We tied the knot, flew down for the wedding celebration a few months later, and a few weeks later, we both came home with news to share. It went something like this:
Me: I’m pregnant!!!
Him: I’m deploying.
Y’all, it felt like my heart stopped. Like many other military marriages, my husband was gone for most of the pregnancy. No problem, I’ve got this. Other spouses have gone before me. If they can do it, I can do it, (right?). I can drive cross-country back home. I can have this baby alone. I can raise him on my own until daddy returns…if he returns.
My husband and I were so excited to be first-time parents. I think the eagerness of it all helped us overcome several typical stressors of deployments, although we certainly experienced those too. A few weeks before the due-date, we learned that he wouldn’t be able to fly home for the birth after all. What do you mean?! That’s not what we were told! Other soldiers are being sent home to go to school, but you can’t come home for the birth of our CHILD? That IS NOT part of our labor and delivery plan husband! Talk about needing a dose of expectation management. I couldn’t start drafting letters to our local legislators, advocating for expecting military families any faster than I did that night. It was my coping mechanism and my small way of helping others who would walk the same roads someday. In that moment, it helped.
How do you get over missing the birth of your child? I know some of you reading this are still there. Stuck. Unable to push past the anger or resentment that follows. My heart breaks for those service members because I saw how that one experience changed my spouse, who was still expected to be army-strong while deployed.
How do you go through labor without your best friend in life by your side? I know there are spouses out there still holding on to the hurt and trauma such an experience can cause. It didn’t matter that I had three women I love in that delivery room with me and nearly every family member on both sides waiting in the lobby for hours. Folks, it was like a chaotic version of “My Big Fat Greek wedding.” I can laugh about it…now. That morning, he continuously tried to call and stay on the line with me, but the hospital reception was horrible. At 2:09pm, the calls stopped. I still remember the image of that wall clock.
How did we do it?
That’s a loaded question because so much has happened through our military journey to yield the rainbows we’re experiencing right this moment. If you haven’t figured it out, we had rocky times, like so many of our military families do. We’re far from perfect. We were stuck like many still are today. That man has shown me, he is anything but a quitter though. He shifted his marital dance steps, leaving me with no option but to step on him, trip and fall, or shift my own steps. We started a new dance together. We work hard at being better partners every.single.day. We make the conscious decision and effort, daily, individually, and jointly. We’ve learned a new type of love language and so many factors have contributed to this. See, for a long while, we didn’t have other military couples who could relate and encourage us because they’d walked beyond the rockiest of roads. Most were still stuck back then too. I’m so grateful for those families whose paths led to Alabama and the couples who loved on us during our time there. The neighbors that waved at us daily and genuinely took interest in us. The ones we met with weekly. We had a sense of community again. We had mentors showing us a healthier way. They shared their stories, their struggle, their successes. They invested in us, and still do even though we’re miles apart. There is something to be said about the larger military family. I think that’s why Alabama stands out as my “sweet home” without doubt. It was a time for growth and reconciliation. A time to turn our experiences into fuel for thriving as a couple, instead of just getting by. A time to respond, instead of react. To listen more and become curious about one another again. A time to be courageous about what matters most, our marriage and our family.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen in on a wellness chat with Corie Weathers, Licensed Professional Counselor and military spouse. As I’ve reflected on what to share and what not to share in this blog forum, she touched on the topic of healthy boundaries and I want to extend that to any readers joining me today. If you’ve had difficulties in your marriage, there is value in sharing your story and being transparent and vulnerable. It’s equally important to consider your audience and what parts of your story are adequate to be shared outside of your most intimate circle of support. Your marriage is sacred. Over time, my spouse and I have learned to let down our pride and insecurities and share our story. We’ve also learned to protect our marriage and work through certain things together or with the help of a counselor or mentor.
If you’re like we were, you don’t like having your business out there. Perhaps you’re afraid to let others know your marriage is struggling because of your social status or military career. As I’ve reflected on “what’s helped” however, other couples sharing their stories helped. The couples who never had a care in their marriage didn’t help. The ones who were equally jammed didn’t offer much hope. The ones that recognized the struggle and reached down to help pull us out if it, helped. If you’ve experienced deployments, you’ve been changed through those experiences, and can’t seem to push through this season of “stuck,” be encouraged. Small steps matter. Here are a few resources for military couples that can help today:
Be well friends!