Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Part 2: Overcoming the Challenges of Navy Wife Pregnancy

This is the second part of a series focused on the different stages and options associated with having a family in the Military.




Part 2 
Pregnancy and Expecting in the Military
By Author Amy Bird

I always vowed I would not have children while my sailor was still in the Navy. It was one of my dictats, laid down early in our marriage. I didn't only inform my sailor of this, I informed everyone who cared to listen: I just wouldn't do it, and effectively become a single mom. We would occasionally have conversations about the issue, some heated, others not, with discussions of career breaks. Usually the issue was parked.

And yet now I am six months pregnant with our first child, and my sailor is still in the Navy with a flourishing career that is set to continue for many years.

So what happened? This wasn't a case of poor planning, or my will being overruled. It's just that life moved on. The me that firmly refused to have children while my sailor was still in the Navy was also the me that wasn't yet quite used to the famine and feast of when you see your sailor. Nor had I seen how well my sailor was doing career wise. Or learnt how much compromise there is in a good marriage. And nor am I stupid: I know that compelling anyone to leave a career they enjoy is not the route to happiness. In my first novel Yours is Mine, the protagonist Kate issued this ultimatum. It did not work out how she had hoped.

We're both delighted to be expecting an addition to our family.  I've been lucky so far during the pregnancy that my sailor has been around for key dates - he was able to come with me for both the 12 and 20 week scans. He has also been here to help choose nursery decor and build furniture. It looks as though he will be here for the birth (although no-one who has been married into the Navy for 10 years takes that as a given), and for two weeks' paternity leave after that. Although he will be away for some of my later pregnancy, at the moment it feels like we're just like any other normal couple expecting their first child.

Later on down the line, there will be challenges. I know that. Say I have to have a caesarean section. He won't be around every evening to help me. I will be left alone without his support in person for whole weeks. Chances are he may embark on a long deployment when the baby is relatively young. I will have to contend with complicated childcare arrangements, parenting puzzles, lack of sleep and experiencing exciting or terrifying first moments without him being here in person. I get that. It will be tough.

But we are still in it together, my sailor and I, even if he is not physically here. I know I can count on his emotional support. I can also count on his parents (and mine) to provide childcare and just to generally be around when I need them. I know that missing out on key moments will be just as difficult for him as it will be for me. But I know that we will cope, that I will cope. I will continue to juggle my legal and writing careers with home demands. Because that is how it works. It's what we always do. And what other people do. Plus this is not meant to be a challenge - it is a joyous, happy event, as the kicks in my stomach remind me as I write this. It is not about struggle, it is about there being a whole new person.

So what would my advice be to anyone who is thinking of starting a family while their sailor is still in the Navy?

1. Talk openly with your sailor about whether this is the right thing for you both now. Where are you with your respective careers and aspirations? And perhaps more importantly, where will he be physically for the next couple of years? It's no good thinking just in terms of the next year - as we found, not all babies are conceived as soon as you start trying. You may have to wait a bit. Plus be aware of how things will change - what will you do about flying out to see him when he's on deployment? Will that still be an option when you have the baby? This is all part of being prepared for your new identity, together, as parents - something which the characters in my new thriller, Hide and Seek, are not best prepared for as they await the arrival of their first born, with consequences you and I probably wouldn't want.

2. If you do get the happy news that you are pregnant, try to involve your sailor in that as much as possible. If there are antenatal classes or medical appointments that he is around for, take him along, even if they are not significant ones. It will make you feel that you are expectant parents, rather than you just being an expectant mom.

3. Plan ahead. If your sailor won't be around for the whole pregnancy, identify a period far enough into your pregnancy when you feel happy starting to create the nursery and when he will be around to help. Think about what childcare you can put in place if you will be going back to work and he will be away - it will make you feel more in control.

4. Be as philosophical in this as you are in all things. Hopefully your sailor will be around for the birth. And you should make it clear to him how important that is, so he can make it clear to his boss. But sometimes it really just isn't possible - you might go into labour early and he might not be able to get back to you, the same as in any relationship, or he may not be able to return from a deployment. Plan for him to be there, but also plan an alternate birthing partner as a fall back. Manage your own expectations.

5. Be happy. It's a cliche, but this is an exciting time. You are having a child. You need to focus your energies and your positivity on that.  Think of the pluses of having a Navy baby - like the fact you can get it baptised in a ship's bell. That's fun, right? And so are all the usual things, like hearing your baby's heartbeat, feeling it move, buying its first babygro.  And then, all being well, in nine months time, there will be a fresh addition to your family. The rest is detail and can be worked out along the way. That's what I'm putting my faith in.

Amy Bird
The London Authoress
I am a Navy Wife, lawyer, and a published author of Navy themed romance thriller Yours is Mine. Born in London, England, I moved all around the UK for 18 years before coming back to London for university. I've been here ever since, with the occasional epic holiday to join my Navy husband overseas. 

I have a MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, and I'm also an alumni of Faber Academy.  My creative focus is on novels and plays. As well as being a writer, I'm also a lawyer. I work four days a week at one of the big city firms, specializing in employment law – and I'm a trustee of a new writing theatre. 

When I'm not writing or lawyering, I'll generally be found cooking with my husband (he’s on shore this year!), or in a theatre somewhere. My debut novel, Yours is Mine, is the first in a three-book deal with Carina UK, the new digital imprint of Harlequin. 

Visit me at www.amybirdwrites.com and be the read the first installment of Hide and Seek for free! Purchase Three Steps Behind You on Amazon UKAmazon US, or Amazon Canada. Purchase Yours is Mine on Amazon UKAmazon US, or Amazon Canada
Find me @London_Writer on Twitter Facebook Too!

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