I was six months pregnant with our second child and my husband was leaving on his first deployment to Afghanistan. My husband shipped out early in the morning so I stayed up late and we woke our son up early just to see Daddy off. Of course there were a lot of tears, hugs, and kisses between the three of us and I am thankful we were able to get a couple pictures of the moment. Saying goodbye is never easy and people can say “It’s not goodbye, it’s ‘see you later'” all they want, but it will never make parting any easier; however, we had faith that God was in control.
Explaining a deployment to a little kid is challenging and heartbreaking. When my son asked, I told him that Daddy had to go to work and it would be a while before he returned home. For the first couple weeks, my son would go to the patio door every day at lunch and at the end of the work day when my husband would usually be getting off of work and he would ask where Daddy was. My husband usually took our van to work, so when my son would see it was still sitting in the driveway he would get excited and I would have to explain to him again that Daddy was not home yet. Occasionally, my son would ask when the bus was coming back (my husband left on a bus) and would tell me that he was going to ride on a bus to go get Daddy so he could come back home–sometimes I feel having to explain to our son why Daddy was gone was the most difficult part of the deployment.
During the seven long months my husband was halfway across the world from us, we went through many trials only God could get us through. I had my fair share of worry wart moments, losing-my-mind mommy moments, and moments where I desperately needed an adult to talk to, but prayers and faith and a handy journal managed to get me through.
We came up with some ways to cope through the deployment–to keep my son busy I signed him up for soccer, began teaching him to read, cooked fun treats with my son. To keep myself busy I focused a little more on my blog, cleaned and organized every nook and cranny in the house, and tried to get out of the house every now and then for a playdate in spite of being very shy. We also found some products that helped us get along on the homefront such as my son’s Build-a-Bear with a recording of Daddy’s voice and a photo throw pillow and blankets from Shutterfly with Daddy’s pictures on them.
I am blessed to have a husband who loves to spend time with me and made a point to call or message or video chat with us whenever he had free time. We were able to talk almost every day, sometimes twice a day, during almost his entire deployment unless he was on a mission. Sometimes the WiFi would cut out or the quality would be very poor, but we still made an effort to talk just a little bit and made it our goal to at least tell each other “good morning,” “good night,” and “I love you” every day if possible. The highlight of our day was that hour or two that we were able to talk and keep each other up to date when we were just beginning our day in the states and my husband was just heading to bed. Being able to stay in contact so often definitely made the deployment a little bit easier on all of us, though our son began to think that his dad literally was the computer or the stuffed puppy dog or the telephone.
As I mentioned earlier, I was six months pregnant when my husband deployed which meant he would not be home for the birth of our second son. Not being very close to family, my grandma flew down and stayed with us a few weeks before and after I gave birth which was a huge help to me as she was able to watch my older son for me.
The day I went into labor, my husband was able to go to the USO and Skype with me. Unfortunately the internet at the hospital was not working most of the time I was in labor, but we managed to talk right before I was rushed to an emergency C-section due to complications. I was so thankful to have my husband “there” with me before I was taken away so he knew what was going on and then after for support. Our baby boy was taken to NICU so neither of us was able to meet him right away, but he was not in there for long and my husband’s face lit up when he met him over the computer. Our son was so tiny! I wish my husband could have held him and felt just how very tiny and precious our beautiful newborn was.
Now I was faced with a brand-new challenge, a mountain to climb if you will–being a new mommy of two. I am so blessed and spoiled to have two very happy, well-behaved little boys, but two kids was still a learning-curve. I had to learn how to plan my days around nursing my newborn every three hours while managing to still feed my 3-year-old and myself healthy meals, bathe them, clip their nails which is a big fear of mine, take care of sick kids while being sick myself, keep up with housework and grocery shopping all on my own–on top of all this, my newborn had colic his first month or two so he would cry all the time…until I was explaining this to someone, of course. Then he would be perfectly jolly.
Finally, we heard a return date! I cleaned every day to make sure it would be perfect for him when he got home. My 3-year-old and I made a banner. I picked out special outfits for all of us to wear–military outfits for the boys to show how proud they are of their daddy and for me a shirt in my husband’s favorite color and our very special Gemini Hero Beco Baby Carrier with a sign that said “Hugging my HERO for the 1st time.” It still seemed so surreal that my husband was finally coming home!!!
That special day arrived and I did not tell my oldest son why it was so special, but somehow he knew. We headed to the airport, a little late, so I prayed the flight would be delayed just a little bit. It was. The plane had to be de-iced and the resulting delay allowed me the extra time to get to the airport and have everything prepared just in time for his plane to land. I had no emotions–I think I was just so stressed trying to make everything perfect and rushing around that it still had not hit me that my husband would be there, in person, right in front of me in such a short time.
Everyone began to get excited. The terminal door was opened. Everyone found their places to stand. Just a few minutes before the plane began to unboard, I was overwhelmed with the realization that my husband was finally home and my eyes filled with tears. Our 3-year-old could finally talk to Daddy in person. My husband would finally hold his 3-month-old for the very first time. I was nervous and excited all at once.
That moment I saw my man walk through the door, back on American soil, back home, I forgot everything else that was going on. I tried to get my son to look up so he could see his dad walking towards him. I couldn’t wait and headed away from the camera that was videotaping us and straight over to my hero. Taking care not to squish the baby, I embraced him in my arms. Our older son hugged his daddy and wanted to be picked up. When my husband saw us, especially his newborn for the first time in person, he broke down crying. We all stood together, hugging and enjoying having our family together again, whole, as it should be–a moment I never want to forget. Ever.
Having my husband home has been a huge help to me and I am thankful that things went back to normal rather quickly for us as that is not the case for everyone. My husband is so helpful with both of our kids and the housework which has taken away a lot of my stress. With him gone for seven months, we missed many major holidays and events (our oldest son’s birthday and our newest son’s birth, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s) so we tried to celebrate some with him when he returned. I kept our Christmas tree up and we kept all of the gifts wrapped under the tree to open together when he got home. I even froze a plate full of the food from Thanksgiving for my husband to enjoy. My husband returned right before Valentine’s Day so we were able to celebrate it together; I found out that throughout his entire deployment he had been making me a very special gift for this holiday–a bouquet of flowers that will not wilt but will last a lifetime. I cannot put into words how very special this man is to me and how much I love him!
Of course, there were a few things that we had to re-adjust to. While my husband was deployed, I did a fairly decent job of keeping the house in order. When he returned, the house became messy quickly with all of his bags being unpacked and impromptu mini vacations and pushing aside the usual tasks to enjoy our time together. I am still working, slowly, to get the house back into order, but any mess is worth having him home. Then there is the matter of my husband returning to work. Any time he would even walk out of the house, our 3-year-old would begin to cry, even if it was just for a few minutes. When it was longer periods, he would tell me that Daddy can’t leave. I was thankful this time that I could tell him that it truly wouldn’t be long before his daddy was home and that this work was different.
This first deployment was a learning experience for us. While we had a long-distance relationship while we were dating and had time apart for military basic training and tech school after we were married and had our first child, it could not compare to being on two different continents. Our time differences posed challenges, but we figured it out. Not having help when needed and facing obstacles on our own was a challenge, but it showed us that we are capable of doing a whole lot more than we ever imagined for ourselves. Needing quality time together uninterrupted, privately, and without technical complications made us cherish the time we spend with each other as a couple and as a family. In a way, I feel as though we have been privileged as a couple with a fresh start, second “newlywed stage” if you will. As a family, I believe our bond has grown tighter. Our son is now especially fond of spending all the time he can with his dad learning and playing and looking up to him even more than before. Our newborn son is in love with his daddy and never wants to leave the safety of his arms. No one can make our baby smile or giggle quite as well as Daddy does. We have felt what it is like to miss something so terribly then to have it returned back to us once again and it has given us a new appreciation for all that we have.
We are so blessed and I praise God every day that we are all safely together again. While I am still not a fan of deployments and I hope we never have to be apart again, I am thankful for an experience that brought us to attention and taught us to appreciate more fully what we have. When we begin to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our busy everyday lives, we try to remember to take a moment to slow down, set everything aside, and just enjoy each other’s company. Now we are not just “as we were,” we’re even better.
Set aside your phone. Set aside the TV remote. Set aside your to-do list. Set aside your watch for a while and enjoy some uninterrupted quality time talking and laughing and playing games and getting to know each other better. Life is short. Make lasting memories together.
-Have you gone through a deployment or currently going through one? Have you given birth while your spouse was deployed? Share your story below! Also, be sure to check out my list of Deployment Freebies and Resources then follow Arts & Crackers on social media (click the buttons on the top right of this page.)