Cameron and I survived the bad times...
and the crazy times...
and the wonderful times.
Johnnie was on the other side of the world...
living in a place vastly difference than our lush island home...
that looked like the planet Tattooine in the Star Wars movies...
If you don't have children and your spouse (or boyfriend or fiancee) deploys, it sucks and you miss them and you keep yourself busy so that you don't sit around and dwell on them being gone. Although everyone goes through the same emotional stages of deployment, some people handle it much better than others. I know some wives who become very fragile and reclusive when their husbands are gone and others who take it for what it is and enjoy the time they have to themselves to learn new skills, take classes in something, work on hobbies, exercise, take trips, visit family, connect with other wives, watch chick flicks every night, etc. I would rather Johnnie never leave and I certainly miss him like crazy when he is away. However, I always appreciated the alone time because I could refocus myself and get a lot done.
When you have children, deployment becomes a whole different ballgame. Two different ballgames actually... depending on how old your children are. There are different challenges that come with being alone with babies/toddlers who depend on you for everything and being alone with older kids who are more self-sufficient and understand what's going on. The younger your kids are, the less extra time you have for the things listed above because your days are
This deployment was stressful. Not simply because Johnnie was gone (I'm very used to that) but because he left while I was dealing with post-partum hormones and trying to adapt to a whole new life with a baby. We live on an island in the middle of an ocean which is an expensive plane ride away from all family. I did have family here for a few weeks which was more helpful than I realized at the time. I also had neighbor friends for company and support. One of my neighbors actually kept our yard mowed and brought me food once in a while which I am very thankful for. The hardest thing was not having any breaks or help with normal everyday life as it was with a new baby.
Although I try to keep our Family Friday posts as real as possible, I know you couldn't have gotten the complete picture of what our life was really like during the deployment. Here it is - the good, bad, funny, and sad...
My deployment truths:
- I don't remember much about the first half of the deployment. Cameron was still in the newborn phase and I was in survival mode. I know that I was sleep deprived and really stressed out (more about the baby than the deployment). I was honestly miserable and I have subconsciously blocked most of it from my mind.
- The second half of the deployment was profoundly better. I stopped breastfeeding which made both of us happier, Cameron's fussy evenings ended, we both started sleeping better, I started drinking coffee again and having more productive days, we developed a great daily schedule/routine, and I became better able to handle doing everything on my own.
- I looked like a bum 90% of the time. Minimal makeup (if any at all), hair in a ponytail with my stupid puff of new baby bangs sticking out in the front, frumpy shorts and old t-shirts. One day I put on exercise clothes to go to the grocery store because it looked more put together than anything I had and I could wear a hat to cover my hair.
- I ate a limited variety of food while Johnnie was gone. In fact, the primary list included only nine items: protein smoothies, bars (Luna, Lara, and Clif Kid), salmon, chicken, frozen veggies, bananas, oatmeal, eggs, and chocolate. I occasionally bought and ate other things but I purposefully tried not to because I will eat an entire loaf of bread or pack of cookies within two days if it's in the house... I actually have little will-power when it comes to food.
- As the only adult in the house, I could eat whatever and whenever I wanted. I love my protein smoothies and I love salmon so to be able to eat those things every day was glorious! It was wonderful not having anyone to
yell at meencourage me to eat better when I ate copious amounts of chocolate chips, ate nothing but cereal for an entire day, or had only beer and popcorn for dinner (yes, all of those things happened many times). It wasn't that I couldn't eat better, it was that I didn't want to and I loved having the freedom to do so.
- As a "single parent" and stay-at-home mom, I have become very in-tune with Cameron and her wants, needs, moods, personality, etc. It's a pretty awesome feeling :)
- However, being the sole caregiver of a baby 24/7 is beyond exhausting both physically and mentally. There were times when I desperately wanted a break but all I could do was trudge along and pray for bedtime to come quickly. There were times when I had to put Cameron down, walk away, and let her cry for a while because I was at my limit of sanity. There were times when I slammed a few doors, screamed out loud, ferociously cleaned the kitchen, or ran a 9 minute mile pushing the stroller because I was so extremely frustrated and needed to get it out. Once in a great while I would remember to treat myself to a hot bath or a night of girl talk and wine on a friend's porch... I really should have done that more often.
- I let my car completely expire (the inspection, the plates, and the base pass) kind of on purpose. Those things required multiple trips to multiple places with a lot of waiting around. Johnnie's car only needed one thing renewed (much more doable with baby) so I did that and drove his for the last couple months.
- Some nights Cameron didn't get a bath because I was simply too tired to give her one. Not that she necessarily needs a bath every night. So I guess that the bigger issue is that there were many days that I didn't shower myself because I was too tired and/or wasn't going anywhere anyway. I'll even admit to going an entire week without washing my hair.
- The downstairs of our house was never more than 10 minutes from being clean because that's where we spend most of our time. The upstairs (apart from Cameron's room) was a total disaster for six months. Even Johnnie's side of the bed was usually covered with clothes that I washed but never bothered to fold and put away.
- Running is something I look forward to doing but I specifically ran in the early evenings because I honestly didn't know what else to do with Cameron. We have a 3 hour time frame in the evenings to fill and we can only eat and play for so long. Putting her in the stroller and going for a run gave me time to myself to think and allowed her to relax and take a short nap.
- Everything about a baby takes twice as long with no help. For example, it takes about an hour to get Cameron fed, bathed, and in bed every evening. Then after she is asleep, it takes another hour to clean up from the day, get things ready for the next day, and feed myself. Now that Johnnie is home, we are done with everything in half the time. Team effort makes such a huge difference!
- Poor Dulce did not get the attention she craved when Johnnie was away. She is such a cuddlebug but unfortunately I was usually occupied with Cameron or household tasks. I made sure I played with her a little each day but I know it wasn't as much as she wanted.
- With Johnnie gone, I could watch whatever I wanted on the TV. I chose to watch every single episode of Star Trek The Next Generation in order on Netflix. Yes, I am a Trekkie nerd. Out of 178 episodes, there were only 4 that I had never seen before. Mind you, I never just sat and watched TV... I didn't have time for that. I needed to multitask at all times so I only watched TV while I was eating, sewing, folding laundry, or feeding Cameron. Cameron didn't watch, she only listened, but I hope she retains some Star Trek appreciation as she grows :)
- Many wives with deployed husbands vow to lose weight while their husband is gone. Having just had a baby, that certainly was one of my goals! I'm proud to say that I completed a 60-day Beachbody Insanity challenge, started running again and ran three 5K races, and have successfully lost all of my baby weight and extra inches.
- I actually feel like I didn't accomplish very much during the deployment. However, I do realize that caring for a new baby is quite the accomplishment in itself! I did complete a few projects and even managed to go on a couple sight-seeing trips. I also kept up with Cameron's 52 week photo project and weekly blog updates. Not bad over all.
My post-deployment truths:
- Life doesn't magically return to normal after a deployment. After the initial excitement of homecoming and honeymooning, the adjustment to real life begins. We both have to adjust to new roles, responsibilities, and routines. Johnnie has to suddenly fill the role of a new father and I have to step back from being a single parent to being a co-parent (which means giving up some control). We both have to accept the loss of some of the independence and freedoms that we had while we were apart (no more chocolate chips for dinner). We also have to learn to reconnect with each other emotionally now that we are back together physically. That is a lot of change all at once. We have to be patient with each other and with ourselves.
- I feel like my life was moving nonstop during the deployment. Now that Johnnie is here to help with everyday life and I actually have some down time, I find that I am having a very hard time slowing down. It's hard to relax, I can't quiet my mind, I can't stop doing things at a fast pace, I still can't just sit without feeling that there is something else I should be doing. I hoped I would calm down as soon as he returned but apparently it's going to take a while.
- Once I learned that the two things I just listed are completely normal and should be expected (see Stage 6 of the Emotional Stages of Deployment), it made me feel more at ease with all of the changes. In the grand scheme of things, the deployment and now this adjustment period are only blinks in time. Having our family back together is the most important thing... and a very wonderful thing.
- I still look like a bum. Since Johnnie returned, I am suddenly more aware of what I wear every day and realized that I don't have many non-bummy things. I need to go shopping :)
"Boy I hear you in my dreams
I feel your whisper across the sea
I keep you with me in my heart
You make it easier when life gets hard"
~Lucky by Jason Mraz