I'm Pregnant and My Spouse is Deployed: Tips for Staying Mentally Strong in the Face of Separation
I found out I was pregnant a week-and-a-half after my husband left for a year-long Army deployment. Up until that point, I was sad that he’d be gone for a whole year, but I never thought I’d be dealing with such an emotional situation while he was gone!
It took me more than a month to really reign in my emotions and accept the situation for what it was: I was pregnant. He was gone for a year. I couldn’t change anything about the situation.
The thing I could control was how I mentally dealt with it. And after realizing that, I knew I had to come up with a plan. My plan includes the following five tips to help me deal with my pregnancy while my husband is gone. My hope in sharing this with you is that you can take some of these tips and incorporate them into your life as well.
1) Take it day-by-day
When my husband first left, thinking about a whole year without him was overwhelming: 365 days of activities, drama, events, holidays, and he’d miss them all. Whenever I put my focus on the whole amount of time, my heart would feel heavy and I’d start to get teary-eyed.
I found that a better way to focus my thoughts was to live in the present. I knew I was going to have to take his deployment day-by-day and focus on the task or event at hand. By doing this, I was able to appreciate the present and truly live in the moment. I found that if I continually focused on the end goal, I was going to miss the best part of my nine-month journey of being pregnant!
For instance, when I was going to have my anatomy scan, I felt guilty and sad. I really wanted my husband to be there with me to find out the gender and to see our little love bug. When the big day arrived, I asked my parents to go with me and to take photos and videos that I could share. I decided that instead of dwelling on the big negative that my husband wasn’t there, I was going to enjoy the experience and share it with him afterward.
As soon as we walked into the office, there was a big sign that said: “No photography or videography allowed.” After explaining my situation to the ultrasound tech, she said that we were more than welcome to take photos. She also agreed to keep the baby’s gender a surprise, writing it down and sealing it in an envelope that I could open later while on a video call with my husband. It ended up taking 20 minutes for each ultrasound photo to download on his end, but this allowed us to experience a first glimpse of our little one together even while we were apart. If I had focused all my attention on the fact that he wasn’t there — and wouldn’t be there until after the baby was born — it would have ruined the whole experience for me.
(Oh, and by the way: It’s a girl!)
2) Work on accepting the things you can’t change
There are many things I do have control over in my life — my mindset, what I eat, what to wear, what to do on a daily basis — but there are many things I can’t control, like when I get to talk to my husband, when he’s coming home, and when our little baby will be born.
When I was younger, I was a control freak. It took me having to go out on disability (because of chronic conditions) to realize that I don’t have control over every little thing in my life, and I truly need to relinquish control in most cases.
People ask me all the time how I’m going to deal with giving birth to my baby while my husband is on the other side of the world. My response? I have no control over it. There’s absolutely nothing I can do. The only thing I truly can do is to accept the fact and move forward.
Sure, there are days I cry about it. There are days I’m upset and angry because I know he won’t be able to get leave to come home. And on those days, I allow myself to completely fall apart and feel all of my emotions. But, there comes a time when I know I need to pull myself back together and move forward. I have to be strong for myself, for my husband, and for our baby.
There are many things we can control, but deployments are definitely not among them.
3) Surround yourself with a great support system
My husband is in the Army Reserves, so we do not live on an active base. In fact, the location he’s stationed out of is two hours from our home. Therefore, I’m really not around a lot of the other military spouses and loved ones. They get together for family readiness group (FRG) meetings and we have a closed Facebook group, but I can’t say I’m very close to any of its members.
For me, my family is my number one support. I’ve had some pretty rough days through dealing with avascular necrosis, psoriatic arthritis, complex regional pain syndrome, anxiety, depression, and melanoma. Through it all, they were there every step of the way. This journey is no different and I still need to make sure I get their support.
Having a good support system is imperative for getting through a deployment, let alone being pregnant during a deployment! You should lean on this support system every chance you get. Ask them for help around the house, or with your other children. Ask them to go to appointments with you or to help you run errands. I’m sure that your support system would be more than willing to help you.
An important thing to remember is that your support system doesn’t have to be biological. It can include your friends, it can be an online support group, an in-person support group, your church, a therapist — anyone who you feel you can rely on. And there is no harm in asking for help. In fact, the strongest of us know exactly when we do need to ask for help.
To expand my support system, I’ve decided to hire a doula for my pregnancy. Sure, I'll have my parents to help me, but having the added support while my husband is gone puts me at ease. To know that I’ll have someone there for me who can give my parents relief makes me feel better about the whole situation.
4) Arm yourself with tools to help you on bad days
Each of us has sure-fire ways to make us happy. Mine? Celine Dion or Christmas music. Throw those tunes on and I guarantee my frown will turn upside down.
Each of us has a different hit list of pick-me-ups. Maybe for you, it’s watching a movie, calling a certain friend, eating a specific meal, going to a favorite place, attending a yoga class, or completing a meditation.
I keep an actual running list, and whenever I start focusing on going through labor without my husband or bringing our sweet baby home without her daddy, I pull it out and choose something to do. Focus on the positives.
On bad days, it’s so easy to focus on the negatives. My hubby’s not here to rub my feet, help me get comfortable, or run out late at night to satisfy my crazy pregnancy food cravings. I have to set up the baby’s room, register for all of the essentials, attend doctor’s appointments, and come up with my birth plan all myself.
But guess what? At the end of this process, not only will I be gaining a daughter, but I’ll eventually get my husband back as well! I know that I’d move mountains for either of those events to occur, so by taking it day by day I know I can make it.
Each day we must remind ourselves to look on the bright side. I wish I could say that one day I woke up and decided to be happy and never had to think about it again. But that’s not reality. It’s something that we must choose every single day. Some days are harder than others — that’s to be expected. By drawing on the principles of the other four tips, you can move toward positivity and move one day closer to meeting your baby and seeing your significant other again!
Take it day by day, accept the things you cannot change, lean on your support system, make your positivity hit list, and try your best to remain positive. One day you’ll be able to look back on this deployment and see the growth and transformation it provided you. Until then, remain calm, remember your strength, and know that you’re not alone.
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