I spent May to December of 2018 in MN living in my in-laws basement with my new baby and no husband.
As a military wife, I have done a 6 month deployment before. They are not easy by any means, but I thought I knew what to expect. Who knew adding a new baby makes things more difficult…
We knew Arya, the dogs, and I had to move back to MN during this deployment. All of our family is in MN. It would be the best place for me to have support while Ryan was gone. Also a great opportunity for family to spend quality time with Arya. Plus my work was fine with letting me work remotely for a while. It was the best case scenario.
At the end of April of 2018 we had a uhaul packed and drove across the country from CA to MN with our 2 month old baby. My in-laws had a spacious room in their basement ready for Arya and I to make our own. My in-laws are actual saints for taking a 2 month old baby, 2 dogs, and myself in for 8 months.
We said goodbye to Ryan which is always hard, no matter how long he is gone. Arya, the dogs, and I tried adjusting to our new normal. Summer was starting and I was hopeful to make the most of every second. As with some things in life, the reality does not always meet the expectation.
I first tried to establish a routine with Arya. Every time I thought we got it down, something would throw off our schedule. Whenever we deviated from our schedule or Arya had a rough day, I felt like I was failing. I was so grateful for my sister-in-law and mother-in-law because of their help and support, but the feeling of failing in front of them was unbearable. I was embarrassed and frustrated and wanted to prove I was a good mom. I wanted to show them and myself that I could do it all. I could work, help around the house, take care of Arya, take care of everything while Ryan was away, and find time for myself. Unfortunately, that is just not always possible.
My most common thought during this deployment was, I am so thankful to be here and not by myself! My second most common thought was, I miss my husband and want to go home.
Multiple breakdowns later, I knew I had to adjust my expectations. I cut back on hours at work. I left lunches and dinners early if Arya started fussing. I said no to going out with friends. I focused 100% on Arya. I knew when Ryan got home I’d be going back to work and not get time like this again. I wasn’t trying to be a bad friend, I was trying to be a good mama.
I made the most of events I did go to without Arya. I went to the musical Hamilton, attended bachelorette parties, engagement parties, and weddings. Those times away helped my sanity and I think helped me be a better mom.
The summer ended up being too hot for Arya to be outside long. We went on short walks or went in the pool. We went to the family cabin once and got on the lake 3 or 4 times for just quick rides. We visited Minnehaha Falls on a “cooler” day for a couple hours with a friend. Attending the MN State Fair was definitely a highlight of our time in Minnesota, but it also marked the end of summer. Our focus became more on getting time with family and we eventually did establish a good routine.
The weather turned cold fast. But that meant we were that much closer to Ryan being home. Not only was I glad about this because our little family would be together again, but because our communication, or lack there of, on this deployment was a huge challenge for our relationship. At one point we had gone over a month without any contact. That would have been tough for us even on the first deployment, but I wanted to share Arya’s milestones and daily excitements or hardships with him. I was thankful to have family to be excited with me and support me, but I just couldn’t help but feel upset at the same time. I wanted to share these things with Ryan. Arya had achieved milestones he didn’t even know about yet.
We eventually were able to communicate via email. We wrote long emails to each other at least once a day. We told each other the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. Anytime I had a tough day, hearing from Ryan was the thing that kept me going. I went 3 months without hearing his voice and I never want to go through that ever again.
Something else that kept me going during this deployment was my plan to surprise Ryan for his homecoming. I had booked my ticket, the hotel, and made our Thanksgiving reservation. They tell you if you’re in the military to never write anything in pen and it is true. The date they were coming back stateside changed and Arya and I coud no longer get out to surprise him. I was absolutely crushed. I think God knew we needed to be together because Ryan ended up coming to Minnesota to surprise us for Thanksgiving!
It made the few weeks, until Ryan came back for Christmas, more bearable. I had a taste of it and I was ready for our family to be together for good. I know we were so blessed getting to be with all of our family for the holidays and Arya’s first Christmas.
Now it’s time to start the transition back into our new normal in California. I try to take each struggle as a learning experience and take in the moment. It can be so easy to constantly focus on what’s next and not appreciate the moment while you’re in it. Deployment and motherhood, I have found, are about taking it day by day. Embrace the good and bad because the it doesn’t last forever.
Life during deployment is not easy, but it makes you appreciate what is truly important.