Long Distance Partners: how to survive pregnancy, birth and postpartum when your partner works away

Edmonton doula
A shot from older days when hubs worked away from me and my first! Reminiscing as my life heads back in that direction with two 😮

So the thing I’ve dreaded since 2016 is happening… again. My husband, who has been fortunate enough to land an oil field job in Edmonton will officially be moving to an in-town/out-of-town rotation in Fort McMurray. DUN DUN DUNNNNNN (cue dramatic music). I say the word “again” because this isn’t my first rodeo – back when my oldest was just a little turnip in my belly the hubs worked out of town two weeks in and one week out. Following the birth he continued to do so until summer 2016 – I had my second pregnancy loss and while it was a very hard time for our family he had just received the one shred of good news at the time which was he would be moving into the city! However, knowing what the good ol Alberta work force is like for people who work in oil and gas, I knew I had to enjoy it while it lasts… and alas, here we are. This time with two children and a pretty decent load of Edmonton doula clients!

Not going to lie though guys, I’m not really worried. I got through it during some of the most life-changing moments – moments I was pregnant, awaiting labour and postpartum. I know as an Edmonton doula that women are incredibly resilient human beings and can make it work. I’m writing here today to share some of my “tricks of the trade” with those of you who may be pregnant or brand new moms and dealing with the same challenges in your home life.

Solidarity, Sista!

First off I’m sure as a fellow Alberta mom, I don’t need to tell you that this is quite a common scenario for households in our province. However, coming from someone who at the time didn’t know a ton of people in the same boat (I sure do now), find your village! Look to people in your life that may also have out-of-town spouses to talk, cry, vent about everyday trials and tribulations. Swap childcare so that you can have a bit of time to yourself. If you don’t know anyone in the same boat, look to your partner’s work to see if there are any other moms with kids around the age of yours. Or post on a Facebook group asking for mom’s who have partners who work out of town (you’ll be surprised at just how many responses you get!). What I’m trying to say here is don’t do it alone, it will get quite hard to parent on your own most of the time with no peer support.

Changes during pregnancy will seem much bigger

Still pregnant? If you think you’re noticing your body looks different, imagine how it looks for someone who only sees you for one week out of the month! You may hear a lot of “you’re getting so big!” and try not to take offence to that – they only mean that your tummy is growing so fast (and it really does!). It’s normal for partners to be a bit overwhelmed by how fast the changes are happening, and you might notice they go through their own little nesting phase too. For years of their lives they read that a pregnancy is nine(ish) months, but when you work away those nine months pass more quickly than anyone can imagine. Allow your partner the space they need to process everything and help then when you can by making to-do lists for when they are home of things you are unable to do on your own.

Involve them in EVERYTHING while they are home

One thing I remember hearing my husband say is that he felt like when he was away, that he was missing out on so much of the pregnancy. And honestly he did… and I felt for him in that regard. He wasn’t with me when I first felt baby kick, he had to miss almost all of my midwife appointments, we were very limited to the Edmonton prenatal classes we could take and ended up having to arrange private childbirth education, and the list goes on. One thing I started to realize mid-way is that even though it was my body, he really wanted to be involved so that he could start to develop some connection to the baby before she was born (and the bonding could really start to happen). I made sure that when he was home, we filled our week with baby-related activities and appointments. We also spent lots of quality time together so I could reminisce about the last couple of weeks being pregnant and dream about what kind of parents we wanted to be. I made sure that once you could feel baby kick from the outside, that he had his hand on my belly as soon as she started her utero dance parties. Little things like this they will appreciate for a lifetime, because nothing can replace memories!

Labour/Birth support from other areas will be key

When it came down to the nitty gritty, my due date was approaching and he was still working out of town, the panic started to set in a bit. What if he was away when I went into labour? Most of the time things work out but I definitely know of some times where partners have missed the birth due to working out of town (especially in precipitous labours, read about that here). One thing my midwife suggested and I really wish I would have done the first time, was hire an Edmonton doula! Women in our boat NEED reliable support in the event that partners aren’t physically available in time. Doulas don’t always replace the partner but for a short time, we can absolutely assume that role until the proper person arrives. Plus we can help to update the partner as they make their way to us, and we can involve them as much as possible so that they arrive completely in-the-loop.

Postpartum matters too!

I was incredibly fortunate that my husband managed to save up two months worth of vacation days (basically he took no vacation at all for the first 3 years of work) so that he could stay home with me until I was feeling more comfortable. Luckily so, most of my family lives in Manitoba so I don’t have a parent to call on to come over and let me get some sleep. Had he not been able to be around, I most definitely would have hired an Edmonton postpartum doula. For those of you who have never heard of one, postpartum doulas work on shifts and will come into your home and support you however you need to make that transition from single to mom-of-one (or two, or three, etc) positive. They’ll help you with everything from housework to breastfeeding to mental health support and beyond. Edmonton moms deserve postpartum doulas! We’ve got a few really great ones in our city too (shoot me a message and I’ll make some recommendations).

All-in-all being an oilfield family has challenges for sure, but it also has rewards. There will most likely be some point in the month or year where you get a long stint of days as a family with no work involved, which is lovely! The biggest takeaway I hope you get from this article is the importance of self-care at any stage of your childbearing journey – be sure to take advantage of those days when your spouse is home to go for a coffee with a friend alone, get your hair done, go for a massage, etc. You deserve it mama, the work you do is unbelievably hard (but always worth it)!

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