Shanon is hereby banned from joking about our lives. 8 months ago, after being wished "Happy Mother's Day" by the parking attendant at Dallas Love Field, she sarcastically said "wouldn't it be funny if we found out we were pregnant?" Little did either of us know that later that day, we'd find out our lives were about to change forever.
Yes, this is how we told our parents...
8 months into our preparing for parenthood, we've navigated just about every military medical system there is, from TRICARE Prime, to TRICARE Select, TAMP (temporary Tricare coverage for transitioning servicemembers), TRICARE Overseas, VA (San Diego), VA (Chicago), and CHAMPVA. We also went from being a dual-employed household to navigating the ups and downs of unemployment and self-employment. Needless to say, we've had our work cut out for us preparing for the arrival of Baby Poppyseed in a few short weeks. After 8 months of hands-on learning and extensive research, we've concluded that maternity care for veterans is inconsistent. There are however some great resources out there... if you know how to find them. What we have compiled here is a great place to start.
Baby Poppyseed's first Marine Corps Birthday
Here's what we've found so far:
1. There are very few organizations that provide support for expecting veteran families despite a growing need. Most organizations (USO, What to Expect Foundation, Operation Homefront, etc.) ONLY support active duty families.
Soldier's Angels is the only nonprofit that provides direct support for expecting veteran families, but it's up to their volunteers to determine the families they are able to support and in what ways. Objectively, what you get ranges from baby clothes, blankets, baby wash, and other necessities to congratulatory cards/notes. Items also ship from individual volunteers, so there's no consistency in what you get. That being said, we're incredibly grateful for the generosity of the volunteers who have sent us all sorts of goodies - Baby Poppyseed is already one lovingly spoiled little girl!
Thank you Tammy, you're truly an angel!
To help ease your financial burden, your best bet is to sign up for "freebies" (you have to pay shipping or make a minimum purchase for each of these sample boxes; except for Target) through registering with corporations such as Amazon, Target, Babylist, and Hey Milestone.
**Note: we've combed through just about every "freebie" listed on other websites, but these were the only 4 that we've had any luck with. Walmart's box is sold out for 2023. Buy Buy Baby's no longer exists. Similac/Enfamil are only for formula (we're breastfeeding). 2. The VA does provide support and care to pregnant veterans, although experience will vary by location. If you're pregnant and receive VA healthcare (as the veteran - not for veteran spouses), you will be assigned a Maternity Care Coordinator who will help coordinate your prenatal care through community care providers. Maternity Care Coordinators oftentimes have access to an inventory of baby supplies (diapers, car seats, pack & plays, baby shampoo/body wash, & other essentials) that they will give you FOR FREE. You just need to ask. They also coordinate annual baby showers for new/expecting parents. These generally only happen once a year. However, since they're the point of contact with the nonprofits that contribute to the showers, if you let them know of your need, they can usually connect you with any surplus inventory.
This is what we received directly from the Maternity Care Coordinator at Jesse Brown VA. Not shown: pack & play, and ALL of the baby gear we received from Operation Sweet Life (nonprofit that works with our VA).
**Note for Chicago-based veteran families: Operation Sweet Life partners with the Jesse Brown VA Maternity Care team for their annual baby shower. We are incredibly grateful for their help and support in preparing for our baby. We received an indescribable amount of newborn essentials and basic household goods to help us ensure that baby is set up for success. If you are a veteran/veteran family in need (baby care, furniture, etc.), please reach out to them. If you find yourself needing to re-home household goods (moving, managing estates, etc.) please consider donating to them. Contact Diane @ firstname.lastname@example.org Each VA has a different lactation package. If you're planning on breastfeeding, your supplies (pumps, pads, etc.) are covered by your VA insurance. However, each VA has a different contract with Ryan Resources, so what you get in your lactation package may vary. (Note: San Diego VA has one of the best packages - we received a C shaped maternity pillow, breast pump, 3 bras/camis, several pads, bags, belly band, and creams). 3. The VA does NOT have the same coverage as Tricare. What is NOT included with VA healthcare but IS covered by Tricare: home births, birthing centers (in-network) and doulas.
For those following our adventures, we were overseas for our 20 week anatomy scan. We were able to schedule our ultrasound in Munich, Germany, submit our overseas claim online to Tricare and receive full payment within a few weeks. We also had an ER visit in Denmark, and went through the same process. Processing takes ~1-2 months.
In Germany, this is the standard for your 20 week anatomy scan - pretty sure she takes after her dad.
What IS included with VA healthcare but IS NOT covered by Tricare: chiropractor, acupuncture, prenatal massages (if prescribed by your assigned community care maternity care provider).
There IS an exception for those who are either 1) 100% disabled, or 2) the spouse of a 100% Permanent & Total disabled veteran, because you qualify for CHAMPVA, which *should* make it easier for you to choose your civilian provider. Note: YES THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between 100% disabled, and 100% P&T disabled.
Also, your child is ONLY COVERED FOR 7 DAYS POST-BIRTH under your VA insurance (unless you're rating is 100% Permanent & Total - then your dependents all qualify for CHAMPVA).
4. State, VA rating, and income dependent, you may not qualify for WIC.
Every state offers WIC (Women, Infant, Child) supplemental support for pregnant women/new moms to help cover the cost of food & formula (should you choose to go that route). The income level for qualification varies from state to state, and the quality/brands of food that are covered are not necessarily the most healthy for you and/or your growing family. If you think you qualify, set an appointment with your local WIC office.
5. There are not many veteran new parent groups to connect with (so we started our own). Depending on where you live, you may be able to find community support through your local birth centers, doula agencies, Facebook groups, churches, etc. for new parents. Transparently, most of these are geared towards new moms. We realized that we don't necessarily speak the same language/have the same learning & communication style as most of the parents we've met through these groups. So we started one: New & Expecting Military Veteran Parents.
May 2023 --> November 2023, you can say life looks a LOT different these days.
We only have a few weeks left to go before Baby Poppyseed makes her appearance, and will undoubtably continue to discover new resources, truths, and misconceptions about what support is and is not available for veteran parents. As we learn more, it's part of our mission to share what we've learned with the broader military/veteran community. If you know of a resource we missed or have an asset to share please do so by sending us an email at email@example.com.
'Till the next coffee shop,