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Childbirth a Newborn and Support

Looking at the pictures of Princess Katherine on the steps of The Lindo Wing, I can honestly say, I’m in awe of her. Glowing, gorgeous and in tights and heels too... Seriously how many postnatal ladies do you know who would willingly squeeze their swollen nether regions into tights and try to walk in heels?!?

I know she has a team of people to make her look fabulous for the world’s press and hundreds of royalists camped outside the Lindo Wing but seriously, what a trooper. Let’s not forget that she’s literally given birth a few hours earlier and is bound to be battered, bruised (and in all honesty, absolutely knackered).

I look back to the birth of my eldest and can honestly say it was pretty horrific from start to finish. A three-week hospital stay, due to pre-eclampsia. An induction. Hours of walking around the hospital to try and get things moving and then - when it did finally start -, strapped into a hospital bed, and on a monitor until he made his assisted entrance into the world a whopping twelve hours later. Thank goodness for the support of my mum! I don’t think I would’ve coped as well as I did if it wasn’t for her.

You see, my husband had a long-planned promotion interview in the diary and when we were told the induction was happening, we had a choice. He could go to the interview or stay with me and watch our son’s birth. What a decision to have to make!

If he didn’t go to the interview it would mean another year long wait and the risk that he wouldn’t get selected again the following year.

So, off he went to the interview.

You soon realise you are nearly always going to play second fiddle when you’re married to someone in the military. The whole labour and birth was horrendous, so I’ll spare you any detail, but it was made better by the fact that I had my mum with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthing partner in the absence of my husband.

I was lucky my mum was able to drop everything at a moment’s notice to be with me. There are so many others like me though, married to someone in the military, who are not so fortunate and find themselves, on their own when they give birth or very soon after they have had their baby. (Check out another blog post this week from one of our supporters who faced just this and how she coped.)

And then, just six weeks’ after I had my son, my husband deployed on a six month tour to Afghanistan and our only contact was e-Blueys and thirty minutes of satellite phone time.

I found myself on my own, with a new baby (and our dog), feeling shell shocked and exhausted. In the entire time he was away I never received any contact from his unit welfare to make sure I was coping.

I had the usual checks from the midwife and GP, and support from friends but looking back I wonder if there should have been more support from the welfare team who are there to support the families? Just a phone call or even a text message would have helped me feel a little less alone – and the welfare team would have been less like strangers and I would have been more inclined to ask for help if I needed it.

I got through it and we all survived. But I can’t help thinking that - given the fact the decision had been made to deploy my husband on active duty when we had a newborn at home – someone, somewhere, should have checked in with me and made sure I was coping.

It seems that the emphasis is always on you, the partner, to go and make contact, to let welfare know you’re OK or that you need help. But if you don’t know who they are, this is a big ask, and would be like asking a stranger for help. It’s also a big ask for a vulnerable new mother. Surely in a situation like this, welfare departments have a duty to make sure the family are coping?

This is just my experience of course and I know that in some units the welfare support is brilliant. However, I would like to see receiving good support the norm not the exception. It should be consistent across the services and the support you receive the same, whether you’re connected to the Army, Navy or RAF.

If you have a story you would like to share, drop us an email or direct message us. We’d love to share your experiences too.

Strength Behind the Strong