SOUTHWEST ASIA — Deployments are different after you have a child. I just never realized how different deployments would be once I became a parent.
This deployment I am a mother. Sometimes I wonder how a mother could leave her 1-year-old baby like I have done, as if I am abandoning my child in some way, but then I remember the reason why I do it. I do it not just for myself anymore, but for my son, and I get through the separation by remaining focused on why I am here and what I am here to do.
It began when I sat at my desk, nine months pregnant, reading an email stating I would deploy in a year. I hadn’t even had my child yet and already had to think about leaving him. On top of that, my husband was deploying at the same time.
How was I going to do this? How would I be able to handle leaving my new baby boy? How would I physically be able to get on a plane and not look back? More importantly, how am I going to ask someone else to care for him? I didn’t have a choice. I had a duty, an obligation that I was not backing out of.
Even knowing a year in advance could not prepare me for the emotions I would go through during this deployment. I was just getting the hang of being a mom, and now I felt as if I would have to start over.
One of the first times I saw my son on a video call, he held him arms out as if I was just going to scoop him up. As my son reached for me through the screen of the tablet and whined for me with desperation in his voice, I did everything I could to fight back tears, but it was no match for the feeling of helplessness that overcame me.
The helpless feeling comes from not being there. I can’t scold him when he does something wrong and I can’t teach him how to do something right, I can’t make him feel better when he is sick or put him to bed at night. Most of all, I can’t hold him, hug him or kiss him–all I can do is keep loving him from 8,000 miles away.
I have watched my son learn to talk, express his emotion and throw a ball all through a small hand-held screen. In that tiny box in the top corner I have watched myself grow. As each day goes by, it never gets easier, but I get stronger. The bond that I have with my son is not broken from this deployment, our bond is greater than ever and it will only help me to cherish the moments I do have with him and help me to become the parent I want to be.
My son won’t remember this time, but I will. As long as I am in the Air Force, it is something I could face again and many other parents also face each day. So when you look back upon these days, don’t think about what you missed, think about what you gained and what lessons you will be able to pass on to your child. Your strength and determination will make your child proud to call you mom or dad. That reason is enough to keep me going.
Whatever your reason is, keep doing it, because you are doing something greater for yourself and the future of your child.