Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday. And she was being worse than usual. I was wrangling her, wrestling with her, shushing her. And she was talking, yelling, playing. She wanted up and she wanted down. She wanted to sit, stand, lie down. And I felt exhausted. And huge.

I took her out, finally, and found the bridal dressing room open. We went in and I put her on the couch, where she instantly laid her head down. She was tired. I figured. I couldn't hear the Mass, and felt removed from everything. I didn't like it.

Then, she came in. I'd never seen her before.

"Hi. I come down here to visit my son and his wife every few weeks. I just want to say that you are the most beautiful pregnant woman I've seen. That you still come to Church, even when you are juggling a toddler and everything else alone, is so beautiful. And I am constantly praying for you and for the safety of your husband. Can I help hold her?"

I don't know how I didn't cry, but that was the nicest thing I had heard since my husband left. It meant so much.

I never want to look like a victim during this deployment, because I'm not. I chose this. And I am proud of that. I never want to look beaten down, depressed, or weary. I may feel like that some days, but I always try to put on a cheerful face, a joyful countenance. Because my family deserves it, my Soldier deserves it. But, this life is hard, and sometimes it is a juggle--sometimes, being the only parent is a wrestling match.

And the prayers are what get us--get me--through.

I am so touched when people tell me they are praying for us. It means so much. Because, despite having toughed through 204 days, not one of those days has beaten me, has beaten my family. Despite the distance, despite the limited communication, despite not having held his hand in a long time, we are still moving forward. Happily, healthily, faithfully.

Thanks to the prayers.

So, those of you out there praying for my little family: thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Those I know, those I don't. Those who are dear friends, and those who watch from afar. Thank you.

I've said it many times: the prayers are what get us through.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I imagine it'll be pretty weird.

My bed time routine is very strict. Get up off couch (where I've likely fallen asleep after having folded laundry, done sewing, cleaning the kitchen, and doing housework once Elizabeth is in bed), check on my sleeping daughter, make sure doors are locked, porch lights are on, and house alarm set. Grab it--the computer and charger--and head back to the bedroom. I plug it in next to my bed...just in case. And even though it whirs all night long, the price is totally worth the occasional pay off that comes in the form of a rare skype call.

When he gets home, I won't have to do that anymore--take that thing everywhere. On trips, to the living room in the morning and the bedroom at night, keep my cell phone in my pocket when I absolutely must be away from the computer.

I never was one for technology. I'm not a "texter' nor do I own a smart phone--a difficult and personal decision I made when my Soldier left. I have standard phone. It makes phone calls. It might have a camera on it, I'm not sure. Our satellite doesn't DVR and we don't own an i-anything.

But my computer and cell phone have stayed next to me the last nearly seven months. And they still have five more months duty.

When he gets home, I will finally be able to shut off the computer. Put my phone away. And that will probably be as weird as it is wonderful. No more whirring all night next to my bed. No more near-panic attacks when I realized I've left my phone in the car, in another room. No. He will be here. And I won't need them anymore.

Until then, I stay leashed to the electronics. Only about five and a half months until I can cut the, cords.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I thought, at first, I had become a "different person" when that second pink line appeared. I remember, shockingly, when it did (only two weeks after our wedding--honeymoon baby, anyone?) that I looked up into the mirror, my face white and my eyes like giant saucers. I was carrying another life inside of me.

While physically things began to change, I didn't change. Not until that moment. 11:09 pm. They laid her in my arms. And my life was never the same.

She was screaming--who can blame her? I pulled her in to me, and I cried. The entire room, everyone, everything disappeared. All that existed was she and I, together. Scared, in pain, and new people.

"I promise to always be a good mother to you." I spoke aloud. "I promise to try to always be the best to you. I know I'll fail sometimes, but I never want you to go to bed feeling unloved. I promise, Elizabeth, to always love you. I want to be such a good mother to you, okay? And I am going to try so hard. Because you deserve the best. You are beautiful. Never forget that."

I was sobbing.

Because I was a mother to an innocent person. To a person.

That was the most beautiful moment of my life. The most changing.

I hope I have made good on my word in the nearly two years that I have been a mother to her. I hope that she is a better person because of me. That I have improved her, helped her, aided her physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Because I live constantly with the fear that I am not.

That fear follows me in every action I do, in every word I speak, in every choice I make regarding her well-being. Regarding her. I hear the voice in my head, sometimes, telling me I'm not good enough, not trying hard enough. But, ultimately I know that, when my actions, words, choices are fueled by that love that was ignited in the delivery room that night, I'm doing alright.

When Richard deployed, that fear became stronger, more defined. I knew my patience was going to be tried to it's breaking point, that I was going to be the only parent she had for a year. I am responsible for providing all aspects of parenthood to her, something normally two parents do. If I run out of patience, there is no back-up, there is no one to tag team it. I do it alone. Constantly.

God, I hope I do it well.

She deserves the best. The best love, the best comfort, the best hugs and kisses. When I watch Richard parent her when he's home, I am left speechless by the caliber of the father he is. So loving, so gentle. It has brought me to tears. He never hesitates to get on the floor and play with her, even when he's getting ready for work and already wearing his uniform. He has no problem climbing on a rocking chair to hold her steady. He is the finest, most humble father.

And, to a certain extent, I have to make sure she gets that while he's gone, too.

I don't know if I am doing a good job. Only time will tell. I pray at the start of each day that I am a good mother, and at the end of some days I am left counting the ways I could have been a better mother.

Elizabeth, I love you more than words could say. I have been completely responsible for providing all comfort, love, joy, strength, and constancy to you for the last several months. Many times, you've melted into tears, crying for Daddy. Many times, you've gotten frustrated after skype calls, because you just don't understand. Many times, you are angry because you miss your Daddy and can't communicate it.

I expected all of this.

I expected the tears, the frustration, the anger. I knew that those times would surface. That I would have to drop everything and just hold you. Provide comfort. Give love. Offer strength. Be a good mother to you.

I never foresaw what I'd get. When I hold you, I feel comforted. When I love you, I feel loved. When I give strength, I get some back. You make me a good mother. I never expected that.

As much as it scares you, Tiny Girl, to be separated from me, it scares me as much to be separated from you. We are, truly, Battle Buddies. We are inseparable. When people joke about taking you away to live with them, my heart stops in fear.

No. I need her.

I still look into your eyes everyday, and get that breathless fear I had the day they laid you in my arms. But I try to prove it wrong. Because you deserve the best; you are beautiful. When I give love to you, when I make you feel whole, you do the same to me. I am creating a beautiful person, still. And you, in the same way, are creating a beautiful mother.

Thank you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's all about the little things.

I'd been looking forward to this morning for weeks. I am spoiled, though, so I knew what was coming. Especially if I just asked.

The appointment was early-ish. I was up at seven, showered and dressed, with my breakfast eaten by eight. The house was quiet and the early morning sun was streaming through the kitchen windows. I tip-toed back and saw her. Sleeping. So peacefully. So I let her continue. And I cleaned in silence. I read the paper. I just soaked up the sunshine and quiet.

We finally got called back. My doctor is the kindest man--he saw me during my daughter's pregnancy and delivered her the night she was born. He knows us. And he calls Richard "his friend." So, I asked. Mostly I just wanted to know if the baby was head down. But, I also wanted a peek at my baby.

So, he turned on the machine. Baby is head down. And moving. The giant knot I have felt in my right side is Baby's bottom. And the tiny moving swishes I kept running my fingers along last night were the feet. I knew it. Then, I saw my favorite part--the profile. Such a beautiful, cute baby profile. Baby flipped and faced us.

I can't wait.

I soaked that in, too. The baby--our baby, it's movements, that it's head was down. That we are only two months from finally meeting each other. That my daughter saw the picture on the screen and excitedly yelled out, "Baby?!"

I soaked in hanging out with a dear friend, spending time with the wives at the FRG meeting. Laughing. Talking. Relaxing.

I soaked in the skype call--just in time. I had just gotten home. He and I laughed. We talked about Baby. About coming home in several months. Such sweet conversation.

Each day, we have a choice. We can focus on the negative, or choose to soak in the positive. I can dwell on what's going wrong, or I can find the joy and beauty in front of me.

Today, I chose beauty, happiness, joy. Today was a beautiful day! Baby, friends, love. I am so blessed.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

I was sitting there in the breakfast room, feeding my daughter from the continental breakfast. We were feeling good. Six months in to our deployment today. I was feeling content. And then, I heard it. The News.

Thirty-one U.S. Soldiers died in a helicopter crash.

Thirty-one mothers, fathers. Sons, daughters. Wives, husbands. People.

And thirty-one doors were knocked on today. Thirty-one families' worst fears were realized in a single moment. He's not coming home.

Most days, I am confident, determined. I move forward, towards that date. So far away, but still there. I keep a happy face, I push through the difficulty, I operate a househould and raise a family alone. And I feel content. Most days.

But, everyday, I mask that fear. I ignore the torment.

What if???

I am not supposed to think about it, not supposed to dwell on it. We spouses ignore the fear, pretend it's not there. But it is. Deep down, and rooted firmly. That's why we live email to email, skype call to skype call. Because we know. They are still there. And those days that the calls don't come, the inbox is empty--

They scare us. Scare me.

I saw his face today. Laughed with him. Hoped with him. Talked with him. He's okay. For today.

But, each day is a new day. Each day is a new wait, another unit of time to hope through, pray through. Beg God that your Soldier makes it through.

They didn't. And their families were just living another day. Laundry. Nap time. Meals. Play dates. And in the midst of living, hoping, praying, their doorbells rang.

Tonight, as I crawl into bed, knowing that today my husband is okay, I pray for the souls of the fallen Soldiers. I pray for the wives left behind. I pray for the children, who will wonder where Daddy, where Mommy has gone.

I pray. I pray for the safety of all our Soldiers. Of all the families with loved ones deployed. Because all of us lost a members of our large family. All of us were shaken to the core. All of us were reminded of that God-awful fear. That our Soldier might not make it home.

God bless our Soldiers and their families. May the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace.

Friday, August 05, 2011

I saw him, sitting across the restaurant. Alone. He got up, walked to the drink station, and I saw his rank emblazoned on his camouflage--the same as Richard's. My heart hurt for a moment. His walk was wearied, proud, determined.

I finished lunch and, on the way out, I stopped at his table. He looked up.

"Sir, thank you for your service. I really appreciate what you do."

His tired face lit up. "Thank you, ma'am. I just got back from Afghanistan and..." he smiled bigger, "I'm on my way home to see my family."

"My husband is deployed--we're halfway through now."

"Oh--Congratulations! Each day is a challenge, but you'll make it."

There was a sudden ease, a sense of understanding. We talked a few more minutes, and went our separate ways. United in the service, humbled by gratitude.

In this lifestyle, understanding is so important, because so many people cannot completely understand. It's not their fault. Unless you walk this path, there's so much that cannot be explained, cannot be fully comprehended. But, when you see the uniform, sense the family-like tie, there comes with it a sense of acceptance that cannot be put into words.

This tired, wearied soldier was heading home to see his family...and was eating alone. A military wife approached him, and thanked him for his service. And from that moment, both gained a sense of determination to finish, a commitment to see our missions through. His is very nearly done, because he's not fully Home until the Soldier is in his family's arms. Mine is on the second half, and I am finally seeing a very blurry distant light.

We both were wearied. Each day is a challenge. But we will make it. We will prevail. Because in this world of camo and combat boots, in this calendar of counting down and counting up, each Soldier, each military wife and child is a family. And through that sense of understanding, we will make it. We will prevail.

Please remember to thank our Soldiers for their sacrifice...