“Planning” and “military” are two words that do not coincide well together, much to the dismay of military spouses everywhere. Expanding our families often has to be planned out in between deployment cycles. We learn to be content with what little instruction we have and how to plan–very flexibly–a year at a time. So what is a military family to do when they want to make plans for a new baby?
It can be overwhelming for any couple to make this decision, but throw in an active duty service member’s schedule–including deployments–and it might be enough to end the conversation right there. But if you and your spouse are ready to take that plunge, we’ve gathered advice from fellow spouses who have navigated the uncertain waters of military schedules while getting pregnant between deployments.
X Steps to Planning for a Baby Between Deployment Cycles
Step 1: Utilize Your Resources
In this technological day and age, apps can help you learn a lot about yourself without ever making a doctor’s appointment. There are a variety of apps to choose from, the majority of them being free with potential upgrades, but do your homework before settling on one.
Lauren, a military spouse and mom of two, preferred using a fertility tracker app full of categories that identify particular details to make the experience insightful and specific to the user; showing windows for peak ovulation or when to avoid pregnancy by flagging your most fertile days.
“It really helped me keep a good track and made it more ‘natural family planning’ [friendly] since we stopped birth control as soon as we got married,” Lauren explained.
However, if you don’t feel confident in your own analysis of your cycle, discuss your circumstances with a healthcare professional. She can offer advice on the best ways to track your cycle and help you and your spouse be as systematic as possible when it comes to ideal conception windows in regards to the deployment schedule.
Step 2: Be Flexible
“When trying to plan around deployment,” Lauren advises, “I would give yourself a few buffer months on either the beginning or the end of the deployment.” This can be vital if the deployment is one without a structured timeline, such as a ship tour where the timeline is more fluid than a mission on an installation where there is a set time.
While it’s difficult to carry out, be patient. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hit all the pregnancy and birth milestones together, so pick and choose which are most important to you to share together, and even then, it’s important for both of you to be okay if your first choice goes differently.
Step 3: Keep Your Service Member Involved
Okay, so now you’ve done it! All the Instagram hearts and congratulatory comments are flooding in and you’re fighting a whirlwind of emotions because your spouse is on the cusp of shipping out. Now what? Marine Corps spouse Olivia bonded with her spouse just before he left by conducting a hospital tour together so they could have a better idea of what to expect, allowing him to feel more involved in the process.
Knowing she would deliver their baby girl without him, Olivia suggests to “get as much baby gear purchased together before your spouse goes so [s/he] can also be involved.”
A fun project to take on (that would also distract from the looming deployment date) is to set up the nursery. Involve your spouse as much as possible in decisions for your new baby.
Step 4: Make Contingency Plans
Establish help from family and/or friends before your service member leaves. For example, who is going to be with you when you deliver the baby? Who is available to help after the baby comes? Don’t hesitate to ask for help and allow those offering to do so! This includes emotional as well as hands-on support when the baby arrives.
Step 5: Stay Positive
Lastly, focus on maintaining a positive attitude and remember that your deployed spouse is going through a hard time being away during such a monumental time, too. Remind yourself that you are in this together, even if you can’t physically be together every step of the way. In the end, you both will have the rest of your lives to care for your precious baby.