At the beginning of Summer 2017 we found out that my husbands National Guard unit was scheduled to
deploy in the Spring of 2018. At the end of Summer 2017, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Perfect timing right? My husband was immediately excited. Coming from a large
family he always wanted to be a dad. I on the other hand, while still excited, was terrified. We had just moved to a new city, away from all of our family and friends. He had a good, stable job, where I, even with a college degree, was struggling to find work that paid above minimum wage. Add on top of that his impending deployment and needless to say I was a nervous wreck who spent many nights pondering what my life was going to be like.
Fast forward to the beginning of Summer 2018 and my little one is almost three months old now and I’m just barely beginning to feel like I’ve got the hang of things. My husband, unfortunately will not be home from deployment until our son is six months old. Life with a newborn is a challenge already, and with a deployed spouse it can be downright overwhelming at times. It is for this reason that I have come up with a short list of things to keep in mind about surviving a deployment with a newborn.
- Make sure you have a good support system. Whether it be your family, your friends or even coworkers you are close to. This parenting thing is hard and you need people in your corner. I was lucky enough that my mom was able to come and stay with me for a month, two weeks before my son was born and two weeks after. Unfortunately, she had to go back to work. As I mentioned before, me and my husband had moved about 300 miles away from our families in order to find better jobs. I hadn’t really made any friends and while I get along with my co-workers, we are no more than that. It is for this reason that my husband and I decided it would probably be best if I packed up and moved closer to our families. Now I’m certainly not saying that you should uproot your life anymore than it already is by attempting a move with a newborn and no spouse to help you, but that is what worked best for me. After a couple of very stressful weeks of driving back and forth, we are finally settling in and really enjoying having family nearby.
- Have a routine. Any new mom is probably laughing at me as they read this, heck, I’m laughing as I write it. Trust me though, even a simple routine can be a sanity saver in these early weeks. My little one and I have a simple morning and bedtime routine that has been working for us. In the morning we wake up, he eats, I pump, and I change him for the day. Around this time he is usually in a really good mood so we talk, sing, read a book or do some tummy time before he falls asleep for his morning nap. Our bedtime routine is similar. I pump, he eats, and then he gets a bath and put into some pajamas and laid down for bed. Sometimes he is
still hungry so I’ll feed him some more and he will sleep after that and wake up once, maybe twice at night to eat. Now anything between our morning and bedtime routines is honestly a hot mess that I don’t even try to schedule. These little routines in the morning and easier make life a bit easier though and stop me from going totally crazy throughout the day.
- Keep yourself busy. As much as I love a lazy weekend afternoon of doing nothing but sitting on the couch, eating junk food and binge watching Scandal or any number of shows on Netflix, I go stir crazy sitting at home all the time with no apparent goal other than to keep this new tiny human alive and from screaming his lungs out all day. While keeping your new little one fed, safe and happy are all important, newborns don’t really do much else other eat, poop and sleep. Self care is important and for me this means indulging in hobbies. Participating in something you know you like or trying something for the first time is a great start. Some of my favorites are writing, testing cupcake recipes I find on Pinterest and exercising. But you can choose to do literally anything. Just find something to keep your brain stimulated.
- Take lots of pictures and videos. Thus far I have been lucky enough to be able to talk to my spouse every day since the beginning of his deployment whether that be thru Facebook messenger, FaceTime or over the phone. So even though he has never actually met our son, he has definitely seen him and interacted with him. Newborns are constantly growing. Just this week I was going through my little ones clothes to set aside all of the newborn outfits that no longer fit him. They just grow so quickly, and photos and videos are a great way to capture these changes that your spouse is sadly missing out on. Whether it be the aftermath of his first bath at home (my poor little guy was super mad at me afterwards), or pictures of his first ride in the carseat on the way home from the hospital, these are all little moments and memories that you will want to share. So have no shame, snap away.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. This is probably going to be the hardest thing to remember. During the nine months or so that you spent growing this tiny human you were making plans for them. You were already deciding how they were going to be raised and you already had ideas on what type of personality they were going to have. Maybe you dreamed of having an easy baby, who would quickly learn to sleep through the night and rarely cried, or that exclusively breastfeeding was going to be easy, but for reasons X, Y or Z, it just didn’t work out. Having a newborn is hard. Every day presents itself with new challenges not only for you, but for that tiny human you spent nine months growing as he adjusts to life on the outside. You will make mistakes; people with judge you and give you advice that you didn’t ask for or want. At the end of the day though, so long as your little one is safe, healthy and happy, then you are doing great, I promise.