I hope you all had a great, relaxing holiday! (Is it bad that I smiled at that because, let’s be honest, holidays are never relaxing!)
A fellow spouse suggested I post about being pregnant while “Daddy” is deployed, and I thought it was a great idea. Shallowly, I thought she meant physically, about being, in her case, nine months pregnant when her husband returned from his deployment. I immediately started spouting off thoughts on fitness and how everyone (or maybe just me?) uses deployments as a time to get into shape as a nice surprise for their husband’s return (and then you go through a deployment with a child and realize it’s really hard to work out like you did when you were without child!). She quickly corrected me that what she actually meant was going through the entire pregnancy schedule without the support of her husband.
I started writing this blog over a week ago. I would never want to toot my own horn, but in college I used to crack open a bottle of wine and write my papers after a glass or two…it was never very challenging to me. Statistics on the other hand, I may have had to take a few stabs at. So to have to admit that this blog has taken longer than a few hours is upsetting. I realized this morning that since I have not been “there,” I couldn’t write this entry and have it be what it needs to be. I contacted a few of my closest friends who have been there, one within the past two months, and they will be telling you their stories. They aren’t all happy, funny experiences; this is the most difficult time to be apart. I told them that the only thing I needed was for them to be honest. I want to thank them for taking time out of their busy schedules to write their stories for you to read.
Story 1: Karen
I think every military wife can say they know someone who has given birth while their spouse was on deployment. That being said, when I found out (surprise!) I was expecting my second child two weeks before my husband was set to deploy to a combat zone, things changed fast. My first thoughts were: “What the hell am I going to do? Who is going to watch my daughter for all my doctor appointments? What if there’s a complication?” Questions, question, questions. The advice I got from my father was “just take it day by day.” I remember sarcastically thinking, yeah, thanks dad, pretty understanding. As the deployment continued, it was the best advice I got. What seemed like simple words turnd out to be exactly what I needed to hear, and remember. I just kept moving day to day, knowing we were one day closer to my due date, and my husband’s homecoming. I was blessed with great family support and a close friend whom I trusted to watch my daughter in the event of an emergency.
Keeping my husband involved throughout the pregnancy wasn’t as difficult as I had initially thought. I sent him a picture of my growing belly with every care package. (Editor’s note: what an awesome idea!!) At my 20 week ultrasound, the technician wrote down the sex of the baby and stapled the envelope shut. Although I was so, so tempted to open the envelope, I waited until my husband called and we opened it “together.” It was one of the most special memories of the pregnancy.
My husband arrived back home 12 days before our son was born. I’m forever grateful to my dear friend for watching our daughter during my labor and delivery. The biggest thing I took away from being pregnant while my husband was deployed was that I needed help. The best thing I did for my daughter and my family was to accept the kindness of others who were willing to help.
Story 2: Sarah
My husband and I always knew we wanted a big family filled with beautiful girls! We were so blessed to have two beautiful daughters and we knew we wanted more. But we were currently not living under the same roof. Hell, we lived in different time zones. My husband had left Florida for the RAG in Washington in Feb of 2009, but my oldest was still in school. So we stayed behind in Florida, expecting to meet up when the school year was over. We soon learned that he would leave the west coast to come back to the east coast in just a year’s time, again in the middle of the school term, and deploy from North Carolina. So my girls and I headed to Massachusetts, where both my husband and I grew up. I was going back to grad school, he was finishing the RAG, and deploying, so we figured we’d tough it out, and then get our little family back together and give our girls what stability we could by not uprooting them time and time again, while we both accomplished some of our goals. We thought we had it figured out!
Then, a year later, and to our surprise I found out I was pregnant! How’s that for a monkey wrench? I wanted to wait another year but God had different plans.
Im not going to lie. The day I realized, “Holy crap, could I be pregnant?” and took the test, only to find out God has a huge sense of humor, I cried. I cried and cried. I called dear friends before I even called my husband because I didn’t want him to hear my reaction. I wanted more children so badly! So why was I crying? Well, my husband and I had already been told he would deploy in Oct of 2010. It was March. I was due 9 months later, on Nov 10th. Damn that February vacation trip to see my husband in Washington!
Once I got myself together, realizing that it was up to me to get my husband through this, I called him, reassured him, told him: “I know it wasn’t the plan, but its such a blessing, we can be excited about this and, yes its okay to be sad.” I’ll never forget some of the reactions I got to my pregnancy- the one that made me want to dive across space between me and another was definitely the “at least your husband was around for the first two.” Or “I don’t know how you’re going to do it! You already have a 7 year old and a two year old,” “I could never do that”…and the comments went on and on.
So the next nine months went by with me and the oldest two in Mass, my husband moving from Washington to North Carolina, and preparing for his upcoming deployment while I got bigger (and crankier? Maybe- I plead the fifth here). People kept asking me if I was excited, the end was nearing, and to be honest, I wasn’t. Not because I didn’t want to meet our third daughter (YIPPEE! A silver lining, that came with even more annoying comments of: “Didn’t you want a boy?” “Don’t you want to give your husband a son?” Definitely exercised some restraint there; next time, though, I’ll make sure I fill out the order form). I wasn’t like most women, dying for the end of my pregnancy, because I knew the closer my due date came the sooner the deployment date came. Baby Girl #3 was due on November 10th, but due to previous complications, I was scheduled for a c-section on November 3, two weeks after my husband’s scheduled departure day. I hoped upon hope that by some miracle she would want to come out before he left and meet her daddy.
Finally the day came. It was time to take my older girls and make the drive to North Carolina to see their daddy off. Thirteen hours in the car at 38 weeks pregnant! I figured the worst that could happen would be I’d go into labor and he’d meet her. That was a chance I was willing to take. But she stayed snug as a bug! Figures. Little did I know, that was just the beginning of the most stubborn child I had ever given birth to!
Two weeks went by before November 3rd came. I went in for my c-section. Our plan was to skype in the operating room. I had my laptop, the doctor was on board. My husband was waiting with his internet connection all set up. But of course, I wasn’t near a military base, and we found out the hard way that there were no skype capabilities at my hospital. Well, sometimes you just have to roll with it. A few hours later my 3rd beautiful girl was born! 7lbs 1ounce. 19.5 inches long with beautiful dark hair, she was perfect! But nameless. How could I name her when my husband hadn’t seen her? I have never gone through the range of emotions I had on that day. It is so hard to describe how you can feel so much happiness….and sadness in one moment. How you can feel so blessed and so alone all at once.
The next day, a nurse took pity on me and was able to bring her laptop in and use her personal skype account, and wifi, so that my husband could his 3rd daughter for the first time. That nurse felt like my savior that day! My own personal hero. And baby girl got her name. Leia Liberty.
I knew it would be a long 7 months, but in my heart, I also knew that as long as 7 months would be for me, it would feel twice as long for my husband. To go 7 months knowing your child has entered the world and is changing every day and you haven’t met her yet is …well…crazy. So I documented everything I could, I sent videos, and pictures, knowing it was never enough. I sat on skype holding Leia every time he called. I kept her in the room everytime we were on the phone to hear his voice. I kept a picture of her dad by her bed.
I had no idea what I was in store for.
Only 4 weeks in and I had to call an ambulance because it was winter, she was so sick she couldn’t breathe, and it was the middle of the night. She cried non-stop every day, and all night. I couldn’t soothe her, I thought I was failing, and I knew I wasn’t giving my other two girls what they needed. Thanksgiving went by, Christmas, one daughter turned 3, the other turned 8, and still Leia cried. She didn’t just cry, she screamed and wailed and I took her to doctor after doctor, and no one knew what was wrong. It snowed by the foot every day, and there I was, recovering from a c-section, shoveling piles of snow in my free time so I could get out the driveway.
Then my 3 year old got sick. Her blood work was all wrong she slept all night and over 4 hours a day and she was losing weight and was pale. Then the doctor said the most horrific thing: “We have tested her for everything else, and we need to test her for leukemia.”
In the meantime Leia was breaking out in hives everyday and was finally tested for allergies. We had to put her under at 6 months for upper and lower GI testing before I was told she was allergic to dairy and soy. Okay, well, I could work with that. After some big diet changes Leia became a much kinder child! My 3year old got her test results 6 weeks later and we were blessed again: no leukemia. We still had to find out what was going on, but big relief there.
Did I mention, I had one other daughter? Well I do. She turned 8 during all this. And was a great reminder to me that we still had to do all the other things in life. Dance practice, horse-back riding, church, homework, lunch together, the park etc. Life had to be lived, and even when everything else was upside down, I wouldn’t allow her to stop living hers. Some of my relationships definitely suffered during this time period in my life; some got stronger. I learned who had my back and who didn’t. Who was there without my even asking. And my relationship with my husband was the strongest it had ever been. We took time to talk, because it was all we could do. In the middle of the day or the middle of the night (no one was sleeping anyway!) we put everything else away and we talked and reconnected. We talked about our kids, our life together our futures. We worried about the girls, prayed for good test results, and we shared old dreams and new dreams.
Finally, it was March! 7 months was up and it was time for my husband to meet his daughter and reunite with our older two. We drove to NC and we were so excited. Then everyday, for an entire week, they were delayed! Of course! I remember at one point, praying to God and just reminding myself- God, I have prayed over and over for You to bring my husband home safely to us and I am going to believe with all my heart that your are answering my prayers with these delays.
And then the call came, 4 am, he was HOME! He was at the hangar and he was waiting for us to come get him. And I packed those girls in the car and I drove there as fast as I could and he was in the parking lot waiting to greet us. And Leia at 7 months old, left my arms and went to her dad without a tear or cry or fear in the world. And all of a sudden, those 7 months melted away and all the pain and heartache and sadness was gone and my heart was whole and filled with bliss and I was wholeheartedly BLESSED. All that time on skype with her dad and Leia knew exactly who he was. And they may have lost 7 months togther, and maybe we’ll miss some more time, he has deployed since then, he deployed before then, who knows whats in the future, but God brought him home to us and we will have a lifetime together.
Editor’s note: Sarah’s husband kept a journal while he was deployed. Here are a few excerpts that go along with Sarah’s story…
03 Nov- My third daughter is being born today and I have decided to journal this deployment. I’ve been here for two weeks already.
I arrived in country just after 3 o’clock in the afternoon local on 22 Oct 2010.I looked up at the mountains and couldn’t believe I’m here again 5 yrs later. IDF
I was going back gathering my thoughts and starting this journal and we were attacked at this very moment. I heard a loud pop followed by a whistle. And then another. I heard the 2 impacts. They were very loud. I would estimate that they landed inside of 1000 yrds. The impacts shook the ground. I grabbed my flak and helmet and ran outside to hear 2 more pops and whistles.I ran back inside and Maj Smith asked “What the f–k was that?” I said “IDF, Sir.” I went back outside to organize the guard force. They were just standing outside the bunker not knowing what to do. I told them “Well, take some cover, don’t just stand out in the open.” I sent 2 patrols toward the road to cover our rear. Another Marine and I went to guard the South barrier. The rest guarded that main gate to our camp. It was pretty uneventful after that.
Continuing catching you up to speed, the very night we landed here, we got our first IDF attack.I was setting up my room and subconsciously heard 3 impacts in the distance. I didn’t pay much attention to them because last time I was here 5 yrs ago, you could hear helos out at the ranges and I guess that’s what I let myself believe them to be. Carlson said, “Dude, stop, that’s IDF I think.” We didn’t hear any horns or anything so we just carried on. About 3 minutes later, the guard force started blowing whistles and Capt Darcy came in our hooch and said, “Hey guys, hit the bunkers, we just got IDFed.” We spent about 20 min in the bunkers. I didn’t want to do that again, so I pretty much decided that from now on, I will assist the guard force. And after today, seeing the lack of idea of what to do from them, it’s probably best that I continue to do that.
As for today, 03 Nov 2010, it was my day on the rotation to fly, but I told Afta that I would not be able to focus on the mission due to Sarah having surgery to deliver our 3rd beautiful girl into the world. Cole flew with my crew instead. I went to medical expecting to be able to skype soon after she came out. Apparently, the hospital said they have a wifi, but they block webcams. I don’t see how that’s possible and I’m sure not gonna take the time to explain why, but anyway, I sat in the medical hooch because I was sure that was the quietest place to skype for an hour and 45 min, just waiting. Finally, I was able to call Sarah, not a video call though, but anyway, she told me that our little girl was here and that she was perfect. She also told me that she was in a recovery room and was doing fine also. We talked back and fourth for a while before deciding on her name. I wasn’t all that excited about Leia before because it reminded me too much of Star Wars. But after I decided to look it up, I felt a lot better about the name, in fact, I love it.The origin is Assyrian, which is Mesopotamia and Babalon in the Old Testament times, modern day Iraq. It means Ruler. I choose Liberty for her middle name to signify the time that she was born; I was here liberating the Afghanis from the Taliban. Leia Liberty was born at 1147 on 03 Nov 2010 at UMass Memorial. She was 7 lbs and an oz and 19 inches.
21 Dec 2010- Happy birthday to our second daughter! I flew a flag for her today. It was my longest mission. It wasn’t a 9.2 like one of the other guys, but it was my longest so far at a 6.0. We worked with some allies today. It was pretty routine.
25 Dec 2010- Merry Christmas. Things shuffled around a bit and now I’m not flying. Chow in the chow hall was good for the holiday. We ate together as a shop for lunch. I was glad to have skype to see the girls open their presents. It was almost like I was there. It was nice to be able to do that. Other than that, not much is different today.
1 May 2011- Well, this is it. All I need to do is wake up and get the jets airborne tomorrow. I only have 2 bags to my name out here. I can’t wait to see my girls again and meet a baby girl! It sure went by fast. I can’t believe it’s been 6 months. (Later) While we were gearing up for the flight out of dodge, we found out that Osama Bin Laden is dead. That was a good way to leave theater. I wish we could have had some kind of direct role in that, but alas. We’re going home.
10 May 2011- This is so frustrating. I thought I would have been home 4 days ago cuddling a new baby and the rest of my beautiful girls, to include my unbelievable wife. But I’m still stuck in Europe. We’re just sitting here. We sat so long, that now the tanker broke. Awesome, huh? Hopefully, we’ll get home tomorrow.
11 May 2011- Well, finally made it to the USA. After yesterday, being told I will definitely be on a jet home whether 3 or 5 launched, I still ended up, somehow on the tanker to McGuire AFB today. I leave here, luckily enough, on a contracted jet directly to our base. I’ll finally meet my baby and see the rest of my girls at 0600 tomorrow. I’m glad that my trip home, which is supposed to be a glorious experience, just became my worst nightmare!
12 May 2011- Finally, after the most hellacious travel, I met my baby Leia. She is so cute! She came right to me without crying and it didn’t take her long to smile at me. I could see her confusion though, from being used to seeing me on the computer and now there I was right in front of her. Our second was too cute. She never really expressed feelings so well before, but now she says how much she loves me and missed me. She’s such a big girl. Our oldest impresses me with her maturity. When I’d call to tell her I wasn’t going to be the home next day she’d say it’s ok. No whining or anything. She’s been so helpful. And my lovely, beautiful wife was perfect as always. I’m so glad to be home.