My experience being pregnant while serving in the US Navy

October 14 2011 | Guest post by Maura

After Jenn sent us this link about how maternity uniforms have changed in various branches of the US military I was curious to know if any of our readers have served in the military while pregnant. Maura wrote about her experience and… here ya go! — Stephanie

Maura and baby!
Being a woman in a male hyper-sexual environment is difficult enough, but being pregnant is a whole new story. I was serving on board a US Navy command ship in Yoosuka, Japan, as an electronics technician when I found out I was pregnant. The field I worked in put me with an all-male workforce — it took me almost a year to be seen as a hard worker and as an equal. I pretty much dominated my job. I was the best of the best.

Outside the Navy, I was dating my now-husband. We spent every hour of every day together — literally. We worked on the ship together, had the same friends, and I would stay at his house off base. We made it work, and I loved always being around him. I had no female friends — not by choice, but because I was around men all the time.

We found out I was pregnant in December 2010. I had been especially hormonal — I like to say I was a little more "dynamic" than usual. My co-workers all thought I was going insane, and when my husband and I bought a pregnancy test that turned up positive, I kind of agreed with them.

We had to go to a farewell dinner for one of our beloved chiefs immediately afterwards. As soon as I walked in the door I was having alcohol pushed in my face — "Try this one! Have a beer! Do a shot!" Typical sailors. When I turned them down and ordered a chocolate milkshake instead I was given strange looks.

Nobody drinks milkshakes at a Sailor's going away party.

Soon after I sat down with my chief and told him the news. The entire time I was speaking he had a 1000 mile stare and was muttering "no" to himself. After the initial shock and upset (about losing me on the workforce), he congratulated me. My upper chain of command was happy for me personally, but they were extremely upset that I was going to be put on shore duty. This meant leaving another male sailor in charge of all of the navigational equipment — they weren't happy.

I got my orders in and had ten days to pack up my entire life — ten days to say goodbye to my boyfriend and all my friends. I was devastated. The Navy doesn't recognize a family unit unless they are a married man and woman, so I was sent back to the States alone.

I was in the middle of nowhere in California — alone in a barracks room with little money. I began working in the barracks as a Barracks Petty Officer. I also began to work at the OB/GYN clinic as an equal opportunity advisor — I wanted to do all I could for myself and the women who worked for me. Throughout my pregnancy I did my best to educate the people around me about what the Navy mandates for pregnant servicewomen.

My boyfriend and I got married in June, the month before I was due. It was safe for us to get married since I wasn't stationed at the same command as him. This was the first time he put his hand on my large belly and he couldn't keep his hands off of it.

I worked everyday up until I gave birth. The navy allows for six weeks maternity leave, ten days of paternity leave. My husband was not able to be there because he was deployed. The first eight to nine hours I labored by myself at the hospital. My mother and sister arrived an hour before my son was born, and my husband was on speakerphone during the birth.

I opted for an early out, and will hopefully begin life again as a civilian with my husband, and finishing my education. People tend to forget that service members were civilians once upon a time. We have to be strong with our choice to enlist, but we also have our weaknesses — we get upset, we cry. Being a mother in the Navy, I have to take it one day at a time.

The Navy has given me a free education, free healthcare, and the opportunity to travel to more countries than I can recall. I met some wonderful people and fell in love. But… I do not want to be away from my son. I do not want to be away months at a time on deployments. I know what I am capable of, and what I've done for the Navy while I served, but I don't want my son to have to go without seeing me because I decided to enlist over five years ago.

  1. I know *exactly* what you mean!!
    I was in the Army, specifically AIT (the military school that taught you your job). I got pregnant, while waiting for my school to start. My job was backed up for 3 months. As soon as I told my drill sergeant Iwas told to go home till I had my daughter. I was 8 weeks at the time. I went back to a hotel room living off my credit card because Georgia doesnt have housing off base for single military personnel.
    Finally after having her, I found out I was having unknown complications from her birth. It looked like I had elephantiasis. My knees on down were completely swollen. After 4 months of fighting, I couldn't pass my physical fitness test to get back in.
    I opted out, and have never looked back.

    3 agree
  2. Aww, Yoko and all the beauty of Blue Street at night. I've always hated how they push you straight off the ship as soon as you're pregnant. I mean, the whole out to sea thing, but they know when you're going out even forward deployed.

  3. I'm navy too! I found out I was pregnant at sea and it took a few days to get ahold of my fiance as he had just shipped out to Afghanistan. I had to get him to call on our satelite phone and I had to tell him in on the phone with a room full of people who were working and could definitely hear me. So awkward. It was funny though because people were congratulating me after, and I wasn't sure which thing they were congratulating me for as I had just gotten engaged, pregnant and promoted in the same week! I must say Canadian Navy has it easier for maternity, I can either take a full year or share it with my partner. Seeing that the US Navy gets so little makes me appreciate it even more.

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  4. I think it's awful the way you guys were treated. I'm so sorry that you literally put your life on the line for the military- then get "dumped" when you fall pregnant. It just seems so very, very unfair. Thank-you so much for your service.

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  5. I know EXACTLY what you mean! I too (Petty Officer Wood, at your service) am currently pregnant on a ship in San Diego! My boyfriend is also on my ship and we could not be more thrilled. However my 2 chiefs and divo were very upset to lose me, their hardest worker. They told me "this division will fall apart." My boyfriend's COC is very happy though and are letting him come to my appointments and all! I also have the intention to get out in 1 year when my EAOS is up due to just coming back from a 9 month deployment, I don't think I can do that again with a child. I saw women crying every day of that deployment because they missed their child(ren) so much. Thank you for sharing your story!

    1 agrees
    • I have a question i need help. My son currently is active duty Navy and so is his wife he just got transferred to another state now they are over 20 hours apart and they found out shes pregnant. She was told there is some freeze thing that will not allow her to discharge from the navy. my son wants his wife with him. does anybody know how or what they can do to help them be together. either she can transfer or exit the navy but how to go about it. They are married!! but they point is my son wants to be there for the pregnancy and birth etc please help us. pryncezz1989@gmail.com

      1 agrees
  6. I was in the Army when I got pregnant. Totally single, no boyfriend at all. This was 2007, and maternity and paternity leave fell under FMLA, so you got 6-12 weeks unpaid. Of course, for paternity leave the rules would have been different during a deployment, I'm sure. During my deployment a couple of the guys were expecting babies, and they were able to take their regularly scheduled leave for paternity leave. I believe One guy's wife had a scheduled c section, so he planned it ahead of time, but the other guy got a red cross message early one morning at PT and was put on a plane within an hour. He actually made it home to Denver from GTMO in time for the birth.
    I was never issued maternity uniforms when I was pregnant. I never found out if it was because my unit administrator sucked or if it's because I was national guard. In either case, I was a full time employee of the national guard so it really did screw me. I spent the last three months of my pregnancy working in civilian clothes.
    When I got pregnant I was certain I'd go career in the Guard, but during my pregnancy I gained 80 lbs and had trouble making tape (you have to maintain a certain body fat percentage in the Army, the military is one of the few places where they can literally fire you for being fat). I managed to complete my contract, but by the time it was up my priorities had shifted anyway and I no longer enjoyed my job or the Army. I didn't want to be that dirt bag soldier that stayed in even though I no longer liked it or cared, so I went ahead and let my contract expire. My son was almost two.

    1 agrees
  7. Wow. My experience isvery different from yours. I will be staying on board my ship until I am 20 weeks, the longest that I can be required to stay, and haven requested a 3 week extension to cary me out to my original rotation date. My command has been very supportive especially the corpsman. I can and do sympathize with the division officers who are not happy about losing a good worker. I am the electrical officer and let me tell you, we are so undermanned that every person makes a difference.

    3 agree
  8. I was curious after reading this. Because I got pregnant not planning it or anything and I am due in July. Is getting out early an option for me? Sense I will be on my own, the father won't be around.

  9. I am stationed in Atsugi, living in the barracks at 24 weeks pregnant. My detailer cut me orders but not until a month after I give birth and wanted me to obliserve an extra 7 months to take orders that were completely wrong when i am not reenlisting. He then said he didn't know I was pregnant… So I am still stuck here, living in the barracks without a car to get around. My fianc√© and whole family are stateside. They say pregnancy is not an "issue that's taken seriously" in the Navy. I have given nothing but honorable service to the navy and they still leave me in the cold, go figure. I am planning on getting out 3 months early for college. Only 6 months left and I am counting down the days.

    1 agrees
    • Brittany, there is a women's issues department for the Navy in the pentagon and they may be able to assist with what your rights as a pregnant service member are. I highly recommend emailing them, I have received very quick responses the times I've emailed. Good luck to you.

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  10. I'm currently trying to make the decision of staying/ leaving the Navy. My circumstances are a lot different from you ladies. I met my husband in school while training to be an ETN. We were both on track for a successful career. We dated for a year. He was an amazing man and it felt great having someone in the same field. We conceived our first child and got married in Dec last year. Our baby girl was born in January. Once our little girl was born we planned for him to stay in until retirement and I would get out and raise our kid. After having a child my entire outlook on the Navy changed. I couldn't imagine leaving her for months. Soon after our daughters was born my husband failed a drug test (marijuana), and was discharged from the Navy in May (separation process was long). It was a definite struggle to forgive and move forward, but we kept pushing. I decided I would stay in the Navy and he'd work In a civilian job. We found out in June we were prefnant with baby #2. We were both excited about the addition (due in February). He appeared happy, but I think he may have been hiding his true feelings. I think the culmination of new marriage, babies, losing his job, and the strain it put on our relationship took a serious toll on him. He seemed frustrated and isolated himself. In July he abused our baby girl. I was at work and returned home to the worst news any mother could imagine. She suffered brain damage, shaken baby, and other injuries. It's now October, my husband I are separated he is in a different state awaiting trial. I am left a Single mother of two babies come February, one of which is disabled now. My husband provides no support. My mother came to stay with me to help out, but she has become a bit of a burden because she doesn't work. I want to stay in the Navy to provide my kids with medical benefits, however the thought of going out to sea and leaving my babies keeps me up at night. It's very hard to trust anyone as guardian of my kids after my husbands betrayal. However, I can't risk getting out of Navy if I have nothing to show for my time in (school benefits, insurance, etc). Ideally I'd like to be honorably discharged so that I could retain my benefits to provide for my family and be a mom. I don't know what to do? I feel lost, alone, and afraid of the future.

    1 agrees
    • I'm so sorry for everything you've been through. I know nothing about the Navy so can't really offer much advice but I'm sending lots of hugs your way you can do it for your beautiful little ones !

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  11. My bf and I are on the same ship(navy) both engineering and I may be pregnant but we aren't 100% sure. Going to buy a hpt in a few minutes. Our COC doesn't officially know we're together, we have been for nine months, but deny when they ask us as it's frowned upon on our vessel. So in our circumstance I'm panic stricken to have the conversations with my chief and Divo because we've been denying that we were ever together this whole relationship. I need some girl to girl advice on this because I'm seriously thinking about telling my chiefs that the baby is not his.

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