To all the mamas awaiting a baby—and the safe return of your partner:
I thought for a long time about what exactly it is that I want to say to you. I thought about what would I want someone to say to me. What I think we can all say to each other, whether this is our first baby or our last, our first deployment or our last, what we are missing in the absence of our partners and in the support from others, is this: I am here with you.
I choose to say I am here with you because I want you to know that I acknowledge your individual experience. Though we are all pregnant during a deployment, we do not share the same experience or the same feelings.
I can't say that I understand what you are going through. Maybe you are in a new place, surrounded by new people. Maybe you are in a familiar place, surrounded by friends and family.
Maybe it doesn't matter where you are or who surrounds you. Maybe the aloneness has been positive for you, and you are able to reconnect with yourself and your independence in a way that is empowering. Maybe the aloneness causes you to feel lonely.
For each of us, being pregnant is a personal journey, as is getting through a deployment. Doing both at once is exceptionally personal. You need to do it in your own way that only you understand.
I can't say that everything happens for a reason. Of course there are the plain facts explaining our shared situation: our love made babies, and our partners are active duty military. Those certainly are the reasons why we are pregnant and our partners are deployed.
Facts aside, I'm not sure there is any other "reason" why things are happening as they are. Between you and me, I think people often say this to us as a platitude. I think the woman in line behind you at the post office says it because seeing a very pregnant lady sending care packages to her husband in a war zone makes her uneasy.
I wish I could tell you with confidence that there is some cosmic explanation for this, but I just don't know. What I do know is if that telling yourself (or listening to others tell you) that "everything happens for reason" isn't helping, then stop. Let yourself feel your feelings.
I can't say that at least you're able text your partner, because I know that means nothing to you. Every time I hear this comment, it stings. I know it could be worse, but it could be a whole lot better; it could be sharing your pregnancy and baby's birth with your partner in real time!
I will say that we are incredibly lucky to live in a time when we have so many options for remaining connected to our deployed partners. I cannot begin to imagine the struggle military families faced before these options.
Even though you are blessed with technology, no text exchange will replace your partner's warm embrace at the end of a long day. No email will replace the sight of your sleeping partner in early morning light. No Skype date will replace sitting across from your partner's smiling face as you indulge your pregnant cravings at your favorite restaurant.
I'll leave it at that.
I can't say that this will make you a stronger woman and mother. Really, it doesn't have to make your stronger, and it doesn't make you weak if this is just a hard time for you. There is nothing to be fixed, no obstacle to overcome.
Your partner is gone during a time of need for you, and a time that most couples share without considering it could ever be any other way. You are allowed to feel how you feel without becoming an inspiration to yourself or others.
What I can say is that I am here with you.
I am here with you when your pregnancy app tells you now is a great time to ask your partner for a foot massage.
I am here with you as you watch your belly grow and your body transform.
I am here with you when you feel those first kicks.
I am here with you when you attend your birthing class alone.
I am here with you when the ultrasound reveals your baby's nose and mouth look just like his dad's.
I am here with you as you make your best plan for a labor and delivery that doesn't involve the one person you want by your side the most.
I am here with you when you are having a great day and you finally feel like things are okay.
I am here with you when you are having a hard day and all you can think of is that last hug you shared.
I hope you have people who are supporting you during this time. Even one person can make a difference. When those people ask, "How can I help you? What can I do for you?" I hope you ask them to acknowledge your experience without advice, commiseration, or platitudes.
I hope you ask them to simply be with you.