We all make choices. Some choose to be service members; others choose to be married to one. In my case, I chose both.
Military life is full of challenges and sacrifices that we and our families make every day. We deal with things like relocations and deployments, which can cause extra responsibilities and stress on those left behind. And sometimes we miss holidays and special events, but it comes with the contract we sign.
My husband and I recently lived through one of the “tougher” experiences that come with being a military family.
It started with a nauseous feeling in my stomach Sept. 7, 2011. Soon after, my husband and I met with a base nurse, and she confirmed I was pregnant. We couldn’t have been happier.
We had no idea those feelings of joy would be dampened that very afternoon. My husband received notice of a shortfall deployment tasking to Southwest Asia. I couldn’t believe it. He wasn’t supposed to leave now; we had just found out we were having our first child together. Our joy from the news of my pregnancy was tempered by the news of his upcoming deployment.
I became emotional. My husband would not only miss my last trimester of pregnancy but also the birth of our daughter. Childbirth is one of the most memorable experiences a mother and father share. How was I supposed to go through that alone?
He left at the end of January. The months lagged by. Nothing about my pregnancy was easy toward the end. I had a trip to the emergency room and multiple doctor appointments each week due to pregnancy complications.
But, I made a wonderful discovery. For example, I am still amazed by the amount of support I was offered in my husband’s absence. Between my coworkers and his, I had more than enough. Not only that, I was offered assistance by my husband’s previous squadron commander as well. And there’s more. I have some amazing friends who supported me every step of the way.
Despite that, there were lonely times of having to do things on my own. During pregnancy you have to be ready for anything and everything. When the unexpected, or even expected, happens we know the absence of our spouse doesn’t make them impossible to accomplish — just sometimes more difficult.
I was scheduled to be induced May 8, but because of room availability it was postponed. I waited for a phone call from the hospital letting me know when they had a room open. It came around midnight the next day. I put my bags in the car, dropped my son off with a friend and headed to the hospital.
After being there for a few hours my friends from work came to support me and do what they do best, document the event.
Around 2 p. m. things started happening quickly. As they prepped me for delivery, I video called my husband, and the girls prepared the video and camera equipment. At 2:03 p.m. my beautiful baby girl was born.
Although he was not there with me, we were fortunate enough to share the experience via the Internet with more than 8,000 miles between us.
Months went by and it didn’t get easier as I cared for our new daughter and marveled at the wonder of her. I was sorry I couldn’t share these experiences with my husband. Then came Aug. 3. My husband completed his deployment and was coming home.
My daughter and I waited at the airport gate for his arrival. I felt a range of emotions. My hands were shaking, and I felt a sense of relief but also sadness that he’d missed so much. For weeks I had been imagining what it would be like to see him again, and when he walked up in uniform, it was surreal.
My daughter’s expression is what I remember most. I don’t think I’ve seen a bigger smile on her face than when she first laid eyes on her daddy. It was love at first sight. She had seen and heard his voice everyday via video calling, creating a bond I wasn’t aware of.
My husband has been back now for a few weeks and life couldn’t get much better.
No one ever said joining the military was going to be easy, but I learned the military takes care of its own, not only by friends and coworkers, but through programs to support and help families cope with the absence of a loved one.
For more information about what Luke Air Force Base offers, call the 56th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center at (623) 856-6550 or the 56th FW chapel at (623) 856-6211.
Support for Families Available at Luke AFB:
- PLAYpass: Provides recreational and support services to deployed families and returning deployers for 30 days or more.
- Hearts Apart: A monthly support group with opportunities for spouses and their children to enjoy free food, relaxation and conversation with others who have deployed family members and company of others. Activities include laser tag, miniature golf, bowling and crafts.
- Give Parents a Break: A program that provides a free four-hour childcare session for children ages 1 to 12.
- Marriage Care Retreats: All-expenses-paid weekend for married couples to help them reconnect
- Deployed Spouses and Family Dinner: A night of free food and entertainment held monthly for deployed families.
- Dinner Without Dishes: A night of free food held every other month at the dining facility for deployed families.
- Car Care Because We Care: Offers a free oil change for deployed families at the Firestone on base.
- Bring ‘Em Home Breakfast: A breakfast held every other month to help families make the return a positive experience. Child care is provided.