This is the third in our series of posts by forces wives and mothers in support of Armed Forces Day. Today’s post from Karen tells us about the highs and lows of pregnancy and new-motherhood in a new home, a new location and a whole new environment.
My husband was in the forces when I met him and was away regularly. It was a life I grew used to and the hardest parts when he was away were the frequent periods of having no contact. Not being able to write a letter, send a text or receive a phone call was very difficult. The transition from being away to home life was also difficult. Being with a group of men for up to 6 months meant his sense of humour changed dramatically, and not for the better! He’d also often speak to me in a tone that was more ‘ordering’ than asking, but this didn’t last too long either!
Being away 6 months a year however was beginning to make my husband miserable and when it came to discussions about starting a family, he decided he didn’t want to miss that much of a child’s life so took the very brave decision to change jobs within the forces. This meant that he would be home more, however, ‘home’ was going to be a very different place for me.
Last year we moved 350 miles when my husband was posted. I had to leave a job I loved but also happily found out I was pregnant. I believe this was when being married to someone in the forces really impacted me the most.
Due to complications in a previous pregnancy, I had an early scan. The scan was not conclusive and after a night in hospital I was discharged with a follow-up scan a week later. During this week however, my husband had started his new job and was unable to attend the 2nd scan which was really difficult for us both. My best friend attended and thankfully a viable pregnancy was diagnosed. Due to the nature of my husband’s job however, I couldn’t just phone and tell him, I had to wait for him to call me, the longest hour of my life!
When we had moved I was in the early stages of pregnancy, and suffered from terrible sickness which rendered me almost housebound. We lived on a military base and I knew no one.
I hadn’t lived on a base before and had preconceived ideas that people would be popping round, introducing themselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The street we live in is quiet and with the sickness stopping me from getting out, I have never felt so isolated.
Once the sickness passed however, I was able to join in the groups and also joined groups in the area and quickly made friends. I highly recommend NCT as my pre-natal class still meet weekly now.
Having a baby has made me realise just how far away we are from my old friends and of course, family. On the base, however, there were 4 other babies born within 5 months and we have formed a really strong friendship and support network. I am aware that this will not last as we or one of them will be posted to a different area and new friendships will have to be formed.
Currently, living in married quarters means that if anything is wrong with the house, it is usually corrected within a week and free of charge. So no need to worry when husband is away. I am aware that living on the base at their husband’s place of work adds pressure for some wives. I however believe this is my home, and if I want to walk on the grass or talk to the Station Commander, I will!
Service life often means we are unable to book holidays or weekends seeing friends in advance. He is often subject to short notice changes at work and leave bans as is in place over the Olympics and this is difficult when I look forward to seeing old friends and family.
I look to the future and I anticipate problems such as moving around every 2-3 years and how this will impact on my daughter’s education and friendships. We have also discussed having more children but have to investigate when my husband may be deployed which could be up to 6 months away and I would hate for him to be away for the birth.
Personally, one of the hardest things for me was obtaining an ID badge which I have to show every time I go onto the base with the word ‘DEPENDANT’ on it. From being a very independent woman, having a career and owning my own house, I had to quit my job when we moved and due to the pregnancy and birth of my daughter have been reliant on my husband since and this word has had a particularly negative impact on me.
I am presently looking at going back to work, but having no family nearby means relying on childcare. This adds a whole new pressure as I feel guilty about leaving my daughter with strangers and possibly missing milestones in her development but then also feel the need to stretch my brain and have to complete a specified number of hours working to keep the registration I worked so hard for.
Being a military wife and mum has its ups and downs and I am yet to experience them all: like how I’ll cope with a toddler and the many spiders when my husband is sent away next year. I have the good fortune to have a super role model in my mum who was also a military wife and a fantastic mum (and dad) when he was away, especially during the Gulf War when I was 12. So for my husband and daughter, I will endeavour be chief spider catcher, up for any challenge and strong and supportive during the times of change and periods of absence.