Like most women, I can vividly remember the day I went into labor with my second child. My contractions started on a Sunday morning, and I was in denial. I began that Sunday like any other during my husband’s 2nd deployment. I woke up, showered, dressed, and helped my two year old put on a “pretty dress” for church. This Sunday was different, however.
I awoke with some pretty regular contractions which I tried to ignore. Being the planner that I am, I had my labor and delivery mapped out—-a planned induction complete with my best friend and mother in law flying in from Oklahoma for emotional support in the delivery room, and to care for my daughter during the induction. But all of this was planned to take place in four days, so there was no way I could be in labor, right?
Well, my son had other plans.
The contractions continued and my trip to church ended up to be a trip to the hospital culminating in the birth of my handsome baby boy, 9 lbs 3 oz of pure love.
My support team became fellow military wives, an amazing labor and delivery staff, and my wonderful colleague and OB, Dr. Ilene Goldstein. I was unable to get in touch with my husband’s ship by phone so I did what every mother dreams of…I notified him by email that I was in labor and waited for him to reply. The whole scenario is quite comical to me now.
You see, I too am a military wife like many of you. I have juggled a rewarding full time career and established and managed a household four states away from our closest family. At the same time, I did my best to maintain for my toddler a somewhat normal home life with daddy deployed for the majority of her first 2 years on earth. Oh yeah, I also grew a second baby in the meantime. Many people say “I don’t know how you do it” and I reply like many of you with “You just do“. There is no other choice. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be the person in this story. What an absolute balancing act it has been and I feel stronger having done it.
On many occasions during those deployments, I would have loved to have a spouse to share special milestones of our children or just have someone to discuss the day-to-day decisions. I became more independent than I ever thought possible. The last three years have been a blur of work ups, deployments, or getting ready for the next work up or deployment. In my second pregnancy, my husband was gone from 12 weeks and returned 2 months after our son, Caden, was born.
I remember looking at my newborn son on the day of our discharge as I buckled him in his car seat with a very nervous feeling in my stomach thinking, “Oh my goodness I am now not just responsible for one child but now two all by myself.”
We are fortunate that he did come home safely and for that I am thankful every day. Our homecoming day was one of the most special days we have ever had as a family. The pictures shared are two of my favorites from that day. We know our time as a family is precious, and we make the most of every moment. I believe military families are blessed with this unique perspective and I have the utmost respect for families that endure these deployments time, and time again.
Our time as a military family is quickly drawing to a close but as I look back I am proud not only of my husband’s service, but also that of our family. I truly believe that the service to our country is made up not only by those in uniform but also their spouses and children who sacrifice every day to keep it all together on the home front. I am honored to be able to care for so many military families and I do understand your sacrifices.
While I mostly wished to share my experience, I did want to share some tips I felt helped us survive during those many months without my spouse:
- Find others with similar circumstances. Build a support network. When my fellow military wives found out that I was in labor, they dropped everything to come be with me. That was absolutely amazing to me given that we had only known each other for a short time.
- If you are pregnant with your husband deployed, don’t be afraid to ask for help from others to perform household tasks. I remember at one point, I had 4 light bulbs out around my house. I kept looking up, wondering how those were supposed to get changed with my raised ceilings? Remember, your center of gravity is different when pregnant and you are more prone to fall from ladders, etc. Get help, ask a neighbor or friend. Most people are more than willing to help.
- Monitor your mood. If you start feeling depressed or overwhelmed, talk to one of us at your visits or get to know the resources on base. Do not suffer in silence. Being pregnant and alone in a new city can be overwhelming.
- Keep your deployed spouse as involved as possible. Take and send pictures daily particularly if you have other children. There are days that my husband indicated to me that those pictures were such a morale boost in an otherwise difficult deployment.
Hang in there military mommas! You are amazing, and our country is so fortunate to have you, and your spouse serving!
-Beverly Vavricka, M.D.
(Dr. Beverly Vavricka is an obstetrician/gynecologist, a military wife, and a mother of two)