By: Marine Spouse Amanda Dodson, Certified DONA Doula
Watching my husband leave for a 14-month deployment was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It made it even more heart wrenching to watch my kids say goodbye. It was difficult to wrap my brain around the idea of him missing out on so much and also knowing our communication would be somewhat limited. Fortunately now and days, with social media, connecting is much easier to do.
When my husband returned emotions were on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. A sense of relief and joy replaced the sadness we felt for so long.
While I was not expecting a baby during this time I’ve met many women who have walked the experience of their spouse meeting baby for the very first time. Just like any Service Member coming back from a deployment, everyone has to find ways to integrate them back into normal routines even with a newborn while being sensitive the many emotions he was going through.
Here are 4 ways I hope you find useful upon meeting baby for the first time.
- With social media being so easy to use, a spouse can actually participate during the birth if everything lines up and they are available to participate. Be sure to check with your hospital first if this is an option. Some facilities may not allow for live video. Also finding out if there is good reception or Wi-Fi available in the rooms. After baby is born, hopefully there will be more opportunities to connect and let baby hear dad’s voice.
- You’ve planned. Picked the perfect outfit. Maybe even hired a photographer. The Big Day has finally arrived. It’s time to meet dad for the first time! So many emotions! Dad is probably going to be tired from all of the traveling and having to mentally prepare for the moment of seeing you again and meeting baby is a lot to take in. The first night can be very overwhelming for everyone. Especially if there’s family in town or friends that want to visit. It’s ok to ask for the space to limit visitors at least for the first few days until everyone readjusts.
- Those first few nights. It’s been a long time since you’ve connected intimacy wise. This can be a big deal for a very new mom. Her body has gone through many physical changes. Depending on when and how baby was born, mom may still be recovering. It is important to have an open conversation with your spouse about some of the changes that have taken place. Expectations and the emotions both of you will be experiencing. Don’t be afraid to communicate this to your spouse.
If you’re first time parents, it’s ok to talk Dad through some of the unfamiliar territory while allowing him to try some of things on his own. What we might find second nature; dad can be apprehensive to even do simple things like changing a diaper or burping. New mom Aeriah, shared with me upon her husband’s return he was afraid of breaking her. But after some time, everything fell into place and it was like he was never gone. She shared that they are a good team, which made the transition smoother. I also getting the book Be Prepared, A Practical Handbook for New Dads. This book is a lighthearted survival manual for fatherhood.
- Find ways to simply bond. Another mother found that skin-to-skin really worked for them. If you are out and about, invest in a baby carrier. The Carrying On Project offers free carriers to military families. Check to see if you qualify for one. Read books, sing songs and enjoy the time off before going back to work.
Just as the time off comes to an end, eventually our spouse’s head back to work. I leave you with these thoughts, meeting your baby for the first time is just one part of getting settled. Finding time to reconnect with your spouse is just as important. Leaving your baby with a sitter isn’t always an option. So find ways to reconnect at home with finding creative small ways to spend quality time with each other. If dad is experiencing a lot of stress from the deployment encourage them to find support. If the mother is having a difficult time adjusting, finding support for her is just as important.