I won’t sugarcoat it. October was the roughest month of my life. My then ten-month old son caught the stomach flu while we were visiting a friend of mine in Massachusetts. A trip that was meant to be a distraction from the monotony of deployment ended with a trip to the emergency room and jumpstarted one exhausting month.
Wouldn’t you know it; my husband was deployed and missed all the excitement of our son being sick for the first time! As you might imagine, with the stomach flu, I was surrounded by some pretty disgusting sights and smells. Try as I might, I can’t un-smell those diapers…bleh! I can’t tell you how many times during that month I cursed my husband and/or the Marine Corps under my breath for making me endure weeks of leaky diapers and a fussy baby alone.
The best thing I can say about the stomach flu of October 2011 is that it eventually ended, and no matter how much he insisted that he wished he could’ve been home to help, I am sure, deep down, my husband was a little relieved that he missed this nightmare!
There are plenty of other firsts that our son has been checking off his list during this deployment, though, that I know my husband hates missing. Since my husband, Matt, deployed, our son has started eating solid foods, learned to crawl, pull up, say things other than “mamamamamamama” and he’s working really hard to master the whole walking thing. These are huge milestones for babies! Parents look forward to these things for months and, in a perfect world, celebrate together when they happen. Here’s how we celebrate these developmental milestones at our house. My son, Jack, does something for the first time, I gawk and cheer for a couple minutes and then realize that I need to get video proof for my husband. I scramble for the video camera, but by the time the camera is rolling, Jack is over the excitement and on to something else. Typically, I spend the next 24-48 hours following him with the video camera trying to lure him (usually unsuccessfully) into a repeat performance.
My husband knew going into the deployment that he would be missing some major events in Jack’s life, including the big developmental milestones and his first holiday season and birthday. It is, without question, harder on Matt than it is on Jack, so that is why I try so hard to record Jack’s major milestones or just plain adorable moments. I want my husband to be included in this year full of firsts as much as possible.
In preparation for the deployment, we tried to squeeze in a few firsts before my husband left, like Jack’s first visit to the aquarium, his fist time at the beach, and his first taste of baby food. These are things that we had a little control over, so we decided we might as well check them off the list before Matt left so he could be a part of them. Though he’s missing a lot of the events of our son’s first year, we have to remember that Jack is going to have plenty of other firsts as he grows up. His first day of school, first time riding a bike, first night in a big kid bed, and first time successfully using the potty are all things that my husband will hopefully be around for. If he can’t be there for all of them, I sincerely hope with every fiber of my being that he’s here to back me up during potty training!
After all of the new developments of the first year, I already know it’s going to be a huge adjustment when my husband returns. When he left, Jack was just occasionally rolling over, eating baby mush, and repeating “mama” like it was the only thing he knew how to say (mostly because it was). Now he crawls like a pro, stands up, eats whatever I eat (sometimes with more protest than others), and he’s developed his own little personality. I am going to have to remind myself that even though I’ve seen and heard all these developments for months, everything will be new to my husband. I’m going to have to call on my patience and resist the urge to say, “Yes, honey, I know he can crawl. I’ve been chasing him every waking moment for the last two months.” I have to recall the way I felt when I saw him crawl the first time. I’m pretty sure I called everyone I know and posted an embarrassing amount of video footage on the Internet. If Matt wants to celebrate these accomplishments all over again, I’d say he’s allowed. Mostly, I want to make sure my husband gets the chance to fully return to the whole parenting experience when he comes home, so, since I’ve seen more than my fair share of dirty diapers during the deployment, I’m more than happy to let my husband take the reins on those for a bit.