I am writing this on behalf of the Military Birth Resource Network and the incredible resources they aim to provide for military families and spouses. As an Active Duty Army service member, it has been my experience that many of the services they aim to provide for our communities would be an INCREDIBLE ASSET. Throughout my pregnancy I struggled to fight the stigmas associated with being a pregnant female in the Army. There was always the balancing act of trying to take care of myself and the health of my future child while upholding the expectations of my superiors and continuing to perform at the level I had pre-pregnancy. I often found myself still coming into the office early and leaving well after close of business to ensure that being pregnant was not used as an excuse—despite knowing my body needed rest. The comments I regularly heard ranged from, “Well you can work now, you get 3 months off after this” to “It’s not like it can be that difficult”. The education and awareness piece of pregnancy is not present for many members of the chain of the command, male and female alike. As an officer if I received those comments I can only imagine some of the things my junior enlisted soldiers are faced with daily. I generally tried to respond with facts and educate on the process and healing timeline as well as how taxing it can be to emotionally recover from birth while trying to establish breast feeding; some people listen others do not. Unfortunately, despite a significant positive change I have seen in my past seven years in the Army—we still fight a lot of the “boys club” mentality.
The stresses of being military and having separations from your spouse or significant other, or being a single parent pose an especially unique challenge to our community. Many service members don’t know where to go or who to turn to in this special time in their lives and feel incredibly alone. I have been blessed enough to have help from an amazing doula. However many soldiers cannot afford or are not educated on the childbirth options outside of the free classes offered through the hospital which cover a more medical birth plan. The resources that MBRN could provide to active duty soldiers and families to help moms and dads cope with the stresses of military life are priceless. Though many spouses and services members don’t realize the extra stress placed on them during this time service members and spouses are at higher risk for antenatal and post-partum anxiety and depression; I can speak on this from experience. I have never had a history of any anxiety or depressive disorder, however early in my pregnancy I realized that something was wrong and I was diagnosed with antenatal depression. Many soldiers don’t know where to turn—or who to turn to—or what the warning signs are. Having a network outside of the military healthcare system would be a HUGE asset. As a prior medic—and hopefully future Physician Assistant—despite the wonderful resources our military provides for our service members and families we are still short. It still can take too long sometimes to get in, appointments can be rushed, and families’ members often feel intimidated by the system. Having a non-profit organization to help assist and provide more resources would be an invaluable asset to the Fort Bragg community where the optempo is so incredibly high.