It was a quiet, tearful drive to the Dallas airport. I felt my husband driving slower, just trying to prolong the inevitable. In a few short hours, he would be boarding a flight back to Germany where he would deploy, leaving behind his wife and unborn son.
I will never forget the moment we pulled into the airport parking lot. I was a mess. It wasn’t solely that he would miss the birth of our first child, but everything after. He wouldn’t be able to touch him, hold him, smell him…until he was almost 6 months old. 6 months of memories with his newborn son that he would never have.
He gave me one last kiss before he knelt down to kiss my stomach, trying to embrace our unborn son. He handed me an envelope with instructions to read it on our son’s birth day, then…he left.
It was devastating, I was devastated. Nothing can prepare you for that moment, that second when your loved one walks away and you don’t know if you’re going to see them again, if your son will ever meet his father.
I carried on.
I mean, what else was I suppose to do? I went to my OB appointments. I attended the brutal hospital tour…the whole time trying to hold back tears while I watched enthusiastic parents embrace and comfort each other over the unknown. Oh, how I wanted my husband there. I wanted that comfort, I wanted to see the excitement in his eyes, I just wanted him there to build those memories with me.
When our son finally decided to make his arrival, I was thrilled, nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time. There was so much going on, it helped to dull the sadness, the emptiness of my husband’s absence.
It was another 12 hours before our son was born and, of course, I remember losing the connection RIGHT before it was time to push. I remember praying, “God, please let him see his son, please!” Thank God for patient doctors and patient babies!
My loving sister, who can’t even stomach the sight of blood, was in charge of holding the phone and finally, father and son met. They met through a screen, approximately 8,000 miles away.
The next few days were a fog and honestly, easy compared to when I finally came home with baby.
Any parent or individual who has ever looked after a newborn knows the struggles. The late night feedings, crying because you have no idea what the heck you are doing. Throw in some breastfeeding issues, severe postpartum depression, and a husband who, try as he may, isn’t able to do much else besides send some encouraging emails and call when he has time…that was the start of motherhood for me.
Without a doubt, the hardest was the many firsts he missed. The first time his son rolled over, giggled, crawled. His first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Easter. So many priceless memories as a new family that we never had. They were replaced by blurry photos, static-filled video calls and 3 a.m. emails.
As difficult as it was for me, I can’t begin to imagine what he was going through. Knowing that you are a father while not being able to hold your child, knowing your wife needs you and not being able to be there. I don’t know how many times I put on a happy face and lied by saying I was doing great because, I just didn’t want him to worry.
“I’m fine, he’s fine…we’re fine.”
But we weren’t fine.
I would love to say my story is unique, but the sad truth is, it’s not. Women do this all the time all over the world. Military wives, single mothers, widows, they all gather every last fiber of strength they have and carry on because, that’s what mothers do.
I would be lying if I said we still don’t struggle from this dark time in our lives. It took a while for my husband and son to bond, and for us to successfully parent together. There were so many lingering feelings I didn’t expect, like anger and jealousy…jealousy for every couple who was able to experience early parenthood together. There are still moments when I catch myself thinking about it all, grieving the loss of memories lost forever. I guess it just takes time. I hope, one day, we can look back and only see a small bump in the road…but, right now, we’re still grieving.