Pregnancy can be difficult even when someone’s significant other is by their side the whole time. There may be ongoing morning sickness or backaches that take a toll on a mama-to-be. Women may feel exhausted (emotionally and physically) or overwhelmed by the hormonal transition and rely on their partner as a shoulder to cry on, vent to, or just be there for support.
But having a loved one who is overseas or at a potentially dangerous, long-term training may make the pregnancy a bit tougher.
“Nearly half-a-million children younger than six have an active-duty parent,” explains a study done by Child Trends in Fatherhood. “The parent who stays behind may experience depression and loss of financial/social support when their spouse deploys.” Protecting one's country is a huge deal, but so is pregnancy. Therefore, emotions may intensify for the family facing this struggle.
The parent who is away may not be present for moments that truly mean a lot to both the expecting mama and the little one brewing inside. However, remembering how the couple got to where they are can keep that relationship growing and alive. Throwing in this kind of unique experience only shows the strength two parents-to-be truly will be for their little one (or ones) when the debut is made.
Whether your partner is away for a training or is overseas protecting the country, one thing is for sure when you are pregnant: It is extremely challenging.
Emotional changes play a huge role during a pregnancy. Healthline explains, “Pregnant women experience sudden and dramatic increases in estrogen and progesterone. They also experience changes in the amount and function of other hormones.” Hormones can impact a woman’s mood, skin, fetus development, weight gain, fluid retention, hair growth, and energy.
Adding the dynamic of your significant other being away, and in a possibly dangerous situation, can make the hormonal changes a little bit tougher to deal with. The mood swings may be greater and the additional stress can play an even bigger role in skin and hair changes as well as the energy you have. The more stressed you feel, the more exhausted your growing body may become.
Communication is important no matter what stage you are at in a relationship. When a partner is away protecting the country, communication becomes even more essential. Since face-to-face discussions cannot happen when your loved one is away, it means creating scheduled, allotted times for phone calls and video chats.
If this cannot happen every day due to your partner’s schedule (and maybe the time zone they are in), making sure you do make time to communicate every week, a few times a week, is critical. This may even mean waking up at weird times or making the conversations short. However, effort needs to be put forth by both parties to keep that connection growing for the relationship of the couple and the brewing baby.
Not having your significant other around during your pregnancy can be extremely lonely. Even though you always have that little one inside of you to speak to for comfort, it doesn’t always cut it. Adult, human interaction is something people seek by nature. Though it’s nice to have conversations with your belly and talk to coworkers, family members and friends – not having your other half nearby to vent to and have discussions with can be tough.
This can be even tougher if you were living with your partner before they either were deployed or left for a long-term commitment.
With family dynamics being all over the place today, couples may or may not live together when they get pregnant. If you and your partner were sharing a household and then, suddenly, that home empties (or it’s just Mom and the children, if other little ones were already in the picture), the environment gets altered quickly. An energy is gone that was always there. Even if you were not living with your significant other when the pregnancy came about, you no longer get to look forward to those days or nights spent together.
Even though it isn’t easy finding a strong support system for some people, finding a few other people you can lean on is critical. Friendships are not always easy to maintain or find for adults and many people do not have the most supportive family members. Finding alternative support may mean seeking out local groups focused on motherhood, pregnancy or groups related to your “specific circumstance” (when it comes to your partner’s reasoning for being away).
Whether it’s a couple of very close co-workers or neighbors, explain to them your situation and let them know you may need them when times are tough. This is important for your well-being and the health of the little one. Real Warriors states, “Surrounding yourself with people who are coping with the same challenges can help you combat feelings of stress and isolation.”
Ultrasounds are often the appointments expecting mother’s look forward to most because they get to really see what’s going on in there with their little one. They get to view the heartbeat, the facial profile, and the teeny movements of their baby before the baby makes their official entrance. When your significant other is away and unable to share this excitement with you first-hand, it’s definitely not easy.
You can try to keep up a tough front as you lay down, get gel’ed up, and wait for that fuzzy screen to show your teeny, tiny baby. However, in the back of your mind, you may still wish your loved one was there to experience the appointment with you. You may wish they could hear the heartbeat with you or find out if you’re having a boy or girl. You may wish they could see one twin kick the other or watch as every finger and toe are accounted for during that long anatomy scan.
You are the one absorbing every moment possible so you can, hopefully, transport those emotions back to them. That’s not an easy task.
Though your loved one is not there for important appointments and pregnancy milestones, you truly must make the best of the situation. Staying positive isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary. Asking for additional ultrasound pictures to be printed (or even pictures to be uploaded onto a USB) can help when sharing with your partner overseas. Having a combined Cloud or Google account where these special moments can be shared allow you both to look and discuss them together when time allows.
You can also print pictures out and send them to your partner in unique, creative ways. Making care packages with framed ultrasounds or little scrapbooks of appointments can help make your significant other feel included. Being on video chat when they open these packages to see their reaction can also help you feel the positive energy you need during those tough moments.
Pregnancy throws many emotions at expecting mothers. Though these emotions can often be linked to the raging hormones a woman faces, they also may be connected to the chaos going on in someone’s life. If the chaos has to do with a partner being away at a training or overseas protecting the country, the anxiety connected with that chaos is incredibly real.
Many people don’t see how anxiety, depression, or anger can be experienced during pregnancy if having a baby was something someone always wanted. For one, those darned hormones do change the makeup of a woman’s body during pregnancy. And two, if your significant other is away for all or most of your pregnancy and not in the safest of circumstances, those inner demons are bound to make an appearance.
Even if you are a relatively positive person - you are human.
Anne Marie Hinricks, social worker, told Health, “Pregnant women should take their feelings seriously. If you don’t feel right or notice yourself feeling sad or worried a lot, you need to talk to someone you trust, like your doctor or midwife, or a therapist.”
Talking to someone who understands the mental health struggles an expecting woman may face can be incredibly helpful when going through pregnancy without a significant other. Even before a loved one goes overseas or leaves for a longer-term commitment, finding a counselor or support group can help ease you into what may follow once your partner is away. Having your partner go with you to appointments or meetings also may help connect on a deeper level - especially during pregnancy.
Since your significant other is not just a car drive away or lying next to you in bed, you may become a little more paranoid than usual. You may stare down at your phone a little more often than usual or wait anxiously for the email icon to show up on your phone (yes, people still use email as a major form of communication). You may even just scroll continuously down your social media timelines to see if your loved one posted something, liked something or even “was active” recently.
This may make people, and yourself, think you’re a tad bit paranoid. However, when you’re expecting a little one and your loved one is away, the paranoid triples. The paranoia also intensifies when your partner is in an unsafe part of the world or doing drills that involve dangerous scenarios or equipment. Any little hint of activity from them – whether it be through social media or direct communication - is activity nonetheless.
Pregnancy truly should be seen as a beautiful, thrilling time in a woman’s life. Even if she is experiencing aches and pains and stressors that make her wish the baby would just get the heck out already, it’s a time that should be cherished. By taking time to focus on yourself, your body, and your pregnancy, you are focusing less on your significant other being away.
Of course, this is easier said than done – as most things are. However, looking at your pregnancy as a positive is important because, well, it is. You are creating life. Your body is building a brand new human being that you and your spouse or partner created together. By remembering that and focusing on what you can do to keep yourself and your baby healthy, you may find yourself worrying a teeny bit less about your partner being away.
When your loved one is away, fear takes over. interaction will weaken your relationship. You may fear a couple days, or weeks, off from your usual communication regimen could make your relationship unravel. You may fear the inability to be intimate, even when pregnant, could make the time apart harder upon return.
Fear takes over when your loved one is not there for important moments – such as pregnancy. This is a normal reaction, but is one that should be replaced by hope and the understanding that he or she is doing important work for both the family and you as a couple. However, fear is a very strong emotion and when someone has this mindset, kicking it can be one of the toughest things.
As cliché as it sounds, laughter truly can be the best medicine. When you’re not having the easiest pregnancy, finding time to laugh can instantly switch your overall mood which can then switch your mindset. Once your mind is in a better place, your emotions and physical being will move along with it.
And your "physical being" includes that little one growing inside of you.
Whether it’s through funny texts, videos, or memes being sent over the course of a day or week – try to find time to laugh with your significant other. You know each other best - feed into each other's humor. Of course, it’s important to ask about their safety and discuss serious matters regarding the pregnancy. However, those viral cat videos that never seem to get old may be what you need to wake up to after a night of tossing and turning during that awful third trimester.
Trust is the toughest part of being in a confident, comfortable, and healthy relationship. It is a struggle that can sometimes take years to confront and even then, it can still sit uneasily in the back of a person’s mind. This is often the case for those who have been hurt (mentally, emotionally or physically) in a relationship, cheated on, or have extremely low self-esteem. This also happens often if your partner is away from the relationship for long periods of time.
It makes absolute sense to worry and grow nervous when your loved one is away. However, constantly wondering about the trust of your significant other can take an even heavier and more dangerous toll on a person – especially if they are pregnant. Stress and anxiety aren’t healthy for Mom or the baby. Being unable to trust your loved one when they are gone is not just stressful for Mom, it’s something that needs to be figured out and worked on diligently to make the relationship work.
It can’t be stated enough how important communication is – especially when your loved one is fighting for the country or away at high-risk training. Being able to discuss the day and important pregnancy moments is not only important, but necessary when keeping each other in-the-loop and keeping that trustful bond healthy.
Without trust, you have a relationship always on the mend. Though some couples are always working through something, and that’s perfectly normal, working on trust is also a personal battle. Keeping each other updated with what you did that day, who you had good conversations with, and what your evening plans are shouldn’t be seen as “overkill.” When your partner is not present, they don’t know what’s going on. Keeping them in the “communication loop” replaces the fact they cannot be in the “physical” loop.
Unless the name of your little one already has been chosen or you have had a solid list of names since your pre-teen years, choosing a baby’s name is not always easy. Between the differences in personality and opinion you and your significant other may have, the name options could bounce back-and-forth right up until that baby is out.
This task can be a fun one, but when your significant other isn’t sitting on the couch beside you or looking at you from across the table, it can be a little tougher. This discussion is often seen as an intimate one because it really is a big deal. You are naming a human being for the rest of their life. It isn’t something temporary, it is a forever decision. Making a choice that’s this crucial can be hard when couples are apart.
It’s inevitable that you will have serious conversations with your significant other if they are overseas or in unsafe territory during your pregnancy. However, making sure to end those discussions with something light and fun is important. Joking about baby names you both absolutely wouldn’t agree on can be a lighthearted way to transition out of the “deep stuff.” Bringing up something that proved you had “Pregnancy Brain” or a weird craving you had that your partner wouldn’t have experienced with you can make the distance feel less like the distance it is. Being serious is important, but remembering there need to be moments devoted to humor, goofiness, and relaxation is also key to surviving the distance.
Everyone’s pregnancy is unique. There are always specific factors that connect your pregnancy to the pregnancy of the person next to you, but not one person will experience exactly what you are experiencing. Even though this truth can be helpful, it can also make it harder for those who don’t have their loved one around during those months leading up to the birth.
You may have friends who have their partner by their side at every appointment. You may feel a little jealous when someone you know discusses all their significant other is doing to prepare the nursery. You may even get a little angry when you see expecting couples holding hands. These sights and discussions may solidify the statement in your mind saying, “No one understands.”
However, it’s vital to remember that even though they are missing precious pregnancy moments, they are doing courageous, laborious work that will benefit your family in the long-run.
If you don’t ask, you will never know. If you don’t look, you will never find. These statements should be the push expecting mothers need to seek out connections with other pregnant women or moms who have faced a similar scenario as the one you are in. Reaching out through social media or contacting the local Veterans Affairs office may help connect you with others who “get it” and have been where you are.
There are support groups everywhere for expecting mamas in almost every kind of situation. From moms who are faced with abuse to moms who are a little anxious about childbirth – there are supports available. Asking your medical team about how you can get involved, even before your significant other leaves, can provide you with continuous support during the pregnancy.
Even if you maintain ongoing communication with your partner during their time spent away, you will still be faced with moments every single day that can make you uneasy. These may or may not be pregnancy related, but they are situations that may have been easier with your significant other by your side. These moments may range from the less-serious “Does this maternity shirt make me look even more pregnant” to the more intense “Are we really ready for this baby?”
When you start questioning the pregnancy itself, you need to step back and look at the big picture: You are pregnant. You are going through with the pregnancy. You are doing this with your loved one’s support (which is huge in itself), but yes – you are doing most of it alone.
Think of all you’ve done on your own to get yourself to the point you are at and remember you were the one who made those big steps physically happen. You can keep making them happen, even if they seem tough or impossible.
It can be hard clearly seeing the reasoning behind your loved one’s absence when you are pregnant. You may see your partner’s absence as them missing major, essential moments during the pregnancy. You may also have a hard time comprehending “why” your loved one had to go do what they had to – even if it was under “order.”
Even though they are missing major milestones and following protocol they can’t control, they are doing incredibly brave, courageous work to make sure your family is protected and safe. If they could, they would be back and by your side for every ultrasound and every kick in the ribs you feel. Even when you are faced with aches and pains and emotional breakdowns, your partner would probably choose to experience them with you if they could.
Surrounding yourself with positive Post-It notes, photographs, printed out emails, and even letters (if you and your partner go that romantic route with communication) will only assure you that the hardships you may face will all be worth it in the end.
References: Healthline, Real Warriors (Real Battle, Real Strength), Health/Anne Marie Hinricks, Fatherhood/Child Trends