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Having babies while being very far from family, friends, and a familiar environment can be very jarring and emotionally draining.

I know it because I had both my babies on two different continents, far away from family and friends.

I gave birth to my eldest in Alabama, USA, because my husband was stationed there. Yes, he's in the US military! And everything I've ever known before moving to the States was my 6 years in Australia with my good friends (and plenty of Asian food access!) and growing up in Malaysia.

So, I knew nobody, trusted no one but my husband and his sister... and well, that was all I had in deep south, rural Alabama.

With my second baby, I had her while we were stationed in Germany. She was part of our family planning (we wanted our kids about 2 to 3 years apart) and she also happened when Germany was in hard lockdown.

This time, not only was I in another foreign country, I didn't even speak the language. And the social culture is very different from the warmth I'm used to from Americans, Australians, and Malaysians.

As I progressed through my postpartum recovery after bringing Miss No.2 home, I noticed a pattern in my postpartum journey as a US military spouse.

I found that there were key moments where having extra help and support would have benefited me and my family emotionally, mentally, and physically.

I named them 'The 5 Pivotal Postpartum Moments'. They tend to occur:

  • Within the first week home from hospital after giving birth
  • The week BEFORE my husband returned to work
  • The week WHEN my husband was back at work
  • The week of my OBGYN postpartum check-up (usually 6 weeks after giving birth)
  • The week when I'm adjusting to new or changing routine(s)

What can happen during these pivotal moments?

Mayhem. Chaos. Tears. Rage. Hopelessness. Loneliness.

And just a feeling like you're utterly useless and weak.

"What's wrong with me?" echoed quite frequently in my mind during these moments.

But think about it. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the body to recover after giving birth. And that also depends on how well you're able to rest during that time. Or how complicated your birth was or if you had a C-Section.

You're basically unceremoniously dropped back into the chaos of military life and expected to hit the ground running. When you physically CANNOT lift anything heavier than your baby for that 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth!

What do these 5 Pivotal Postpartum Moments mean for my life?

This is a time to brace yourself for the chaos and start shifting into the mindset of being kind to yourself.

Let's explore each pivotal moment below with some examples.

Within the first week home from the hospital after giving birth

Why is this time more chaotic? Because you're bringing home a precious new addition to your family! 

Everything you, your spouse/partner, and your family know is about to change IMMEDIATELY.

Your family dynamics and routines, your personal relationships and routines. Even how you move around your home will change. 


Your body is also fresh from having given birth, so your hormones are all over the place. And your bladder and bowels need time to figure out how to function properly again without being squished by a baby!

A lot is going on just for you, the birthing mother.

And your spouse/partner and other family members at home (including your other children and/or pets) are also figuring out their place in this new dynamic while all the above is happening simultaneously.


The week BEFORE you or your service member (SM) returns to work

Just when you think you got things figured out, it's time for you or your SM to return to work.


Why? You or your SM can be gone for 10 to 12 hours a day on workdays. And maybe even do overnight shifts. Or have to go on temporary duty (TDY) immediately after parental leave.

Now you gotta care for this newborn by yourself? Or have to leave them behind?

And look after the rest of the family and household by yourself again? And fit everything around the baby?

Having all these thoughts and starting to plan for a 'back-to-normal' life can be overwhelming and scary. This is why the week BEFORE you or your SM returns to work can be chaotic.

Or emotionally supercharged at the very least.

And for some of us, that means we can't function at our best.

The week WHEN you or your SM is back at work

Now, when you or your SM is actually back at work, the real test of independence begins!

Whether you're ready or not, you gotta go back to work or have your biggest support person leave you at home with a newborn.

Some of us are fortunate to have friends in the military community we're stationed in who can help us during this transition. And some of us might be able to ask family to come and help. Others, not so.

You might also face an internal struggle, thinking, "I really need to learn how to do this by myself. But I also really need the help!"


It never pays well to be stubborn and try to do it all yourself.

I know because I've been that stubborn and only caused myself, my kids, and my husband more grief than it's worth!

The week of your OBGYN postpartum check-up

This usually occurs 6 weeks after you've given birth. It's usually a check-up to see if you're healing well and to do a postpartum depression screening.

Frankly, I think this one-off postpartum check-up STINKS. At least if you're using the American health system. I've only ever used that postpartum so I can't speak for other countries.

But from what I've read and been told by my friends who have had babies in Australia, UK, and Malaysia, there are more wellness check-ups for moms after they've settled at home with their babies.

These check-ups are usually carried out by midwives and maternity nurses. Some offer home-visits. Some do this at the clinic. And there are family doctors or general practitioners (GPs) who specialise in maternal health that look after moms in the community.

However, as many of us military spouses and SMs follow the American health system, you get this ONE postpartum visit (I hope this changes!). And guess what?

You might have a million questions about your entire body ("Am I leaking pee?"), your baby, and your moods. But will the doc have time to answer all your questions? Will you even remember to ask all of them?

Chances are, no.

So, you might end up going home from this visit without the closure you're seeking.

And that in itself is enough to trigger a cascade of chaos within yourself that can hinder you from functioning at your best.

The week when you're adjusting to new or changing routine(s)

TDYs. Deployments. School holidays. Permanent change of duty stations (PCS). Illness.

I think I'll leave your imagination to show you how crazy and chaotic things can get when you're navigating all the above with a baby.

Especially since babies have growth spurts or "leaps", and teething that can cause them to get super fussy and have really bad sleep.

And some of us will be facing all the above with toddlers in tow!

C.H.A.O.S. Help me, please!

Now that you know what to expect during these pivotal moments, what's next?

  1. Engage your unit's Soldier and Family Readiness Group (SFRG): If your unit's SFRG is active, this is a wonderful first point of contact to ask for help. They can be like your family away from family and they'll watch your back regardless of whether your SM is here or away for work.
  2. Make a list of people you can call for help: Be it emotional support or physical support, make those lists. Babysitters, childcare on base, friends, and family who you can vent and cry to without getting judged, and pet sitters/walkers.
  3. Have some money set aside for times like these: Because sometimes it gets too overwhelming to cook or go grocery shopping! Having extra funds for take-out, food delivery, and grocery delivery can help a ton during the chaos. I have definitely used all of these when I felt like I couldn't do anything.

Think you need some help with managing the 5 Pivotal Postpartum Moments?

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Kristal lau, MBBS (AUS)

About the Author

Physician and Postpartum Wellness Consultant. Author of 'Postpartum 30'. International Speaker. Mother of 2 girls and U.S. military spouse.

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