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