AAR: Lessons Learned from a Military Wife’s First Year as a Mom

AAR: Lessons Learned from a Military Wife’s First Year as a Mom

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 1 Natural Way, a TRICARE breast pump provider. All opinions are entirely my own.

Now that my son is a newly minted preschooler, I’m able to reflect on my first phase of motherhood, “the first year”. In preparation for our upcoming summer PCS, I was packing away some of his old clothing to put into storage. His tiny little onesies brought me back in time. Never in my life have I cried, laughed, posted as many Facebook pictures, or learned from trial by fire as much as I did during that first year.

I didn’t grow up in a large family, I didn’t really even babysit as a teenager. The first diaper I ever changed was my son’s in our hospital room. The night nurse must have took pity on me when I asked him with a panicked face if he could show me how to put the diaper on my newborn baby. A billion diapers later, I can finally laugh at that memory.

Being a military wife and mom presented a new arsenal of challenges to our new life with baby. We had recently PCS’ed to a new duty station away from friends and family. When my baby was nine months old we PCS’ed again, and three months later, I started a new job, business trips and all. I learned a lot that first year.

Now that I’m finally out of the fog (and sleeping eight hours a night again) of that first year, I want to share with you, five lessons learned from my first year as a new mom.

1.  People (especially other women) love to tell you the “correct” way to be a Mom

Unsolicited advice for new moms is never-ending. Sometimes its good and sometimes it’s just downright bad. Everyone has an opinion on how you should conduct yourself as a mom. It even starts before you have your baby. When I was pregnant, another milspouse actually laughed at me when I answered her question about my birth plan. I told her I wanted a natural birth, she laughed and told me to get back to her after I had an epidural.

Four months into my son’s life, my husband and I found out that we had the opportunity to take a basically free trip to Hawaii and my parents volunteered to watch our son! Many of my friends and family told me to forget continuing to nurse my son, time to switch to formula they said. Instead of listening to the negativity, I listened to my heart. I broke out my Medela breast pump and got to work. My mom was able to feed my son from the stash I created. When I returned from Paradise a week later, I got right back to nursing him.

I stayed home for the first year of my son’s life. When we PCS’d again, I decided I was ready to go back to work. Again, complete strangers and even good friends of mine told me why I shouldn’t “let a stranger raise my son” or that I was doing the right thing by going back to work, “SAHM are lazy, what do they do all day?”. My best advice? Do what is good for you and your family and makes you the most happy.

1st Day of work for military spouse
1st Day of work and school for both of us!

2. Find your Tribe

I was so stubborn before I became a mom and I was definitely not the FRG or “Spouse’s Coffee” kind of military spouse. I was just fine with my civilian friends, thank you very much. What I ended up learning was that “gasp”, other military spouses had a lot in common with me, often much more than my civilian friends. They understood what I was going through, because they had gone through it themselves. Whether you reach out to your military spouse neighbors, social clubs from your spouse’s unit, or even just a group on Facebook, don’t be too stubborn or afraid to make some new friends.

New mom life can be scarry and sometimes lonely. You will need a good support system the first year. I will always remember the military wives who got me through that first year of motherhood with workout sessions, play dates, happy hours, swapping childcare. In general, those women were there for me and I was there for them, no questions asked.

Cheers to friends
Cheers to my Tribe!

3. Tricare is actually pretty amazing and provides you with tons of benefits – Use it.

People love to complain about Tricare, but you know what? It was a pretty great feeling to be wheeled out of the hospital with no hospital bill. Follow-up appointments, prescriptions, and even physical therapy…still no bill came. No, military families do not receive “free healthcare”. My family’s healthcare is part of my husband’s compensation package and it is one awesome benefit!

Military Child
Thanks for the free stay Tricare!

One of my favorite Tricare benefits is if you choose to nurse, your Tricare insurance actually covers at no expense to you, a new breast pump, breast pump accessories, compression socks and postpartum care supplies. 1 Natural Way is an in-network Tricare breast pump provider for all Tricare plans. If you have five minutes and you can follow five simple steps, a new pump like the popular Medela Freestyle, Spectra S1 Breast Pump, or the Medela Pump in Style Tote/Backpack will be yours! Navigate to 1 Natural Way Information form and follow the steps below:

  1. Fill out 1 Natural Way’s insurance information form
  2. Select your breast pump model (Tricare covers all models 1 Natural Way offers)
  3. Enroll in 1 Natural Way’s monthly breastfeeding accessories program (called Resupply)
  4. Provide 1 Natural Way with a prescription or your doctor’s information, and they will get one for you
  5. Your pump and supplies will ship right to your front door via UPS or USPS

 4. Self-care is not Selfish

Take a page from a flight attendant’s book. “if you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” You will learn that it becomes impossible to take care of other people, including your precious new baby if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. Do something special for yourself when you need it. Whether it’s taking a nap, a date-night, working out, watching Netflix, getting a pedicure, or treating yourself to ice-cream. Do it. Tell your husband, friends, family, your neighbor what you need. If you can afford it, pay a babysitter. My new mom friend and I used to swap watching each other’s baby for 2 hours every week. Bliss.

If you’re reading this as a friend or family member of a new mom, ask her what she needs, what you can do for her. If she won’t tell you, let her know you are there for her and show up with her drink of choice, a casserole, and an ear, ready to listen.

Date Night Selfie
Perfecting our selfie skills at a Military Ball

5. Roll with the Punches because This too Shall Pass

Photo of baby during PCS
Taking a break from a 3 day PCS roadtrip

Wow, I was able to fit two cliche sayings in one heading. But seriously, military life comes with additional challenges for moms. When my son was nine months old, we had to PCS (again). Of course my husband wasn’t able to come with us and I had to make the journey from Texas to Virginia on my own,  with just me and my baby. Roadtrip! We packed up my little two-door convertible and started our journey. It was hard and it was stressful, but just like those first few months of sleepless nights, nothing last forever. Looking back now, it’s a crazy memento of military life.

Maybe it won’t be a PCS for you, instead a deployment, an assignment with crazy hours, or an unwanted duty station. Roll with it. Yes, it will be hard, but not forever.  We moms are a resilient species. Live in the moment, bend so that you don’t break, stay positive, and ask for help when you need it. Above all else, just keep loving that precious baby.

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