Q: I’m in the military and I’m going to be sent overseas for at least a year. The problem is that my wife is pregnant and due to deliver right about the time I’m supposed to ship out. I can probably finagle things so that I’ll be here for the birth of our child, but the year abroad is unavoidable. What kinds of things can I do to try and bond with our infant early on, before I am deployed overseas? Equally important, are there things I can do to try and maintain a bond with such a young baby while I’m away?
A: What terrible timing.
Try to spend every second you can with your baby before you have to ship out. You don’t need to plan any special activities with newborns-holding, changing, bottle-feeding (either formula or breast milk), reading to her, taking her out for walks, etc.–the most mundane and basic stuff but that’s what relationships are based on.
As far as staying involved while you’re gone, your baby will be so young that he or she won’t remember you when you get back. So be prepared to ease in slowly. 12 months of age is prime time for stranger anxiety (when babies get scared around people they don’t know well and/or afraid to be left with strangers. Unfortunately, in your baby’s mind, you’ll fit into that category).
That being said, the more your wife can do to make you part of the baby’s life while you’re gone, the better. If she can talk about you, tell the baby stories, show the baby pictures of you, etc. that will help. The baby won’t understand a lot of this but at least he or she will get used to hearing about “daddy.”
Before you go, it would be great if you could make some tapes of yourself reading a few children’s stories so your wife can play them to the baby while you’re gone. That will help the baby get used to your voice. All these things will make getting back together a little easier.
And whatever you do, don’t forget about your wife. She needs to know not only that you miss her, but that you’re really looking forward to being a dad and that you want to be as involved as you can.