We strive to make our home and family as healthy and natural as possible every day. This journey is different for every family, and as we learn and incorporate new aspects of natural living into our every day lifestyle new challenges are uncovered. These challenges are even more unique for military families including health care decisions, child care decisions, and even nutritional decisions. By encouraging supportive and resourceful relationships among military families we can continue to promote natural living in the military and influence the future of policies and procedures in our own areas.
Military families can find obstacles to pursuing a holistic and natural lifestyle in several key areas including medical care, child care and nutrition. First, as military families we are blessed by having very good medical coverage through Tricare. This insurance plan has several benefits and covers most medical needs for the average American military family. However, it does not cover naturopath doctor visits, chiropractic care, acupuncture or many other aspects of medical care that can enhance our lives through natural remedies and a pursuit of true health. For example, I’m interested in trying acupuncture in the treatment of my Plantar Fasciitus (a common ailment in runners as well as military) but I am responsible for the monetary costs of treatment as that is not covered by Tricare. Military members themselves are also subject to strict rules of medical readiness that ensures our deployability. This rules include receiving routine vaccinations each year to ensure the overall medical readiness of the fighting force. Therefore, if you do not want to vaccinate this can pose a personal dilemma. At this time, there is no way for a military member to obtain a philosophical or religious exemption to vaccines that is permanent and does not jeopardize their career. There are rare cases of medical exemptions based upon allergies to vaccine components.
Another challenge for military families pursuing a natural life style is child care decisions. Most child development centers on military bases require children to be up to date on vaccinations and do not accept waivers, do not permit cloth diapering without a doctor’s note that is difficult to obtain, and do not allow breast milk to be served to children past the age of one. These policies force some families to choose between their healthy choice and their financial choices. On post day care is often less expensive than off post, but if you have to then purchase disposable diapers and stop breastfeeding (causing and increase in food purchases) is it really a cost saving method?
The third area that can pose challenges for natural minded military families is nutrition because they are transient over time and also have fewer options available during military missions. Military families can expect to have a major move every 2-4 years. Due to these recent moves, they have fewer opportunities to be self-sufficient. Although some families are able to buy and rent homes and are able to have a family garden as well as small livestock like chickens, it is a rarity. As a result, we are more dependant upon purchasing produce from farmers markets and grocery stores. Many of the sources available may not be reliable and could be hard to find depending on how specialized of a diet you have. Military service members can also have nutritional challenges while on training and deployment missions with fewer options available for meals including the highly calorized Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).
As a result of these challenges, we have a unique opportunity to encourage and support each other through social networking. We are able to share our experiences at different military bases including locations of farmers markets, where good meat/poultry coops are, what pediatricians will respect our parenting decisions and many more. There are several natural parenting pages on Facebook that focus on specific geographical areas surrounding military bases, and even a national page for crunchy parents. Discussions on those pages range from where the best local spot for amber teething necklaces are, to how to find a supportive doula and midwife team that will do a home birth (even though Tricare doesn’t cover it). Sharing our experiences and resources is absolutely key to encouraging each other throughout our journeys. Although it can be challenging at times, it is possible to incorporate lifestyle changes to live more naturally in the military.
If you know of a Facebook group or other site that helps to encourage and network natural parents in your area, please share it in the comments section!
There are times as a military family that we have to be apart. We’ve been very blessed that since my son was born, and those times have been rare. A couple times to the field, a night or two here or there. But tomorrow, I will leave my family for six months to attend a course four states away. My heart is aching thinking about how much distance will be between us, but I keep reminding myself that it really isn’t that far at all. Especially when I have dear friends who have spouses on the other side of the globe, I feel thankful that we are going to be in the same time zone.
The past two weeks have been spent soaking up as much family time as possible. We’ve gone on day trips to Sea World and a natural spring, gotten to spend time with old friends and family, and even just hung out around the house playing board games. I’ve tried to make every moment count and breath it all in. Especially the moments when I get to do normal everyday things with my Son, like tuck him in for the night, teaching him how to use his fork and spoon, and showing him how to make a worm out of a straw wrapper at lunch. He has grown so much and he amazes me all the time with how big he is getting. How is it that this little boy grew inside of me? And I am sure that by the time we are together again he is going to grow so much more. He’ll probably be speaking in full sentences by January!
We plan on talking daily and doing FaceTime as much as possible without making my Son upset by always saying goodbye to me. And I’m recording our night time song for him to fall asleep to each night. Hopefully the time will pass quickly, and I will be able to visit a few times in between for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
What have you done to help ease the distance between you and loved ones?
Today as I started off on my first run after a month long, self-imposed “break” from running.. one of my first thoughts was… bug spray. I forgot to use bug spray. As I swatted away the bugs that convene along the rural Virginia road at dusk, I started to imagine myself as She-Ra, fighting my way through them. Weird? Yes. Empowering? Absolutely.
This was my first run of many that will come to prepare for my first marathon next January. A bucket list item, that at 29, I started to worry that I wouldn’t get to. Despite reports of 93 year olds completing them “all the time.” I wonder most days if I am crazy. But a few years ago, before my son was born, I ran a half-marathon. And I still remember that absolute elation as I crossed the finish line, tears streaming down my face as I quietly celebrated finishing as well as finally feeling the massive blisters and my bruised toes.
It’s the same elation that I had hoped to feel after birthing my son. You see, in the next six months, I’m not only training for my fist marathon. I am also embarking on a journey of healing my soul after a traumatic birth experience. I am preparing to try to have another child, and I desperately want to birth the way that millions of women take for granted every day. My fears of another cesarean make me paralyzed sometimes. Nightmares of my birth experience haunt me, and until I can face my fears and my experiences I won’t be able to move forward and embrace pregnancy and birth again.
This is going to be my journey.. It’ll probably get rough. It’ll probably get emotional. But I hope to emerge as a She-Ra, battling my way through fears and comfort zones to be a marathon runner and a kick ass mama who’s ready for anything.