When my husband returned from his deployment last October I was so glad. Not only for the obvious reasons, but because the combination of the number of deployments and his proximity to retirement meant it was unlikely he would go again. I remember talking about how we would be like normal people now, planning vacations and school, never wondering if we would be together for the holidays anymore.
Last week when he called me to tell me he would be going again it was a big blow; I took it much harder than I had previously. There are no guarantees in military life and I shouldn’t have set up any expectation that he was done with deployments. As a seasoned spouse, I know this, but I couldn’t help it; I was hopeful.
I’m not going into too much detail, but he is going to miss the holidays with us (again) and he will be somewhere less safe than I would like. He will work 12 hour shifts 6 days a week for 6 months. He will also be working on his degree full-time. For him the busyness becomes a blessing as it keeps his mind from focusing on what and who he is missing. Every deployment and return has it’s adjustment period, the last few have brought him home a bit different than when he left.
For me, deployments mean scaling down work (and income) considerably as I prepare to pick up my husband’s portion of parenting as best I can. I will be paying bills, keeping house, organizing every appointment, ect. But I will also face another Thanksgiving and Christmas alone, just me and the girls. It is a lot of work to make the magic of the holidays happen by myself. I always do it though, because my kids already have to give up their dad, they shouldn’t have to give up holiday fun too. I will struggle to keep the laundry monster under control, but will stay up late many nights cleaning the living room just incase I get a knock on the door.
Deployments also mean balancing my own worries with keeping things positive for my kids. That is a task that gets harder as they get older. What used to be “far away work” they now call deployments. They used to believe their dad went to fight the world’s largest threat – Decepticons. Now they know there are bigger evils in the world. Before his last deployment my youngest daughter asked him how he fought in the war. He told her he fights with a computer. She came to me very concerned and asked me to get him a sword because a computer wasn’t going to be a good weapon. They all worry about their daddy.
As always his deployment is not the only thing going on in our lives right now. We are finishing a major kitchen repair that has left us with a partially functioning kitchen for months. We are trying to work in time to build a fence because we found out the hard way our chickens love to rip out every plant in the garden. Now household project are going to be fit in as best they can around outprocessing and a desperate attempt to get in as much family time as possible. Also, our oldest daughter will be leaving for college meaning I will be missing and worrying about both of them this year.
I am writing this because I want other military families to know they are not alone; we all struggle with deployments. I also want civilians to understand that it isn’t like a business trip, it has a huge impact on everyone in the home. I founded The Military Doula because teaching doulas to understand military culture (and subsequently better understand us) means better care for military families. I organize the Special Ops Doula volunteers because having a baby during the practical and emotional chaos of deployment is overwhelming. The least we can do is tell our military members their pregnant spouses won’t give birth alone, that we will be there to hold their hand.