Ok so lets see here.. On TV shows the soldier ( or who ever was deployed) we will say soldier because Mike was Army.. but anyways.. they come back from the deployment and you see the amazing reunion, the crying, the signs and flag waving, little children with home made shirts that say “I have been waiting 278 days for my daddy to come home”, lots of flowers and hugs… Which to be honest is not to far off and that is usually what happens.. at first…. BUT lets take a rewind back to when my husband first came home from his very first deployment…
I found out 2 days after he left that I was pregnant, so we had our almost 6 year old daughter, 4 year old daughter and I am HUGE pregnant and ready to pop… My friend and I go to the helicopter hanger that we are supposed to be at and sit and wait… and wait.. and well wait some more… But finally the platoons come marching in.. I must say if you have never been to a redeployment ceremony it is truly a site to see and I wish I had photos of it but I didn’t have anyone there to take photos.. I didn’t know many people.. You see that is what happens when you get taken to a place like Ft Riley KS, can’t stay on post housing because it is to full and you spend almost 9 months in the middle of no where with 2 small children, pregnant.. you don’t meet to many friends.. And the one friend I did meet her husband was coming home also.. so neither of us got pictures.. But believe me when I say it is something your mind will never allow you to forget.
So they make the soldiers stand there for a long time while different higher ups within the Army speak about what an amazing job they all did and then they finally release them to the families.. Well I had NO idea where Mike was because to be honest 600+ soldiers all in the same uniform, pretty much look the same… So I just stood there for a really long time with my girls.. WAITING.. WAITING.. my heart was racing, I check to make sure the girls still looked adorable in there pink handmade dresses and even glanced down to make sure that I was still big, fat and pregnant.. Like I won’t have know otherwise.. but my brain was not functioning at full speed.. The moment you get the call that your spouse is coming home it seems like the clocks slow to ultra slow speed and your bed becomes full of nails and little things that poke you and keep you up at night… So I had spent the last 3 weeks either dosing off on the couch when I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer or laying in my daughters twin bed with her just trying to get used to not sleeping alone anymore….
Finally I look over and there he was… Ashley our oldest saw him first and went running up to him, hugging him like crazy.. Payton well she wasn’t quite sure what to do because this was a man who she only really remembered in 2D but she went to him with out fuss and let him hug her… I stood back and let the girls have there time and then I went to him and gave him a hug and started to cry (which I had told my self a million times I wouldn’t do) he felt my stomach and said “wow what have you been eating while I was gone” Yep still had his sense of humor.. and I was thankful for that.. So we embraced and kissed a few more times and he said lets get out of here… We said goodbye to a few people and then we left… but not before the commander said “and make sure that you don’t let your soldiers drive for at least 2 weeks, so they can adjust to being home and driving safely on the correct side of the street”.
We get out to the car which was a new car because while he was gone I had gotten in a rollover accident and totaled our van.. so he came home to a new car.. I went to get in the drivers seat and he said “I am going to drive” . My response was but they said for you not to and he said “I don’t beep-beep care what they said I am going to drive..” So I tossed him the keys and he drove..
While he was gone I ended up having to move to a smaller house in a very small town farther away from town because we couldn’t afford the place we had chosen so quickly before. So now not only is Mike coming home to having to drive a new car but he is coming home to a basically new town (because he had only spent 3 weeks there before he left) and a brand new home to live in.. I didn’t realize at the time what an impact this was going to have on his stability…
On the way home we stopped to get something to eat at a little dinner where a really nice older couple bought our lunch and thanked Mike for his service. I was proud of him and thought he should be proud to but it was very hard for him to except the meal and even harder for him to be thanked.. I had no idea why… and to be honest I am not sure if he even knew at the time..
We finally get home and unload the kids and his stuff and I show him around our new little rental… He says he likes it and I start to get the kids ready for a nap and start dinner… Mike gets in the shower and when he is done he sits down on the couch and turns on the tv… not the romantic coming home I was picturing but I just go with the flow because to be honest… I have NO idea what we are in for… This is the part in the TV shows that the couple tears each others clothes off and well you know the rest because I am sure you have seen it on a dozen different shows…. but in our case that was NOT the case at all.. Payton woke up from her nap first and started to cry wanting out of her crib… Before Mike had left he would have rushed in there and grabbed her, changed her diaper and gotten her a bottle before I could even blink… But the next thing that came was one of the hardest things as a mother I have ever had to face…. I asked Mike if he wanted to go get her and he said yes he would so a minute later he walks out of the bedroom, tears running down his face and says “you have to get her… you have to make her stop crying now”…. I was shocked and saddened… but went in and got her and took care of my motherly duties… When I came out of the room, Mike had gone to our room laid down in bed and I didn’t see him for the next 2 hours… Little did I know at the time that the flash backs that were going on in his head were of the little children in Iraq crying because they had lost their parents, needed food or water, or were literally dying from the inside out because Sadam had poisoned the water and they had drank it.
They never told us about that when they gave us the briefing on how to handle our spouses when they came home and the book said ” What you can do to make the reunion as joyful and stress-free as possible?” and so I thought I was doing it…
According to http://www.ncfr.org/ncfr-report/focus/military-families/returning-home
Reintegration can be a turbulent time for the family, as members must re-form into a functioning system. Some studies suggest that relationship stress and negative family function may reach a peak between 4 to 9 months after the service member’s return. One of the greatest challenges for these families appears to be renegotiating family roles as the service member encounters the often-unexpected difficulty of fitting into a home routine that has likely changed a great deal since his or her departure.
I was totally prepared for it… well so I thought… but the 4 to 9 months was WAY off and our peak was happening the very first day… I was completely overwhelmed but told myself we would get through it and tried to put myself in his shoes. And so our days began…. I took them SECOND by SECOND, MINUTE by MINUTE and HOUR by HOUR….