I’ve been gone a while, not sure if anyone was really paying attention before and I definitely doubt anyone missed me, it’s a little strange right now, the whole world has been thrown into complete and utter chaos so it seems odd and uncomfortable to just pop back up out of nowhere and…. do whatever this is exactly.
And so much has happened since I last posted/updated. I’m sitting in my living room right now, on a soft well worn red chair gifted to me (on loan) by my parents, I’m no longer in NY, I left right before the first case of Covid was reported, literally just a few days. It’s crazy to think about it, think about how fast it spread and how bad it got, I think we all knew how bad it COULD get, but I think a lot of us didn’t care and… here we are. However at the time it was just background noise to the rest of my life.
That inevitable deployment came up, and it came up fast! Hit me like a ton of bricks despite the fact that I was constantly telling myself and those around me that I was prepared and it would only be a little different than the month(s) long training exercises he was away for, it was only different in the sense, I would say to those who asked, because it was dangerous. It was uncharted territory yet to be navigated and truthfully I didn’t want to think about it.
So I’m here, back in Kentucky 8 months pregnant with baby #2 while my big little baby is napping. The entire house is silent, the dog is passed out ‘guarding’ the back door and I’m just sitting in my temporary living room shocked at how it all happened and how I’m here so suddenly and so alone. It was pretty early on in my pregnancy when discussions of a deployment came up, I pushed it aside because the way gossip on base works for me is: unless he comes home with paperwork there’s nothing to prepare for.
But I guess there’s a lot missing from then up until now. And the most important thing to me is that we’ve managed the trip to our temporary new home and have settled and adjusted accordingly. J has done so well and acclimated like an absolute champion, and given all the current world circumstances I couldn’t be luckier to have a child that is naturally so happy and roll with the punches.
It doesn’t make him an angel! Not in the least! We are of course on the cusp of terrible twos and he’s given mom some amazing previews of what to expect, I think he’ll be a decent big brother, and I say decent because I’ve seen how jealous my little chunk can get, I can’t say I blame him, it’s been a lot of change in a short span of time, he’s handling it as best someone so small can. The belly rolls and punches are strange and definitely not his cup of tea! But there have been gentle belly pats and stumbled “baby” from time to time.
All that sappiness and shortcuts aside.
THE paperwork did in fact come, but it was the start of a long chain of paperwork that would fester into this huge problematic monster for us. This was not the usual form or two that gave direct somewhat concise instructions on what to expect. No. It was more of an invitation to a briefing with the smallest amount of information possible to slowly get the ball rolling that this was in fact happening.
We both handled the news differently. “It’ll be fine, it’s not that big of a deal, we’ve gone longer apart right? It’ll probably just be small like 6 months.” (Ha! The dates of return are still up in the air, naturally)
The closer it came the more anxious I became, I was getting bigger and further into my pregnancy, we didn’t have a solid plan in place for what exactly we were going to do, we made plans and threw them away the next day on a whim, we pushed planning back and back and back until finally we couldn’t do it anymore.
Facing a potential nuclear war on top of a deployment and the normal oddities of pregnancy you can only imagine what kind of denial I was living in. During the day I tried to be calm cool and collected and stick to the regular routines and schedules we’d made for ourselves since first landing at Drum. I even finally took the plunge of getting myself and my son involved with playgroups, it wasn’t anywhere near as daunting and painful as I thought. In fact, after the first few go rounds I was relieved and welcomed this new part of the routine as I finally had adult human interaction that wasn’t strictly based around my little one.
However, for all the delays we’d had in waiting for his orders to arrive and even just getting word that he was in fact deploying with everyone else coupled with a long awaited promotion we got a series of dates. It was suddenly very real and very much happening so we needed to buckle down and get it together. It was easy to do what needed to be done during the day, there was in fact a whole lot of stuff we could have and should have done prior that would have left us more time to just spend together as a family. But stubbornness and not wanting to face the music of course came back to bite us. Or mostly me. My husband had a vague idea of everything that needed to be done, he just needed to get me on board and a solid plan so he didn’t have to worry about us while he was away.
I won’t get into a checklist, I’ll save that for another post, but I will say ASK QUESTIONS. And tons of them, it doesn’t matter if you think it is dumb and makes you look silly the answer might surprise you and in the end it always leads to a new avenue of questions you wished you asked sooner. And your own pile of paperwork you wished you amassed the day your spouse says they’re enlisting, I’m not kidding, not sure how many of you are aware or know what an I love me book is, but you WILL for sure have one of your own, it doesn’t matter if you choose to stay on post during your spouses deployment or return to a place where you’re closer to family and friends (ha) you WILL for sure have one! Especially if you don’t want to be blindsided by a ‘minor’ inconvenience which turns into a complete sh*tshow.
I’ll save all the ‘boring’ details for a checklist post but one thing that I noticed most checklists never mention is the one thing that saved me.
Mom friends. Or friends in general if you don’t have any children, don’t be so quick to turn your nose up at the idea of befriending your spouses coworkers partner. 9/10 it’s a good match and the relationship doesn’t have to strictly be formal, you’ll notice you’ve seen them around before, they attended the same events you did, you’ll probably even bond over the mystery of how to eliminate dog hair from your own hair and oven (yes the oven) and politely tell your spouse to pick their sh*t up off the living room floor cause that isn’t where it belongs.
I wasn’t keen on telling everyone what was going on considering I didn’t know exactly myself. I looked online and read every article under the sun late at night when I couldn’t get comfortable and sleep evaded me out of spite, they helped comfort me a little, but the truth was I had no one to ask. No one I felt comfortable going to and breaking down saying: I’ve been in idiot, this is actually happening what the f*** are we going to do now.” at least not on base anyway, it was and still is a fairly new place to me.
Naturally you’d think the first person you should go to for support is your lifelong friends right? Wrong! (Well for me that is)
And that led to serious resentment. But why? DISCLAIMER: everyone’s friend group is different, and I’m not saying I didn’t overreact. We all have our own circus acts to deal with and life is complicated and things arise that you don’t plan on, however (and I myself am guilty of this) if a friend comes to you about a situation you haven’t lived through, or maybe don’t have much experience with? It’s probably best to just listen and NOT turn the situation around on them and turn it into a problem solving conversation about yourself.
Do I sound bitter? And mean? Yes I probably do, but it’s how I felt, isolated, and aggravated. How could someone push my fears and stress and sadness aside because they couldn’t see past how it would ‘effect them’ the resentment was and still does rear it’s head strongly at times. I’m working on it, but it was how I felt and still do at times and I’m learning to work through that.
With that being said…. read the next part with a grain of salt?
The resentment came from the responses to the news, now I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when you’ve been friends with someone since you were 5-8 or so and you grow up fairly close and then keep regular tabs on each other because life does happen and people do drift apart, you expect….. something, I don’t know what the word for that something is, but when that person turns right around and inquires about how that will effect them and their plans? It hurts.
When those people never reach out to see how you’re doing, or just speak to you for a favor or a pat on the back? It makes the resentment worse, takes away from progress you could be making to stabilize your plans and get last minute things done before it gets down to the VERY last minute.
So when you suddenly have to shift from: please, I just need someone to talk to and tell me it’ll be alright” to: it won’t effect you! I’ll be there for YOU! You can still count on me!” It tends to make you close yourself off and stew in silence. I have been amazingly supported by family and people who I would call ‘Facebook friends’ which made me feel worlds better. But the closeness you once thought you had with friends you thought you could count on makes you (or at least me) feel like you’re about to go through something so big alone.
My pride is still not allowing me to tell these people how much they’ve hurt me and I refuse to be seen as struggling with any type of emotional issues around them because I don’t want them to feel like they need to drop everything and support/comfort me. To be honest I don’t think I need it anymore. As these situations arise, new and old I’m finding it worlds easier to handle them than I ever thought imaginable. But that’s besides the point and off topic and a discussion for another day, I’m just saying, brace yourself, sometimes people surprise you in the worst of ways.
Here’s where the mom friend comes in. I don’t make friends, I didn’t know how, I felt intimidated and terrified of screwing up and saying the wrong thing to the wrong person and getting my husband in trouble, tried to keep everything surface level and make sure I wasn’t stirring the pot in anyway shape or form. Which was a horrible existence! Between working and spending my free time with J (not that I’m complaining, he’s an amazing baby) I never had any adult interaction outside of whenever my husband was home in the evenings from work, we’d see each other in passing during lunchtime and maybe squeeze in some time during the morning routine for conversation, but more often than not it was just the days events discussion, getting everyone dressed and hairs combed into place, eating making sure we had matching socks.
Not fun, but it worked for us, at least up until deployment conversations took over our evenings, but I’m getting off topic again.
Well then how did you make friends? My kid. Yup! My son just like my husband opened up an avenue for friendships I previously would have turned down or just been too timid to approach and pursue. The mom friend is a rare wild breed and if you manage to catch yourself one or two good ones you better not screw it up! I’ve been so lucky to have met a group of women running in the same playgroup circle who had already been through what I was about to tackle head on.
And ones who were just as anxious and scrambling for answers as me, I suddenly felt a weight lifted and like a bit of an as*hole for not expressing my fears and doubts to these ‘strangers’ sooner.
They didn’t make me feel dumb, inadequate or foolish, in fact they seemed to take myself and the other first deployment moms/spouses under their wing without being condescending and snarky. The amount of things I never thought I would need and didn’t even consider getting while my husband was away? Alarming to say the least. And had they not pointed me in the right direction and told me the best times to go and where to put what I probably wouldn’t be making this post, which if you’ve made it this far I’m almost finished I promise.
People can feel and seem intimidating and maybe they are, I also know not everyone has kids and needs mom friends/friends, the point I’m trying to make is that I was so quick to cut myself off from everyone who didn’t respond the way I expected them to, I didn’t want to hear it from anyone. I didn’t even want to consider meeting new people at such a stressful time and yet going out and doing just that was the best thing that I’d ever done.
It helped me and my husband broach that difficult topic of what as a family works best for us while he’s away, budgeting, keeping each other in the loop and not reading into text conversations with a negative tone because the last thing we needed/need to do is fight. (Also if you aren’t voluntold to attend an OXYGEN class or whatever else they call it, I highly recommend, probably sounds boring coming from your spouse or like a waste of time but I promise you it isn’t. You also get food out of it so that’s nice!)
Meet people! Talk to them, it’s okay to do the awkward song and dance about meeting up and exchanging numbers, it’s hard but it’s worth it! Maybe they were stroking my ego but apparently I taught them some things even they didn’t know, and I made some amazing friends as well! It’s been hard, it could be harder. It’s good to be connected to other people who are sharing the same difficulties and hard times ahead as you are, but don’t close yourself off from your ‘civilian’ friends either, their version of a crisis and hard road ahead may look vastly different from ours but that doesn’t make it any less valid.
I could have handled communication better no doubt! But the main takeaway for me was to take a step back, take a deep breath and reevaluate, I could have saved myself so much time and so many headaches and arguments if I’d just gone into this with a level head, admittedly that IS easier said than done.
Actually it WILL be harder, I left out all the breakdowns and crying but I’ll come back to that at a later time. I already know it’s going to be nuclear level meltdown after I have my second child but for now I’m shocked and proud of myself, we are making it work. I have support and I’m learning to be thankful for everything that has been gifted to me during this difficult process and I’m hoping I can pay it forward some day.
This is probably all over the place, what post of mine isn’t? I’m trying to straighten it all out in my head to be fair. But for now? I’m going to have a snack and put this baby to bed, ask questions, make friends, don’t be too shy, the worst that happens is…. I don’t know but it probably isn’t as bad as you’re thinking.
P.S I haven’t stopped keeping an eye on my health/fitness, but cut back drastically due to pregnancy concerns, I will save that for another time, hopefully no one laughs too much at my inability to touch my toes at 4 months pregnant!