I was scared.
Of course, that’s to be expected, right? Giving birth without your husband is scary!
I can’t even say that I felt anything but scared. I was scared in the weeks leading up to my husbands departure, I was scared after he left, and I was scared during my labor.
Of course, I had little meltdowns. I cried before he left, in anticipation. I cried on the couch wishing that baby would come out. And I cried at the hospital when I thought I was going into labor but I wasn’t (twice).
But the big breakdown didn’t happen until after 18 hours of active labor when I thought I was losing my son. The nurses were gathering up all the tubes and wires coming out of me getting ready to wheel me to the operating room for an emergency c section.
A nurse stopped and said, “You can bring one person to the OR with you, who do you want?”
And I cried. I cried and said my husbands name over and over. I had my breakdown. But I knew I had to be strong, I had to be strong for my son. He was all that mattered in that moment. I
finally said “my mom”. And about 7 minutes later my son was born.
“I could never do it”
Yup, I must have heard that sentence about a thousand times. I heard it before the birth and I heard it months afterwards. In fact, I still hear it whenever someone finds out my husband was not at the birth of our son.
The fact is that I didn’t think I could do it either. I wasn’t a mom yet, I wasn’t even really a military spouse yet (my husband was leaving for basic training) and I really doubted whether I was strong enough for something like this.
I was scared of labor, that something would go wrong and I’d lose our baby and my husband wouldn’t be there with me.
But I learned a lot. I learned that I am strong. I learned that even if he isn’t with my physically, he still gives me strength. That even if you think you won’t get through something, you will.
Because what other choice do you have?
But there are ways to make it easier. I got together with Julie from Soldiers Wife, Crazy Life who also gave birth without her husband (however he was deployed to Iraq and they were stationed in Germany at the time) to put together a little guide so that you can feel more prepared.
Side note– if you are currently going through deployment, I highly recommend Julies Guide to the First 30 Days of Deployment!
Once you feel a little more prepared, the whole thing will (hopefully) be a little easier.
8 Steps to giving birth without your partner
Step 1: Fill out any necessary paperwork
I was told we would need proof of paternity paperwork filled out prior to my husband leaving so that he could be on the birth certificate. We filled this out ahead of time so that the hospital had it all ready but then it turned out that we didn’t need proof of paternity because we were married. That is only for unmarried couples.
There was no other paperwork that my husband needed to be a part of, in fact most of it (even the don’t shake your baby paperwork) had a spot to check if the father was unavailable.
Julie, however, recalls needing to fill out paperwork mid-labor and was able to complete birth certificate paperwork after her husband returned from paternity leave.
She states, “Funny story. When I was in the middle of active labor they asked my mom to stop holding my hand and fill out paperwork. It was quite strange. As far as getting the birth certificate done, we were able to do all that when my husband got there three days later.”
Ulitmately, I would call the hospital or birth center that you plan on giving birth at, explain the situation, and ask them if you need anything filled out prior to the birth.
Step 2: Find a support system
I had my mom and my mother in law with me. Not only are they both very important to me but they also have unique personalities that helped during birth. My mom had had a C-section when giving birth to me so she was calming in the OR.
My mother in law is a nurse (as am I, so when my son was distressing, I knew exactly what was going on and I was very scared). She doesn’t really have a problem speaking her mind and she was able to avocate for me when it was time for the doctor to step in instead of the midwife that was assigned.
I also had my friend who was with me prior to active labor and after the birth. She happens to be great at finding that balance between supportive and tough love.
Julie also had her mom, “I made sure my mom was going to be with me so I wouldn’t be alone. We talked about what I wanted in the birth and the best way she could help me through it.”
Whoever it might be, make sure you find a support system. If you really don’t have anyone then hire a doula. Someone that will be there with you, help you through whatever you need. Someone that will advocate for the things you want (or don’t want) in case you can’t.
Step 3: Do a tour of the hospital/birth center
Think of it as a fire drill.
You’ll feel so much better if you have everything mapped out. You know where you will need to park. You will know if you have to call the office prior to going to the hospital and what door to go in.
You’ll be familiar with the maternity floor, the look and feel of the rooms, and you will have a better understanding of what you will need to bring.
Step 4: Make a flexible birth plan
I say flexible because birth is never predictable. I knew I wouldn’t be getting the birth I always wanted. So, my birth plan was pretty much “don’t use forceps and make sure that kid comes out okay”.
Birth plans are so important though. Just because your partner isn’t there doesn’t mean you have to give up on a beautiful birthing experience. If you want a water birth, great! If you want to do different positions for labor pain, or listen to a certain playlist, go for it!
Maybe you want pictures of your partner all over the room if you are unable to facetime. Whatever you want, write it down and give it to the hospital. They will honor your wishes as long as the safety of your child isn’t compromised.
I really wanted to take a hot shower for the pain. They were just getting me up to do that but then my son started distressing. His heartrate plumeted, and my birth plan was pretty much out the window. The new plan was getting him out safe.
His heart rate came back up but then I was on strict monitoring. After it dropped 5 more times (the last time going all the way down to 70), that’s when they took me to the operating room.
Step 5: Find out about paternity leave
My husband did not get paternity leave since he was in basic training. There was no facetime, nothing. When our second baby was born he was able to have 10 days paternity leave and then he took a few extra leave days to make it a little over 2 weeks. He wasn’t deployed though, just working his regular job.
Julies husbands paternity leave was about the same length, “He stayed about 2.5 weeks. Then he had to go back to Iraq. I am thankful they sent him home. Even though he missed the birth, my mom was there with me and we made it through.”
Make sure your husband finds out about his paternity leave and travel details. It will make you feel better if you know they can come home, even if it’s just for a little while.
Step 6: Make meals ahead of time
This is when freezer meals will really save your life. Trust me, you are not going to want to cook after you come home with a baby. Especially if you are flying solo.
If you are breastfeeding, it’s going to be SO important to get in enough healthy calories as possible. Make meals ahead of time, stick them in the freezer and then you won’t have to think about it.
Step 7: Consider hiring a cleaner or asking for one as a gift
If you can arrange for someone to come and clean your house or apartment while you are at the hospital. I promise it will be so worth it. If you can afford it, hire someone. If you can’t, then ask for it as a baby shower gift.
You are not going to want to come home to a messy house nor are you going to want to clean right after giving birth (especially if you have a c-section and you are in a ton of pain). You won’t always know when you go into labor, so cleaning ahead of time isn’t always an option.
There’s something about coming home to a clean house that will just make you feel so much more relaxed, trust me.
Step 8: Stay strong and be prepared for anything
Things can change in an instant. Being a military spouse requires a lot of strength, as does being a mom. This will be hard but you will get through it, and you will be proud of yourself.
You will be impressed by the strength you didn’t think you had and everything else will seem a little easier. If the plan changes, be prepared. You might’ve planned for facetime and now it’s not possible. Or you planned on a natural birth but now you’re needing a c-section. Just keep your end goal in mind: a healthy, beautiful baby.
Step 9: Contact the Red Cross (if needed)
In my case, my husband was in basic training. This might also be the case if you husband is in an undisclosed location and there is no communication. If you are unable to contact your partner directly, you will need to call the red cross.
They will ask you several questions, including your husbands social security number, where he is located, and questions about your birth. They will also call your birth location to verify that what you are telling them is actaully true.
After your information is verified, they will call the base where your husband is located and deliver your message. They will send you an email confirmation once the message has been delivered.
In my case, they delivered the message and then the base “forgot” about it for 3 days. THEN they notified my husband. In fact, the Red Cross called me the following day to check in on me. I asked them again if the message was delivered beacuse I hadn’t heard from my husband.
They were a little upset and delivered it again. Turns out it was whoever was in charge at the base that dropped the ball (not the Red Cross). Once my husband was actually notified, he was given a phone call with no time limit. I was also able to text him pictures of the baby.
Step 10: Get your baby on Tricare
You won’t be able to do this prior to brith. To get your baby on tricare, you will need to get them enrolled in DEERS.
To do that, you will need a birth certificate or some other proof of birth (the hospital can provide this). You will also need your babys social security card and your husbands social security number. It also helps to have a POA but you don’t have to have it.
Once you have all the necessary papers, you will call your base personnel office and ask if you need an appointment to get your child enrolled in DEERS. They will also go over what papers you need to bring.
When you go to the office, they will scan the birth certificate and social security number into the DEERS system. Once the child appears in DEERS, you will call Tricare and they will walk you through the rest of the process. (For my second child, she was automatically enrolled in Tricare once she was in DEERS–always call Tricare to make sure)
You got this.
Julie offers some words of encouragement, “If you are going to be faced with giving birth without your husband by your side, know that you are not alone in this. Many military spouses do this. These days, Facetime can make it possible for them to go through it with you, even if it is through video. I know I missed hearing my husband’s voice through labor and at least with that you can still hear them. Try to find someone who can be there with you and know that you can always hire a doula as well. There are a lot of ways to find support through your birth even if your spouse can’t be there with you.”
I agree with her 100%! Not hearing your husbands voice or feeling his touch while you are going through such a life changing moment is tough.
Just know that you do have the strength to get through it. And when they hand that beautiful baby to you, all of it will melt away. That baby will stare at you with the most beautiful eyes you’ve ever seen.
They will look at you like you are their whole world. And you are, you are their whole world.
You are everything they know, and you are everything they need.