Many of you may not know this but my husband served in the Marine Corps for 6 years. When we met in high school at 14 years old he always told me he wanted to be a Marine. Rocking his USMC shirts and dreaming big, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that was what he wanted to do. His senior year in high school (2006) he signed on the dotted line and committed his life to 6 years in the Marine Corps as a reservist.
In 2008 he served in Iraq returning November of 2008, we were married November of 2009 (after just turning 21) and 3 months later we were pregnant with our first child. We always have chosen to live life on our own terms and not what "society" says is too quick or too young. Married young, pregnant quickly after that, while our friends were still juniors in college. We were beyond thrilled to welcome our first daughter Lila into the world in December of 2010. Drew was instantly just so deeply in love with our daughter. She was and still is HIS GIRL! At this point my husband was still attending AT training in the summer and drill every month at his unit just like he normally did. In March of 2011 (our sweet girl just 3 months old) he returned home from a long drill weekend. We were excited daddy was home and couldn't wait to enjoy lots and lots of snuggles. It was within 20 minutes of him being home, I knew something wasn't right. That is when he shared with us that he was in fact deploying again. He is holding our brand new baby, as tears poured down my face, my heart was just broken. We called our families, shed many more tears and the clock began counting down.
Although we knew he would not leave for another 6 months, you can't help but immediately feel as if time is slipping away faster than you can enjoy it. Jam packing lots of fun into a couple of months knowing we would live apart for 8+ months. In October his deployment began! One week after he left, at just 10 months old our daughter walked for the first time. We skyped to show daddy all of her awesome skills! She dressed up for her first Halloween, enjoyed her first Thanksgiving, Santa visited our home for the first time and she had her first nibble of cake. One year of parenthood celebrated together via Skype in two different countries and time zones. Her first set of stitches, first time she had tubes put in her ears, first time she ate certain foods. All of these things occurred, all while daddy was gone. As happy as I was to experience these wonderful first moments, I never could fully enjoy it because the guilt was overwhelming at times. My husband would of given his left arm to take her to the park, cuddle with her at nap time and kiss her boo boos. But this wasn't possible and that crushed me. Yes, we fully 100% knew and understood the job he was taking on. Deployments, training and long weeks/months away was all part of the job and when I said I do to my Marine, I knew life would be a little different. Fully understanding this and finding peace in the fate of your life is two totally different things. While this is his job and what he "signed up to do", that doesn't change the sadness you feel.
One day in particular during his deployment I remember I was overtired and overwhelmed. My house was a wreck, Lila was sick with an ear infection and not sleeping at night. All she wanted was to be held and all I wanted was a solid night of sleep. The laundry was piled up, dirty dishes in the sink and one super fussy baby. I stood in our closet and held my husbands shirt. Held it tight and sobbed. It still smelt like him, it was untouched from the last time he wore it. Sobbed. Ugly, snot cried. I felt as if I just couldn't do this alone. I was overwhelmed, tired, exhausted, sad, every single word in relation to this feeling would be acceptable. And it clicked. I can either feel bad for myself, have pity for all of the negative ways we have been effected or I can make the best of our situation and realize others have it much worse than me.
I printed pictures of Drew placing them on our fridge, walls and everywhere in between so when Lila was cruising in her walker she would constantly see his face, point and say dada. I had a daddy doll made for her (yes a doll with his picture on it) for her to carry around and nap with. I made goals for myself. Jam packing trips, activities and get togethers during my week. Lunch with a friend, visit family, shop in Williamsburg, etc etc etc. Anything to fill a day up I would. We found joy in finding treasures to ship to daddy, ways to play peek-a-boo on Skype. We made it work. I joined a mom's group at a local church and reached out to a girl named Tiffany on Facebook. Knowing she stayed home and we had similar beliefs, I figured it couldn't hurt to try to be mom friends. Little did I know those simple steps would change the path of my life. Tiffany is now my best friend and keeper of all my secrets/struggles. I joined their church and met some of my absolute best friends in the entire world. I grew as a person, I became a better me/better wife/better mom. Somehow these simple steps changed how I looked at my situation. I wasn't crying to myself in a closet but finding joy in making paper countdown chains and talking life with friends. Yes, I still would cry and be sad but I found peace and joy in my situation despite how frustrating it was.
This blog post may not relate to you (and that is okay) but it can relate to your neighbor, your friend from high school or a distant relative. They could be struggling with life, going through a deployment. Reach out to them, tell them you are thinking of them. Offer to ship a gift to their significant other as a thank you for your service. Homemade cards by your kids for their unit. Any little act of kindness for these families or these men/women overseas means SO much.
This blog post may hit the nail on the head. You are exhausted. You are crying in your closet as we speak. You are frustrated nobody understands how you feel. You are mad because your dear friend is trying to relate to you in all the wrong ways. No your friend's husbands two day business trip isn't anywhere similar to 9 months of living apart. I hear you. I so so so hear you. Pick yourself up, wipe your tears and get planted in a community group. Build life long friendships. Make friends with someone who despite never going through what you are going through, they can speak life into your heart.
I am so thankful to have gone through this. As hard as it was, this deployment 6 years ago changed the path I took. God wrecked my life at this time. Allowing for personal growth, spiritual growth and more of an appreciation for our relationship. We walked away telling ourselves "we will never take for granite the time we have together." We have truly tried to live by this and I always try and remind myself of this constantly. No days are promised, life is so short. Build memories together while you can!
If you are a military family/military member/know a military family:
I have something special for you. I appreciate your service, your dedication to our country. I appreciate you and so do so many others.
There is a link below for a giveaway of some amazing products! Please enter your information below to enter. If you are not a member of the military/military family but you do know someone who is, feel free to still fill this giveaway out because you can win this awesome swag for someone! If you are a single dude entering because you meet the criteria and wonder what in the world you are going to do with a pair of leggings I just scored you a mother's day gift or shoot a Christmas gift for your sister.
Thank you to the AMAZING people who made this giveaway possible!
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BELOW IS THE LINK TO THE GIVEAWAY!