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
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.