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You could say I'm experienced with the military lifestyle. One grandpa was a Marine, one grandpa was in the Navy. My step-dad and brother-in-law are Air Force technicians. My dad was a Navy pilot, and my husband is a flight officer in the Navy.

My husband and I didn't see each other during the month of April for the first six years of our relationship. He missed every other month of our daughter's first year of life. I've said goodbye countless times and will say goodbye countless more.

We've had wrenches thrown in our family planning as we missed yet another ovulation time frame. He had to leave my pregnant self behind when hurricanes were hitting us to make sure the Navy planes were safe—twice!

I've had to explain that daddy is still gone for work to little ones that have no concept of how long a month is.

And yet, I'm one of the luckiest Navy wives I know. We haven't had a major deployment (six to nine months long) in years. He has been present at the births of both our daughters.

You think you can't wait for your overdue baby to make her way into the world? Try having a countdown when your husband will deploy for eight months and see how much spicy food you'll eat and how many long walks you'll take to get those contractions going!

I have friends whose husbands haven't met their babies until they are three months old. We haven't faced any injuries in the field or serious illnesses at home. Our kids are young enough that we haven't had to move in January and disrupt a school year.

Growing up, I said that I didn't want the military lifestyle . I didn't want to move all the time, and I didn't want to constantly have to say goodbye and watch my kids miss their daddy.

But then I met my future husband, and those plans went out the window.

He was worth it, and now that I'm a spouse, I see so much more of what this lifestyle entails.

Yes, my daughters will miss their daddy, and he will miss them. But they see how much he loves them with each return hug, each video he tapes for them when he is gone, each moment he makes sure he is fully present for when he is home.

We went to a friend's birthday party recently, and every baby there was being held by a military dad. They have to take their quality time when they can get it!

The goodbyes aren't just with my husband though. Military life is a lifestyle, and most of my friends also have spouses in the military since we are normally based in a "military town." And that means that I am always saying goodbye to one of them too, or my daughter is saying goodbye to a friend that is moving.

We try to say, "Goodbye for now," because there is a chance we will be stationed at the same base at a later date. I actually got mad when one of my non-military friends moved because she was supposed to be one of my guaranteed friends!

The military world is filled with love though. Watch YouTube videos of homecomings and see the outpouring of affection from people that are each other's everything—on second thought, don't watch them or you won't be able to see out of your puffy, still-crying eyes tomorrow.

I saw my 2-year old tell my husband, "I love you so much, Dada," when he returned from a long trip. She had never even said anything with that much emotion to me!

Every time he comes back, it has a rejuvenating effect on our marriage. It's hard to get annoyed with someone when you just spent the past six weeks praying for their safety and hoping time flies by. Even if you do still get annoyed by how he leaves every cabinet and drawer open, you missed him so much you bite your tongue for a little while. And at least I can see how hot he looks in a flight suit again.

As hard as the separation can be, the level of pride I feel for the men and women of the Armed Forces is off-the-charts. Their knowledge and dedication protects those of us on the homefront.

Thank a veteran for their service. Let them know that you are grateful, and that all the time spent training and abroad was appreciated.

It can be a hard life for our soldiers, living in barracks and on ships, apart from the people they love, facing danger to protect our country. We will most likely have another deployment coming up in the next couple of years. Our kids will be older and will have to learn what it is like to have daddy gone for a very long time.

But I know that when he leaves, our family's love will grow while he is gone, and hopefully that thought brings him home safely and quickly.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."

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