Gaby Cavins

Branch: Navy

Duty Station: Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
My husband and I got married two days after my graduation from the United States Naval Academy. We spent a little over 5 years as a dual-military family; two ships passing in the night (literally....this has happened to us more than once). Our operational schedules kept us apart between deployments, underways, and general work schedules. While those years were challenging, we really learned how to support each other as partners and professionals. In the middle of that timeframe, we welcomed our first child which was the catalyst for my work in supporting military families throughout the perinatal period. I suffered an extremely traumatic birth and unsupportive environment for my breastfeeding goals, which spiraled into postpartum anxiety. From that experience I started writing, speaking, and mentoring others on the importance of breastfeeding and lactation support while serving on active duty along with speaking out about maternal mental health in the military. I became a certified lactation educator counselor and taught centering pregnancy at my local MTF. This work then evolved to include birth education and support as I began to realize how much our births affect our feeding journeys. I chose to resign my commission to give our family more stability and transition into policy and advocacy work. I have volunteered with many non-profits focusing on birth and infant feeding, and I am most proud of being the Executive Director of the Military Birth Resource Network and Postpartum Coalition. I am so honored to support military families through our community and advocacy efforts. We went on to have two more children with two amazing and entirely different birth stories. My postpartum journey changed my life and my place in the military community. I am grateful to my husband, who has been the best teammate on this journey and my three children who are the reason I do what I do. Here's to this life and wherever the tides takes us.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
You don't need a title to be a leader. I have organized gatherings for individuals in similar seasons of life to get together and find camaraderie and support. I regularly unpack and make space for military families to share their birth experiences, struggles in parenthood, and guide them in finding the right kind of support. I am organizing a community elephant circle where seasoned parents comes together to support newly expecting military families. As the Executive Director of the Military Birth Resource Network and Postpartum Coalition, I educate and advocate at the federal level on perinatal issues - most recently the Tricare Childbirth and Breastfeeding Demonstration. I hold meetings with our partners, support policy initiatives that affect growing military families, and educate legislators on the birth culture in the military. I am hopeful that we continue to make positive change and raise awareness to what military families need in this space.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My time as a military spouse has spanned my active duty service to now as a veteran. While I was active duty I taught classes, held support groups, and mentored service members as they began their journeys into parenthood. I wrote policy, supported those writing their own, and wrote on issues surrounding birth and infant feeding for this community. That work has followed me and grown as I have taken on these roles as a professional. Birth trauma, lack of lactation support, lack of understanding of entitlements and benefits by military families - these are just examples of areas that I have supported families in. With MBRNPC, I am able to use my lived experience and bring in the experience of military families to speak with legislators and other organizations to raise awareness on the issues we face surrounding the perinatal period. I am all in on making meaningful and sustainable change so we have better perinatal experiences.

Describe how you support your community:
Military spouses include male spouses as well as dual-military families. While birth and infant feeding may be experienced by the birthing parent, I am focused on bringing whole level support and engaging on these topics with non-birthing parents. I made space for dad to tell me how he experienced the birth of his first child and how that affected him, how loss has affected male partners, as well as supporting families as a unit. I spend time mentoring and speaking with parents in general because everyone needs support. While my birth/elephant circles have primarily been attended by women, we make space to include partners or discuss ways which we can communicate how our partners can support us. Everyone in a family experiences birth, loss, development, or maybe work-life integration and including everyone in the education and support of that makes the family unit stronger.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for stronger lactation support and policies, birth options for all, parental leave, spousal employment, maternal mental health support, and closing the gaps in care for military families in the perinatal period. Maternal mortality is focused on a lot when looking at military births, but being alive should not be the measurement of success - that should be the bare minimum of acceptable. Military families face issues of mental health at higher rates than our civilian counterparts. We face the burden of hierarchy in the birth space. We face a lack of provider or location choice - specifically for active duty service members that are giving birth. Spouses that could benefit military treatment facilities by way of their credentials can't get employed due to archaic policies. These are but a few issues I am working to raise awareness on. Military families deserve more than traumatic births and lack of support.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
As the Executive Director of MBRNPC, we use our social media channels, personal networks, and network groups to spread awareness of our work. On an individual level, I do my work through speaking with families at the playground, at school pick up, or the train station. I have been interviewed for various publications and I have written some myself as well. I have been a speaker for maternal mental health webinars, lactation trainings, and a frequent speaker at various roundtable events. I enjoy spreading this information and sharing the experiences I have collected. I have been interviewed on numerous podcasts, as well as was the first guest for our very own Military Birth Talk podcast. I am also conscious to make space for others to use their voice. My role is not to be the voice, but rather to amplify the voice of others.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
My goal is to change the landscape of birth in the military. As the AFI Military Spouse of the Year, it will bring more awareness to the work my organization is doing and allow us to enter more spaces and speak with more people on the issues both families and birth workers are bringing to us. The networking that this would provide would give us a chance to launch our support programs faster and grow our network of birth workers as well as our Coalition. I hope to also be an asset to others with my experience and background. I am a firm believer that these spaces are to give more than you receive, and I intend to carry that with me should I be selected as a title holder. I am honored to have been nominated and to be given a chance to highlight the work we are doing.


I met Gaby a little over a year ago and it was destiny that our paths crossed. Gaby has a voice and a passion to help military families in their lactation and birthing journey. In the time I have known Gaby, she is a much needed voice in our community regarding military perinatal experiences. I am honored to work alongside of such a fearless woman committed to supporting and advocating for our military community.
- by Amanda Dodson