March 15, 2016

A Deployment Birth Story: Part III

A Deployment Birth Story
So Kayla asked me to write this in a particular format to compliment the way she wrote her own side. But true to form, I'll tell it in my own disorganized way, through a handful of the letters I wrote to Eloise:

7 November 2014 --- 
So I’m waiting in the back of a truck about to go on a patrol in Afghanistan and decided to write you a letter. I am really curious about when you will read this. What will life be like? How old will you be? Will you have other siblings? Because right now you are -2 months old, or -1.5 (whenever you feel like coming). It would be really great if you came on time so that I might be there. If you could fit that into your busy schedule of growing and developing that would be great. Just pencil me in between your lung and motor skill development. I hope you have a good sense of humor or you at least laugh at all of my bad jokes. That is really the important thing.
                                             Love, Dad (first time I’ve actually written that)

8 December 2014 --- You are about -1 month right now, and I’m not on a patrol! I’m in the bathroom…by bathroom I mean port-a-potty. By the way, Afghanistan smells bad. People throw their trash around everywhere, and they don’t have plumbing. There are open creek beds that run through the middle of the villages that carry all of their waste. Because it doesn’t rain much it tends to sit there…hence the bad smell. I’m certainly not complaining about our own accommodations though, we live like kings compared to what the guys earlier in the war had to live with. We have showers and running water rather than a bucket and burning poop. Not pretty. Can I say I miss you yet? I am not sure because I haven’t met you, but I cannot wait. We just found out that I will not be coming home to meet you when you are born. Mommy is really upset, and I am too. Such is life, we will take it in stride. I’ll try not to let my silly job make me miss too many big life events. It is really hard for me because I love what I do. I love the country which provided me with everything I have and all of these freedoms, but it frequently takes me away from you and mom (and the paws!). I don’t know kiddo, we shall see.

10 December 2014 --- Trying to write more. I used to journal all of the time, but I lost the habit. I always try to get your mom do the same because she has such vivid dreams. Going to get some bad guys tonight.  What a strange world we live in. I really hate that a job like this has to exist, but you cannot deny the evil in the world, nor ignore it. That is really something I would like to impress on you, never turn a blind eye. This is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do, but you will always remember the things you did right, and will never forget the times when you didn’t.

17 December 2014 --- I don’t know what to tell you today, how to impart wisdom and guidance without giving your kids the same prejudices that you don’t even know you have? How do you learn from my mistakes without narrowing your world view or hampering your growth and development, but still spare you unnecessary pain? Is there even such a thing? Is pain and personal suffering good? I know in training it is, why else would so many people sign up to be starved and tortured with exercise. I don’t know love, but I hope that you understand that everything I try and teach you has a reason to it. Everything we do has a purpose, always know what the purpose is. It might not be a great reason, but always know.

22 December 2014 --- Stressful day yesterday. We got stuck in a ditch for about 12 hours. Started the patrol at 6 am and didn’t get back until midnight. Bad day, but no one got hurt. Excited for Christmas, except that we will be doing inventories in Afghanistan… yay. I try and take a positive outlook on everything and be excited about life, but it is hard sometimes. I miss your mom and all of the paws. I hope you get to know and love them like we do. Oliver and Lola have gotten your mom through some hard Army days, and Ruby has been helping her through this deployment. I love you and cannot wait to meet you.

25 December 2014 --- Merry Christmas. Started off today with a patrol at 0600, didn’t get back until 1600, and then I got yelled at for not being back when I was supposed to. The general came to see us off before our patrol because it was Christmas. We talked about the history of the 101st at Bastogne on Christmas in WWII. It felt pretty amazing to be in the same lineage as those tough legends, but all I feel now is the distance from home. Had a platoon dinner with all of the guys because we all feel it. Ok, complaining session over, missing Christmas sucks. I had a long day and that is ok. Hard times make hard people, and hard people run the world...or something like that.

26 December 2014 --- In the same mood I was in yesterday. I just miss home.

29 December 2014 --- Grandma Sue got me a new notebook for Christmas. I was writing in the back of the notebook I take to meetings, because I always have it with me, but this is much nicer. I don’t have to keep tearing out pages. I have another long mission tonight, but I got some sleep which is good. Seven hours in three days is no bueno. Everybody gets nervous around American holidays so we tend to be a little busier. Everyone has been asking me if I’m ok these past couple of days, I must have looked a bit rough.  Like I said before, hard days make hard men (and women!). It isn’t always easy to affect what goes on around you, but you can always choose how you react to it. If you let situations break down your willpower and resolve, that is your choice, not what is going on around you forcing that decision. Be strong. People flock to strength and leadership. Anyone can learn to be mentally tough, it just takes a lot of practice and resolve.

30 December 2014 --- Weezy, I think you are coming soon! As you will learn when you are older, your body will start showing specific signs prior to giving birth, and mom is showing these signs! Still very weird to me to say mom and dad, those are my parents not me. I am very excited though, the world is about to change. What I find really interesting is that I will have memories of you that you will never have. You will be alive and an active participant, but will not remember. Such an odd thing, that you will learn and grow but not remember. Maybe that is so that we can mess up a bunch and you won’t be able to hold it against us :) 

4 January 2015 --- Happy Birthday! I saw you this morning, and you are more adorable than I know what to do with. That was a very surreal experience for both mom and me. Life doesn’t stop here because important things are happening at home. I went on a patrol yesterday just like normal, (CPT Smith actually got a bit mad that I did. “What if we got stuck out there for 48 hours?” he asked me.  It was a good point, but I feel very protective of my guys and have a hard time not being with them when they go on missions.) I told everyone that you were on your way and that I was going to be out of touch for a while. Full of nervous energy I went to dinner and bought some energy drinks in preparation for a long night (you were born at 1:25 am for me). Mom and I had some technical difficulties that were very annoying. First FaceTime wasn’t working, then Skype stopped working, and we kept going back and forth. My roommate SSG Hunter wished me good luck and fell asleep. I sat there watching through my computer as mom got an epidural (the nurse forgot I was there, I got a great view of the giant needle). And then watching as mom's labor got stronger and stronger. It was such a helpless feeling. I could do nothing but was still trying. I counted breaths for mom like they taught us in the birthing class, but that was all I could do. I couldn’t believe how brave and strong mom was in that moment. I snapped a few pictures without her knowing. She hates how she looks in them, but your mom has never been more beautiful to me. Once you were born she just kept telling me how perfect you were, I couldn’t help but agree. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of your mom than I was at that point. You were such an easy delivery, even the nurses and doctor commented on it. Now, let the debate begin…mom might say your birthday is January 3rd but I know the truth! The 4th will be daddy’s day. We love you so much, I just can’t believe you are finally here. We waited so long. Mom was very tired afterwards so we signed off. I remember sitting in the dark room with a very confusing mix of happy and sad emotions. But what do we do now? Oh the most important question that life has to offer.

5 January 2015 --- I woke up yesterday and my family was all on their way to meet you for the first time. My whole world has changed. You entered our lives, and I learned a whole new meaning of fear. Fear of messing up, fear that I wasn’t going to be a good enough dad, fear that I wouldn’t ever get to meet you, fear that I would never be able to forgive myself for not being there for you and mom.  Everything has changed, but I’m still here. Six months to go. 

So that’s my story. A hard mix of happiness, joy, sadness and frustration. A lot of guilt. Guilt that wasn’t relieved until I got off that plane at home and got to hold Eloise. In a sense, it didn’t seem real for me yet. I knew she was there, and I knew she was amazing, but in some part of my brain it seemed too far away. I thought I loved her then, but not until I kissed her forehead in that sweaty hangar in July did the reality of it set in. This is my daughter. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen (except Kayla obviously). I will love her for the rest of my life, and maybe then I could forgive myself. The only thing she will ever know is my love, no matter how far.

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