Being an army wife and mum is hard at the best of times but the first time my husband left me on my own with both children was when Henry was 3 days old. Even though it was only for a week, I know you can imagine how nervous I was. Granted, Henry was my second and I knew what I was doing and it wasn’t so long ago that I had a newborn with Frans, my eldest being only 15 months old. But nothing could prepare me for that first night.
Fran’s being such a daddy’s boy and having a new little brother meant he was shocked to the core and couldn’t settle at night. He cried pretty much all night and just wanted to be held, which would have been fine to deal with if I didn’t also have a newborn constantly wanting to be breastfeed and held as he tried to comprehend what this new world and the people in it were all about. I got zero sleep ….. and I mean ZERO! If one wasn’t crying, the other was. I was a zombie on the verge of a breakdown.
I was still hurting from the delivery which was a home birth, as being military and having friends recently moved on and no family nearby, we didn’t know anyone enough to leave Frans with, so a home birth was the best option. I lived on coffee, chocolate and coco pops. My prayers of hoping they would nap at the same time were sometimes answered and I could grab a quick 30 min nap. But for the majority of the time this was not the case.
It was the worst week that motherhood could deliver. Tantrums, lots of tears from everyone, no sleep and unbelievably I didn’t even know of the delights of CBeebies so we coped all on our own. But at the same it did have some positives. My little Frans started walking and little Henry took to the world like he had been here before. Breastfeeding like a pro and the fact that I had this newborn baby all to myself made our bond so strong. I was the only person seeing his little features form and watch his little legs and arms uncurl from the womb position and the only one enjoying those first precious days. We spent a lot of our time at the newly opened community centre on the camp and it was truly a lifesaver. Frans could play on the soft play there and I could drink a Starbucks and breastfeed in a bit of quiet.
And when my husband returned at the end of the week I walked straight into his arms and cried. Cried from the baby blues, the lack of sleep, the fact that I loved and missed him and also from the realisation of how much of a great daddy he is and how much of the day to day parenting tasks he does without question, even though he works all day.
Military life is no walk in the park for the partner at home. Constantly moving, losing and making new friends, jobs, schools and inadequate housing all make it a harder life than most. But my little family is amazingly worth it and when we leave the army life behind and settle, I will always look back fondly on it – but maybe not that week- I think that week will always be my worst week of motherhood.!