Hi Ho, Hi Ho- Back to Work I Go!

Baby at Work

The funny thing about being given 12 weeks of maternity leave, paid, is that it means there’s a job I should return to. I actually found myself back at my desk two weeks early in order to save the last two weeks of leave for going home when my husband’s unit takes leave.

When I envisioned having a child over the last 3 years I imagined I would be in a position where I was freelancing as a writer and able to stay home. When I envisioned having a child eight months ago, I thought I would just quit. I was so in denial about the fact I would have to go back to work, I neglected to sign my son up for daycare on Post until after he was born in February, which means he is on a waiting list until August. I ended up locating a daycare off-Post. I didn’t have much of an impression except that it smelled faintly of bleach which was comforting for me. The staff was just a bit ghetto, but I couldn’t see how that would matter. I was relieved to have found childcare but could not get over adding an hour of travel to my day.

I became fixated on keeping my baby home with me as I grew more maternal. I felt I could provide care working from home but knew I wouldn’t be available on demand. I went to a babysitting website to pay for an account and look through applicants who had passed background checks. I didn’t really know what I was doing and ultimately decided to pick someone I would like to hang out with. Unfortunately, those girls didn’t respond. I ended up extending an offer to a rather pesky 18-year old newlywed of not even two months, that had just moved here with her soldier from Oregon. She had messaged me a dozen times. I met her at a Starbucks and handed her my child. While not completely natural, she seemed competent. I offered her the opportunity to watch my child for the following two weeks. You can listen to me tell this story here.

One the first day, she showed up promptly and had even asked if I wanted anything from Starbucks. Shortly after she arrived, I got the sense she wasn’t used to coffee in the morning. Slightly annoyed, I avoided that bathroom. The rest of the day went off fine. I wasn’t taking calls for my customer service job that day and was able to observe her with my son. I had no complaints.

I was back to taking calls on her second day. Baby was fussy, but things were going well until I heard her in the nursery say, “why won’t you be quiet???” I couldn’t get off the call I was on fast enough. I hurried into the nursery to rescue my porcelain newborn angel. “If you feel overwhelmed, just come and get me… Never shake the baby.” Despite being functioning adults, we had been told not to shake our baby several times since he was born. I was definitely going to pass that warning on to an 18-year old. Every break or lull in my day had been spent looking after my son and I was exhausted that night. I understood the saying “a mother’s work is never done.”

The next day she did not show up because her dog was attacked. Spencer was able to come back from work for the morning to take care of the baby, but I was on my own after 1:00. There was about an hour of unsuccessfully playing the “mute” game before I was able to take my son to a friend’s house nearby.

When the nanny returned on the fourth day, I was sympathetic to her ordeal the day before. Given how desperate she was to work for $200 a week, I figured she couldn’t afford the $3500 hospital bill.

She arrived early and asked if she could use the bathroom. After an extended visit she emerged into the living room with book in hand. Irritated that she once again didn’t poop at home, I handed to her my child so I could get ready for work. As I walked passed the bathroom, I noticed I didn’t pick up the bath mat I put down when I shower. Not wanting it to be walked on with shoes, I went in to drape it back over the tub. As I walked out, I looked down and noticed something horrifying.

This was like the point in a horror movie where you realize the killer is IN. THE. HOUSE.

The sink was completely dry! I didn’t know what to do! Was it my fault because I hadn’t specified “must wash hands after using the bathroom and shower daily” on the job posting? (She had been a little ripe earlier in the week.) I went back and forth between keeping the peace for the day and demanding my minimum standards for my child because I was afraid of being confrontational. It would have been a little different if I hadn’t thought she made a bowel movement– still trifling but not as much of a health hazard. Finally, I found my resolve as a woman. I traipsed into the living room and scooped up my baby. I said, “I noticed the sink was dry, can you wash your hands for me?”

We did not recover from that incident. I did not trust her after that and I was stressed out. I couldn’t trust her judgement as an 18-year old, and I was mad at myself for not picking up on her deficiencies earlier. I could not decide what to make of the stress I felt. As a mom, if I was feeling stressed like that, was it intuition I should act on? But what would I do about childcare? I talked myself into making it through the last week.

But the situation resolved itself when she didn’t show up or answer her phone the next day. What a relief. I’m sure she had felt unwelcomed since I’m terrible at hiding my emotions and was too embarrassed to show up. Fortunately, my husband was off.

The following day we attended a cookout of a friend of a friend’s. Shortly after I walked in, the friend took Brooks from me because she had met him a couple weeks prior. She was one of those women that has her own kids and loves babies in general. Her movements were deft, and my son took to her right away. After a couple hours I asked her if she would watch my son the following week until I found someone else. She agreed. I played it cool but texted my mom immediately.

Babysitter

It has been three weeks and I could not be happier. Brooks is honestly in better hands than if I were taking care of him myself. And having him out of the house while I am working is less stressful for me . She also lives on Post so I usually go see Brooks during little 40-minute lunch break. The only challenge has been pumping, but so far we have not run out of milk nor have my nipples fallen off.

So I’m a working mom now. And my husband is a soldier dad which means he has been gone for days at a time training these last couple months. On the first week of work I was impacted by my son was getting 10 hours less of me on top of not seeing his dad at all. Given the transient nature of being in the Army, I understand why many military spouses may choose not to work. I also understand how taking care of my own child seems like a better use of my time than working. It seems I’m always rushing and busy because I have to adhere to a work schedule on top of my other workload. My husband wordlessly shoulders the load when he is home but his workday starts at 6 am. At the same time, even though I don’t care for my job I am grateful to have time where I’m focused on something completely separate from family and responsibility. Money aside, I understand why some women want to work and some women want to be stay-at-home moms.

Milk in spectra bottles

I don’t see this situation being sustainable for me because I need more personal time. I’m at the point where I’m dreading getting my hair done this weekend because of the time suck it is on a Saturday. I could be cleaning, grocery shopping, or letting my husband go to the gym instead of sitting under a dryer with my hair beyond dry feeling guilty, boobs aching and black women materializing into the stylist’s chair just when I think it’s my turn. I had to hire someone to clean my house (lowkey a life dream) a couple weeks ago before in-laws came because I just could not. There just isn’t enough time to be everything I want.

At this point, I have to choose between money and time and I am learning money can cost more than it is worth. I’m paying money to replace myself because I don’t have the time.

There is still one thing I have not decided: do I send the babysitter the money for the few days she did work? Or do I require her to be an adult and ask for it? Do I leave her a review on the website or let the fact she has to remember for the rest of her life that someone had to ask her to wash her hands be her guiding light?

With this child I have been given great responsibility, but they forgot to pack the instructions…

 

Welcome to Parenthood!

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sondra houghton photography

 

I walk out of the master bathroom, in a diaper, with milk streaming out of both of my breasts. My husband rushes and grabs the baby from my mom. I sit on the bed and nurse my son on the right while my husband starts the breast pump on the left. This is parenthood. This is Day 3.

Day 1

With every ounce of strength in me I push a baby’s head out of my body and the rest of him follows, at 12:32 am on February 4th. He cries immediately in spite of the meconium that came out when my water broke. I thank God for that. My child is healthy and surprisingly large. The baby nurse checks his blood sugar as soon as she can.

For the next hour and a half I shake uncontrollably while a very stressed-looking resident doctor stitches me up and repeatedly comments on how terrible the laceration is. I didn’t have an epidural so she’s ineffectively using lidocaine. The child is finally weighed in at 10 pounds! I pass out in the bathroom due to blood loss.

During the day my husband feeds me my meals while I nurse or hold the baby. I still feel light-headed and drowsy and keep falling asleep. Later I receive two blood transfusions. I watch the SuperBowl while my husband sleeps. I wake him up for the half time show, but he falls asleep again.

Day 3

We are ready to leave but have to wait for the pediatrician to come perform the circumcision. Yesterday pediatricians seemed to be coming by every 20 minutes, but today the nurse has to call for one. My husband and I have discussed this choice for months, but the decision came down to last night when I called my brother to help me be rational. I cried when they took my son and I cry when they bring him back but he is happier than when he left.

We finally head home at 2:00.

Day 4

I don’t fall asleep until 7 am because we can’t get the baby situated in the bassinet. Despite the fact I know the womb is very different from this environment, it’s a complete surprise to me baby might not be totally comfortable on his own in a bassinet.

Day 5

I feel overwhelmed. Having a newborn hasn’t been challenging with my mom and my husband at home, but being so broken down has been hard. I had looked forward to giving birth because I assumed my pregnancy problems would go away since, you know, I wouldn’t be pregnant. I am disappointed to find my hands are still swollen, my carpal tunnel is worse, my pelvis still hurts, it’s still hard to stand up, and apparently I’m still snoring. On top of that, 10-pound babies don’t simply exit the body without leaving a mark. I’ve got stitches for days… and hemorrhoids. Where a week ago I was beautiful and interesting, heavily pregnant, today I am deflated and not at all vibrant. And my white baby looks nothing like me. I have the baby blues.

In the evening I feel a sharp pain as I sit. I start to cry out of frustration and ask my husband to go to the bedroom with me, away from my mom. I cry and explain all the aforementioned grievances, and I tell my husband I miss him because we are only Mommy and Daddy right now. And my mom has been here for 10 days. I miss snuggling on the couch. I miss cuddling in bed. I miss joking around, and obviously having sex. Instead, I’m wearing an actual diaper, and I’m afraid things won’t go back. My husband is, for maybe the first time, incredibly sympathetic. He validates my feeling and makes the right faces and sounds to soothe me. He suggests I need to be patient and volunteers to help me take the multiple prescriptions I was sent home with. And through logic he assures me things will “go back” after the wounds have healed.

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Day 6

After fearfully co-sleeping for the last 3 nights, we have the baby snoozing peacefully in a swaddle suit in the rock n’ play, for the win.

Day 7

If I ever get breast implants, they will be the size of these beautiful, currently engorged breasts. I’ve been an A all my life.

Day 9

My baby makes me feel sad. I feel guilty for creating a child and giving him a womb, then ripping him from it to deal with us and all this gravity and time nonsense. I’m sad I don’t feel as attached as I expected. I question if I really needed to have a child. My husband says he was in love right when baby was born. He doesn’t understand why I have these feelings. I acknowledge these thoughts are irrational…

Day 10

I can’t imagine someone else caring for my child full-time and at this point it won’t happen. I learn that childcare on the Army post won’t be available until August. I return to work in May. I should start my search off Post, but I’m unmotivated because I don’t want to think about working again. If my work performance was mediocre before, look out!

Day 11

I need a break from breastfeeding! I’m tired of my bra being wet all the time. This little nursing pad does not help. The baby eats almost every hour. This is too much!

Day 12

My mom knocks on our door at 7 am, waking me up to take her to the airport. I am surprised I have slept so late and realize the baby didn’t wake up for my turn to feed. On the way, I tell my mom not to cry and the sensation will probably pass. I am sad too.

Later, Spencer and I take our baby for his two-week check-up. He weighs 10 pounds and 12 ounces. The doctor tells me our baby’s stomach should hold about an ounce and a half of fluid. Our son drank a 4-ounce bottle last night so my husband and I smirk at each other.

The baby fusses the entire day, presumably because he misses my mom.

Day 13

Spencer returns from the airport with his mother. She is instantly in love.

Day 15

My baby doesn’t make me feel sad anymore. I love being the one to breastfeed him. I love when he sucks feverishly. I love the sounds he makes as he gulps and sighs with his eyes half-closed from pleasure. It gives me heart eyes. I think about how I made him and how he has laid claim to my breasts, which were made for him.

Day 16

My husband is stressed. He isn’t sleeping well since he is alert if our son is making any level of noise. He has taken on a lot. He has a lot of responsibilities with a newborn, an impaired spouse, and loads of laundry; he hasn’t been alone in weeks, American ice skaters keep falling during their Olympic events, and he hasn’t had sex in a month. I shouldn’t be surprised he is edgy.

Day 18

I am in love with my baby.

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Day 20

My mother-in-law cries as she leaves. I’m sad too. I’m sad everyone has to miss large chunks of our son growing up. We want go home this summer but I don’t know if I will have enough vacation days to make the trip. I think about and don’t think about when Spencer leaves for the field or something and I have to take care of the baby myself.

Day 22

This is the first day of our last week of Spencer’s leave: 2 weeks for paternity, and 2 weeks of post-deployment. We are excited to be alone and be parents on our own.

Our son refuses to rest in the Rock n’ Play. We decide to co-sleep. Here we go again…

The Reality of My Marriage: Year 3

It occurred to me that each year I’ve written some sort of year end review about my marriage for my anniversary. Today is my third anniversary. Without looking back at my other essays on it, I know I’m not as happy and not as profuse as I was one year in. I don’t want to shy away from the realities of marriage and the Army, but I do understand how sensitive of a matter being honest actually is.

I am not as happy as I was two years ago because stress exists, namely the fact my husband has been on a different continent for the last 5 months and I have been pregnant for 7. I’m also not as happy because being married is not the least frustrating experience I have on a regular basis. Being home alone during this time has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on this.

One of the differences in this year and last year is that I was convinced my husband had committed an array of new offenses against me mainly resembling neglect. I had started working and expected more from him as I had less time for myself. This year I understand he doesn’t choose to neglect me; that’s how I have chosen to define his actions. The unchanging fact is that my husband loves and literally hasn’t bothered to imagine any level of a future without me. And he hasn’t actually done anything offensive to me. Still I’ve been quick to assign his actions or lack thereof to disregard, finding reasons he doesn’t actually love me like he should. Why would I want to prove that? What I understand now is that what is most important is that we share the same definitions of love, disrespect, effort and we currently do not. I accept I can’t label his actions for him, just as he can’t qualify or disqualify any feelings I have about his or my actions.

I went through a period of thinking he was refusing to do what or be who I want, which made me angry and feel helpless, then I started to believe he could not do those things, which made me feel helpless and desperate. At this point I understand this predicament is that other meaning of “marriage takes work” because my husband can be what I need and I can be what he needs, we just have to learn how to do that.

The first bit of marriage was easy because of the novelty of being married. I finally got to live with my boyfriend! And I wasn’t responsible for taking out the trash. Bliss. When you marry someone you think you know them in this intimate way, which is probably as intimate as you can know someone before marriage, but there are still levels to your spouse and yourself you have yet to discover, both higher and lower.

I knew my husband’s polite passion for me and general desire, but I did not know he would ever put me second. I knew the Army would be the priority but I did not know it would take every ounce of energy he has. I didn’t know my husband would not need me on a practical level, but I love that he needs me on a spiritual level.

So at moments I have felt bereft about what I haven’t had, but more recently I have felt clear about what I actually need. It is important for me to acknowledge the ways my happiness and contentment have nothing to do with my husband (not to mention the fact he hasn’t done anything wrong), but I have still placed it on him. My self-actualization and current job, isolation, his spirit, and my relationship with God have more to do with how happy I am than whether or not my husband surprised me with a date, but I at times have chosen to only focus on the date because that is the only factor I seem to be able to affect or that I can remove from my own responsibility. (More on my roadblocks with God in a much later post).

The reality is, he is not super happy. I have learned that being in the Army can be difficult, but apparently being Infantry is the bottom on the barrel. Given my high opinion of my husband, the way Infantry units run is detrimental to him. He is intelligent, assertive, responsible, respectful, and athletic, but he seems to be redirected into nonsense at almost every turn. My husband, having not experienced adversity as I have and not being a woman in general, is not most adaptive to these conditions, and that’s why I am second, in my opinion.

I have thought “how happy would I be if we just lived in St. Louis with near our friends and family with nice jobs?” I would like to think I would be happy, but let’s face it, its human nature to find any situation wanting.

I would be “happier” if my husband were more needy. It would give me purpose. As my husband says “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and makes for this nonsense I’m entertaining now- finding ways to be unhappy. But if he were needy, I would have long ago collapsed under the pressure of his needs, work, and my high standards. Most importantly, I would be happy with this person if stress didn’t exist, but it will and all the more, so we must adapt.

Thinking about the constant resistance to ease and grace in my life, I have thought about what it would be like not to be married. No, I haven’t considered getting divorced, I’ve just thought about what if it never becomes easy again. The prospect of being apart from my husband is the most miserable feeling I can conjure and even makes me cry right now. I chose him for a reason and I have to remember that because it will always remain true. Even at his worst or my worst, being divided from him is still the worst. Because of this fact and my realizations about self and the spouse as an individual, I choose to initiate the actual thoughtful work of sustaining a growing marriage. I need to pray for my husband for the specific things I think he needs. I need to pray for myself. I need to seek peace in my life and promote peace in his. I need to always look inward instead of outward because my emotions and beliefs are always my choice. If Paul can sing shackled in a jail cell, I can smile with my fake nails, loyal spouse, apparent health, and iPhone.

But, this still has to be a joint effort. I’m writing this on my own. These are my choices and all I can control. Given who my husband is, I am not sure he is required to make this same conscious distinction or decision. I’m the over-analytical one. The frustration comes with not having the tools to navigate the both of us to the same place, and maybe someone who does can help. Until then, I am here.

Marriage is like math classes. Not to say Asians are better at it, but some of us may have found algebra easy, but geometry difficult, calculus impossible. Most of us will have to practice and study. Some of us eventually make our way through, (some of us cheat our way through), some of us need tutors, some of us do better the second try, and some of us really should stick to art.

Dis Tew Much


About a week ago…

This is officially too much. My fantasy is to evade work for a week. Actually, on my 40-minute lunch, and 20-minute break I lean all the way in and literally pretend like I don’t work. Something about not working because I can’t stop coughing or crying feels off base of that dream. 

I had a rough weekend with physical exhaustion, stress, and nosebleeds and was finally motivated to figure out how to use my FMLA benefits at work. As soon as I initiated the process, I called out work for the second half of Monday. On Tuesday, I managed to stay clocked in for 30 minutes. Then Wednesday and Thursday I didn’t even bother trying to work. Wednesday I lie in bed with no medicine and no obvious way to obtain it. A coworker, IraShalee, offered to bring me something but she was working until 6. And then could I really ask her to go to a store, hike up to Post, do a background check real quick (or slow) so she can get through the gate to bring me some DayQuil? No, I would have to get up myself. 

As a person who is self-admittedly vain, as well as formal, the prospect of getting myself together to be in public seemed like too much and caused me to delay going out. I eventually threw on some eyebrows and accepted I’ll just have to look like shit in order to stop feeling like shit. 

Car on E, I drove myself to the PX. I realized after my perilous hour and a half drive home in the dark and pouring rain Monday my car was more sketchy than usual. I decided not to fill the tank, because this could be it for us, and rounded off to $20 worth of gas. 

At the PX, I purchased my medicine and other random pity items including a $6 cone of cheddar popcorn that I always want but seems like a bad deal. It was a bad deal. 


Meanwhile, my brain is wracked by the fact my Masters Program just started Monday and I can barely read text messages, let alone 9 chapters of text between my two classes. Not to mention the fact I have no books, because the school I applied to months ago managed to only accept me with four days notice. Sunday I sat down to try to follow the insufficient registration instructions, which ultimately culminated in me crying, followed shortly by a nosebleed. That experience is what led me to where I am now, which is propped up on six pillows on a Friday night to avoid coughing myself into an early labor. 

Thursday I felt pretty good and hoped to complete some errands to help me return to work with as little stress as possible. I went out with only a headache and a raspy voice. Iwent to the chiropractor who miraculously cured my headache. Unfortunately I traded one headache for another as I had to return to my car in the parking lot with the front right tire basically flat. I put air in my tire for the fifth time in the last month.

Next I went to Chick Fil A for comfort food, but ended up getting a salad because of the kid. 

From there I drove directly to a Jeep Chrysler dealership where they showed me a Toyota Corolla and tried to Jedi Mind trick me into believing as long as I can finance, I can afford it, when my aim is to pay cash. 

Next I saw a new counselor because mine is on a mysterious medical leave. She strongly advised me to drop a class and suggested I work part time. Don’t have to tell me twice. 

I think I’ve called my mom approximately 12 times in the last 6 days. Times like this make me realize she is truly the best friend I’ll ever have. No one else will ever care as much about me as themselves. 

Tonight I called in regards to coughing so hard I was starting to feel like I would throw up. She advised me to go get Delsym. Once again, I pull my raggedy ass together to go the commissary. I didn’t even draw in eyebrows this time, but put on jeans. I made it home to attempt to study but my 2008 Acer laptop wasn’t working. When I finally rebooted it I found myself coughing and texting Allison my judgements of my teenaged neighbors for playing 2009’s greatest rap hits at their party next door. 

I decided to give up on studying and get ready for bed but found a dozen little chores to do. I realized I hadn’t eaten, but coughing was making my stomach upset. As I peed for the 20th time this evening, I coughed and sprung a nosebleed for the fourth time this week. 


From my pillow mountain, I texted Spencer who I knew was asleep “I need you,” because I do. With so much on me mentally, physically, and practically, I didn’t see how I could continue. I am always tough and rational, but I need my husband right now. I need him to do laundry, get me medicine, buy me dinner, fill the humidifier, force me to drink water, bring me a charger, buy me a car, and make me feel like I’m going through this for the team.  

But alas, all I have is myself. This being pregnant during deployment is much harder than I could have imagined. Something has to give. 

Non-Traditional Student

Weak Meals
Dinner.

A few months back I wrote about my dilemma of going to school now or waiting three years to use my husband’s GI Bill benefits to pay for it. I had to come to the conclusion that spending the next three years asking people for permission to ask them questions despite the fact they called in to Customer Service for help may in fact lead to a certain kind of death.

I had to rush and pick a school to complete Statistics as a prerequisite. I picked my Alma Mater. From the website, it looked like I would be paying around $250 per credit hour by two ways. First of all, military personnel and dependents could get In-State tuition, and secondly the tuition for online only programs was around that same price. So I was good to go! Except I wasn’t. My tuition bill was $1421.

What I had failed to realize in my haste was that there was a deadline for claiming military status. It was in May but it was June when I realized I needed to take this class! Then, the online only course rate only applies if an online major is declared! Word of advice– just put down your mom’s in-state address.

I was anxious about taking the class because I’m terrible at math and had poor study skills when I was in college. But I’m grown now so I thought I’d do better since I’m responsible. When I was in college my Asian boyfriend did my College Algebra homework online and I still barely made a C. Nevertheless, I was cautious but optimistic.

The first assignment was to post “A little about yourself” on the forum and comment on two other students’ posts. Being old, I wrote a paragraph about myself instead of a numbered list with only the requisite three facts, and commented on several others posts. I eagerly awaited for someone to respond to my comments or my post, which no one did.

When perusing the forum, I realized I was the only graduate in the class. Do you remember being in undergrad and having that one lady in her mid-forties in your class that you kind of unfairly couldn’t stand? I recall having several classes with this woman who was frequently lost, but still tried to answer every question the teacher asked despite the fact she truly had no clue. In fact, she often ended her answers with “I don’t know.” She caught on slowly, but was self-sufficient enough to ask [stupid] questions to find her way.  Well at one point I realized I might be her when I saw that I was the only person posting in the forum regularly regarding TECHNOLOGICAL ISSUES. In addition I was probably the only person with an email thread going with the professor about various inquiries. But I was also probably the only one paying my own real life, non-Sallie Mae coins to take the course, so judge me.

Taking an online class and being a full-fledged adult was much different from undergrad because I had to work all day and do homework at night and grow a fetus. It was also a five-week course. Each week had a lot of work, but Final week was intense: two tests, four assignments, four quizzes, and a project AND the final, which I had to take off work for and pay to use a proctoring service.

P Value

Anyway, I was pretty stressed before the final. I wasn’t sure how I would do because I had gotten stranded in struggle city with the last couple chapters. I felt like my fate on the test was decided because I knew I didn’t have the mental or physical capacity anymore to “pull an all-nighter.” But on the other hand, DO YOU KNOW WHAT I COULD BUY WITH $1400???

I was so glad to be done with the class and statistics as a whole. But was also not 100% sure I didn’t fail. The feeling of relief after the final was like being post-coital, but then also like when you’ve just nearly missed being in a horrible car accident.

You can imagine how shocked I was to find that I had made an 88%! I was just hoping for a C. But I was really floored the following week when I checked my grade and saw that I had earned an A!!! I cried.

I cried because I had found a lizard in the shower that morning and was emotionally drained, but also because after 15 years, I finally had proof I wasn’t an idiot. I couldn’t help thinking back to struggling in Pre Algebra in 7th grade and the beginning of believing I wasn’t actually gifted or intelligent. If I had never stopped believing in myself, I would be a psychologist right now. I considered myself “bad at math” from then on, but looking back it had more to do with external factors than my actual intelligence. I could get deep and talk about how I was black and poor, and all my classmates were white with two parents and lived in nice neighborhoods together and studied/copied each other’s homework, but I am happy to simply say that I am finally ready to do my best.

Baby Making

Pregnancy Test

I am 18 weeks pregnant and my husband is deployed. He knew I was pregnant before he left because we planned it.

Why would one plan to carry a child without her partner? Because the Army. The Army has commandeered almost all of my significant life choices and it seemed important that we not let it dictate our life plan. Where we live and what jobs we have are temporary, but bringing a child into the world is hopefully a permanent decision. We wanted to make that choice on our own terms. Being 29 this year and reaching three years of marriage, it was the right time for us. Personally, I’ve been ready since I was about 18 but having a child in high school is frowned upon. Spencer on the other hand stated he needed a total of three vacations before he could feel he had done enough. The third would have been this summer, but all the dates conflicted with the deployment… Does Afghanistan count?

The thing about deployment is we basically know what to expect: things are going to be less good for x months (of course, still anything can happen). That sounds bleak, but better the bleak you know than the bleak that springs up when you have something nice and elaborate planned! Better he missed the pregnancy than us wait and he miss the pregnancy, birth, or newborn stage for some other reason. Those things can still happen, but the deployment should at least allow us a guarantee he will be home for the first part of our son’s life. Despite those “facts,” we ultimately prayed that whatever was best would happen and proceeded.

I know this is frustrating to many people, but we started trying in April, and we conceived in May. I was obsessed in April. I realized I could not continue on like that. It made me crazy. The tests, the sex, the hyperawareness was too much and I knew I would be a wreck if I repeated that pattern. The following month I just wanted to continue our normal routines, but did take an ovulation test the day my Glow app suggested I should ovulate and made a point to follow up…

At the end of the month, Spencer brought up how overwhelming it might be to come home from deployment and have a newborn. I thought that was reasonable; reacclimating after a deployment can be difficult. I agreed that it would be best to wait. LOL.

I hadn’t thought I was pregnant because I didn’t have any symptoms, I mean, I had a frozen daiquiri in the freezer. But Spencer was leaving town on June 1st so I figured I should go ahead and take a test so we could find out together as opposed to waiting four days until I joined him in Oklahoma. It caught me completely by surprise for the test to come up positive. Spencer came into the bathroom to see why I was laughing so hard. I replied by showing him the pregnancy test…which he couldn’t comprehend, because I’m cheap and had the test strips instead of the plastic test stick that has the legend on it to tell you want the lines mean. We took another test later that afternoon. Then I took one Friday and when we got back about 10 days later. It actually takes a while to really be convinced.

That was Memorial Day and Spencer left June 25. It was hard to celebrate a pregnancy when Dad was rearing to join the boys in the sandbox. And it’s hard to celebrate now with the time difference and our separate stressors. I didn’t think much about being pregnant without my partner because thousands of other black women do it every year. I now understand that just because people go through something does not mean it’s easy and it has not been. And that is the same truth about deployment. I wish I had someone to get me food, hug me and rub my feet, watch me grow, and talk about the future. Twenty minutes of FaceTime once or twice a day cannot suffice.

Despite the exasperation or aloneness I feel at times, so far I can’t say this was not the right choice. Overall it would be better if Spencer were here, but at times, it seems like he is better off not being around, because with these hormones and his personality, I’m going to be mad at him regardless of where he is.  This has not been as exciting of a time as I expected for several reasons, and only as I write this I make the connection that neither was my engagement because Spencer and I were apart for that as well and I had to do everything on my own. But the difference here is that my son is with me. At this point, I have to add “so I’m told,” because I’ve got this bump and these C cups but nothing else to show. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will start to feel him and that will comfort me. Although I’m not excited, the pregnancy is hardly the end goal; the baby is, and Spencer will be here for that. Hopefully.

The Boys Are Deployed

bootsonbedI don’t want my husband to deploy. I want my husband to deploy. My husband is about to deploy. His battalion has been gone for a while now and he will be joining them soon.
Am I sad? Not on the outside- or the inside really. In my brain, it’s a sad situation; in my mind, there is no use in crying about it.
I have been trying to articulate my feelings on this for weeks because they are complex. Feelings about being away from my spouse are the simplest. Feelings of not wanting him to stay are hardest to express.
When my husband leaves, it will just be me, endlessly taking calls, not cleaning up after myself, doing hobbies. I am hundreds of miles from friends and family with no vacation days left. I’ve tried to make new friends, but no one is ever close enough. It will be lonely.
On the other hand, I have it better than the other ladies. I don’t have kids. I’m older and have actually lived on my own in a city away from home. I am highly capable of reaching out to others. I’m equipped for this. For that reason, it is hard for me to feel sorry for myself when dozens of other women are enduring this same thing with a fifth of the survival skills. I’ll be alright. I’ll write more, eat better, and save money. I have no doubt I will find something to do with myself.

My plan is to find things to work on. Immediately, I should be taking a four-week statistics class. Oh, I decided to move forward with a masters degree, so I’ll have that to focus on as well. I may try Paleo again, which I tried when he went to Basic Training and lost 15 pounds! There is also that novel I started writing last year that I would be proud to complete. I have enough things to do that I see this separation as an opportunity rather than a pause.

That isn’t why I don’t want my husband to stay though. The rest of the Spencer’s battalion left a couple months ago. He didn’t leave because he was on medical profile after having vision correction surgery. There was a moment when his leadership told him they wanted him to stay behind as the point person during the deployment. I felt frustrated by this. Not just because the plan kept changing. I was frustrated because I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity. I didn’t want him to be the old dude in the battalion that still hasn’t deployed. I didn’t want him to be that one guy in a group that doesn’t get the joke because “you had to be there.” I didn’t want to spend the next nine months knowing my husband was wishing he were somewhere else, but that’s not what made my eyes sting.
While I was still unhappy with my career in St. Louis, there was at least the illusion of opportunity and the reality of money. You already know what the reality of my career prospects is here, so the consolation is the success of my husband’s career. If he doesn’t deploy, then he’s “behind.” I’m behind. This whole time I have watched opportunities be taken away from him and my career stall and roll backward. What made me tear up was that overwhelming feeling that if he has to miss out on something else, my professional sacrifice will be for absolutely nothing. It will be for his spun wheels, broken plans, late nights, and deep-seeded frustration, compliments of the Army.

So of course I want him to stay, but it is important that he goes. And he is going. True soldiers join the military to go through hardship. And I understand the danger and reconciled it when I decided to become a military spouse, that’s why fear is not a part of this discussion. We didn’t come to the land of chain restaurants for the chain restaurants. We are here because the one thing my husband knows more than anything is that he wants to be a soldier.