basic (only before he left when he was trying to push the date) and they could have arranged a FaceTime instead of just a phone call. They told my poor husband this after the fact, which of course made him upset. Like, thanks for telling me NOW.
4. Everyone Deals Differently
My mom used her phone to video when our son was born. She got his first cry and as much as she could of the nurses and doctors getting him situated after he came out. One of the nurses even took the phone and got a close up. She did this so my husband could watch it. When I told my husband this, he did not want to watch it. That upset me. How could he not want to see it?
My husband said it was his “punishment” which upset me even more. I realized it was just too hard for him. He was already sad that he wasn’t there. He couldn’t bring himself to watch it, and that’s okay. It was more important for him to move past it and focus on being the awesome dad that he is.
My husband also told me how his superiors wanted him to go see the chaplain and kept asking him if he was going to hurt himself, he’s not like that and deals with things in his own way. He told me, “it’s like your not allowed to be sad.” I understand they want to keep their airmen safe. For my husband though, it’s best to leave him be and not harp on him about how he is feeling.
5. Stay Strong
Everyone tells me how strong I was for giving birth, recovering from a C-section, and taking care of a newborn baby by myself. My mom and my mother in law helped as much as I would let them. I’m a pretty independent person so I wouldn’t always accept help. I didn’t think of it as being stubborn, I wasn’t depressed and I didn’t need help- I was enjoying my son.
Skin to skin contact, and breastfeeding helped so much with bonding. I felt like being a new mom made missing my husband easier. To this day, I still feel that my husband was the strong one. I couldn’t imagine how he must have felt, and yet he still succeeded and graduated basic training.
My husband met his baby at graduation and then went to tech school. He was glad to get tech school over with (instead of coming home and leaving again) but meeting his baby made it even harder. He finally got to hold him and then he had to say goodbye again. That was the first time I saw my husband cry. We visited him in Mississippi, which helped my husband through tech school- but again he had to say goodbye.
Three months later he was home, and now we are a family again. It was hard but we stayed strong and made it through and I feel that our relationship is stronger than ever.