Sydney holding her baby shortly after giving birth and on the photo with her husband.

Giving Birth Without Your Spouse

There are many aspects of military life that can be challenging for the family. Among them is the process of family planning. We have certainly found this to be the case so far as a young couple trying to build and grow our family alongside my husband’s military career.

In the civilian world, I imagine my husband and I, following the wedding bells, might have agreed to let God bring our children into the world in His good timing; but as a military family, things look a bit different — and a little less simple — than that.

When discussing babies, we must have a good sense of what our life will look like exactly 9 months from now. Will my husband be home? Deployed? In a field training exercise? Will we be moving around that time? Close to moving? Settled and ready to nest? And on top of military-specific concerns, we of course have to consider normal things such as the age gap between our children … and if we are ready (both physically and mentally) to bring another little one into the world. If we always knew what lay ahead in 9 months, family planning would be a breeze for us. But unfortunately, the ability to see that far into the future is a rare luxury in Army world.

When our first child was born, my husband sat 1,157 miles away in a Humvee in the middle of the desert at the National Training Center. He spoke to me on the phone, encouraging and coaching me. I longed more than anything for his hand to squeeze, his eyes to strengthen me and his arms to cradle our child. But his voice was all I had to hang onto as I brought our son into the world without him.

It’s the dreaded reality many women face as Military Spouses — giving birth without your service member beside you. No one wants to go through that, but it’s unfortunately not always preventable in a lifestyle with such an unpredictable future.

If you do find yourself in the situation of having to give birth alone, I will share a few things that I found to be helpful:

  1. Have a plan A, B and C. Babies come in their own timing, many times in the middle of the night. Have a few different friends or family members on call to take you to the hospital and stay with you.  Make sure you have someone lined up to care for your pets, or other children if either of those situations apply to you.
  2. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I really wanted to have a natural birth with our son but ended up getting an epidural. Giving birth for the first time is a scary experience for most and easing the pain when I didn’t have my husband beside me was one thing that made my experience better. Don’t feel ashamed if your birth experience doesn’t go exactly how you envision it.
  3. Don’t be afraid to impose. It is a fact that you will need help! You will need someone to drive you to the hospital and someone to help communicate updates to your spouse and family. You might need someone to pick up your mom or another family member or friend from the airport. You may be craving a certain meal after you give birth, and you should ask for it! After my son was born, I had a friend bring me a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate milkshake. Just remember, if there is one time to ask for and accept help, it is when you are having a baby.
  4. Plan how you’ll document the experience. Plan for a friend, or someone on your healthcare team, to take pictures and videos or help you video call your spouse while you are giving birth. This is a precious experience that you will want to share with your husband as much as the situation allows for.

Even though I would obviously have preferred to have my husband there when our son was born, I was thankful for the support I did have that day. I had a neighbor who brought me breakfast in the hospital when I first went into labor and stayed by my side through everything. I had a lady from work who stayed with me also. She was the one who held one of my legs and cut the umbilical cord. They both helped take photos and videos that I could later share with my husband.

The efforts I took to prepare, as well as the ladies who stepped in to act as my spouse that day, made it all okay because I didn’t have to do it all alone — and I will forever be endlessly grateful for their support alongside me during one of the most special days of my life.

Written By Sydney Smith
Army Spouse

Sydney has been an Army wife for four years and has two children. She often writes on the raw experiences military spouses face during challenging times, striving to be a voice of encouragement and validation among the military spouse community.

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