There is not a day that I look at my children and do not realize how completely blessed I am that their father was here for their births. Had things gone as planned for us he would not have been here for either one - but things happen for a reason and both were changes in plans I will never complain about.
For non-military families, a father's presence at the birth of a child is a given. The only reason couples quickly try to figure the math in their heads when they find out they are expecting is to know when their little sweet baby will bring them happiness. Military families quickly run the dates and timelines through their heads to figure out if their soldier will be home. The overwhelming joy often finds itself deflated by a dagger of unescapable despair. When I found myself pregnant for the first time - unexpectedly - the first thing to enter my mind was that my husband would not be here. By the grace of God, he was.
For Eli, C was expected to be training. God threw a wrench in our plans again, and he stood beside me in the O.R. as Eli entered the world ... three weeks early.
We have been so very blessed.
Because of our blessings, I remain in awe of every woman who brings a child into the world without her husband. While I know I would have been given the strength to do the same I cannot imagine undergoing it. When in labor with Logan a gross negligence on the part of the medical staff nearly ended my life and prevented his. I cannot imagine going through the absolute terror of facing this reality without the strength and support of my husband. Because of my situation - and the speed by which my son was delivered - my husband was not actually there for Logan's birth but was able to be there soon after. Still a blessing.
I had met her when she was nearing the end of her first trimester. You could not have matched two better people. We were instant friends. For the next six months our lives merged together daily in some fashion. Our husbands belonged to different battalions within the brigade. We playfully battled over cavalry and infantry. She pointed out when I was wearing red as I pointed out when she wore blue. I poked fun at the stetson. Infantry men don't wear any of that crap so she had nothing to say back! (Ha! Had to take a jab while she can't say anything in his defense!). Our bond was and is unbreakable.
That is one of the most interesting and overpowering things about Army Wives. There are bonds you make - often quickly - that cannot be shaken. The things one wife will do for another may seem strange to those outside of our world. We care for eachother's children with little notice and with nothing expected in return but the same support. We bring each other coffee at two in the afternoon because we needed to talk at that moment but may end up not saying a word because sometimes we just need to feel the aura of someone else's strength. We do not get offended if a friend jumps up for a phone call and leaves the room for half an hour without so much as a "wait a second" because we do not need an explanation.
It is no coincidence that we develop such strong bonds quickly. I believe we are drawn to those who will strengthen our spirits. We all have times of weakness as we walk our camo-covered path - it is important to have our bonds established so that it can take little effort to grab hold to someone who is stronger at that moment. Time is not a friend to us. We do not have the luxury of gradually getting to know another person over months and even years. And so I believe we are led to those who will be best for us as we let go of our better-halves for a time. These bonds must exist, for every big and exciting moment has a different effect on us than those who get to share it with the one person it should be shared with. These bonds will help us to hold onto the joy rather than focus on the emptiness.
"Will you stay?" she said. It was not really a question though she had framed it as such. Many of the "questions" from one wife to another are not really questions. They are usually a signal that we are needed - that our presence is necessary.
My eyes locked to hers, "Absolutely," I replied. We exchanged smiles. Hers edged with relief and gratitude, mine with fear. I hoped she didn't notice.
I was afraid of this with my own child. I had never experienced it. My son entered the world with complete chaos and terrifying tension. He was almost ripped from me in an O.R. I had no idea what this was really going to be like.
I placed the cellphone by her head and hit speaker. "He's here," I said. His voice came through the phone. "Hey, Babe," he sounded so nervous it made me laugh to myself.
"We're about to have a baby!" she said, turning her head to the side as she breathed through her contractions.
I took my place at her left leg, camera ready to start snapping. My thoughts were swirling around my head. "Please don't pass out, please don't pass out," I repeated in my head as I tried to focus my nervous energy on her. My body was shaking; I was terrified.
"Time to push," her nurse said.
I took my position, feeling a little sick and weak, but stroked her leg completely forgetting she couldn't feel it. "Come on, let's get it done!" I smiled. She'd heard me say the phrase so many times before for far more simpler things.
She nodded as a determined face replaced the tired one, she leaned forward, breathed in deep, and it began.
A young woman welcomed her beautiful daughter into the world that night. Her daughter has two different birthdays in that family. To her daddy, who's lack of words when his little girl started to cry brought tears to my eyes, she was born the next day. Nine and a half hours time difference.
He listened as he heard different women hold onto his wife and urge her to keep going, to do what everything in him told him he was supposed to be doing, and he couldn't speak. He could not find the words. All they could do was cry with one another over the phone. Such immense joy - such incredible sadness.
That night was one of the most beautiful nights in my life. The emotions that flooded my body give me goosebumps to this day. There are no words to describe the beauty of that birth and the absolute humility of my friends determination. I was honored to be present and humbled by the strength within her.
I am humbled everyday by women with a fierce determination to thrive in this life. I am honored to stand among them, to experience the joy and the sadness of it all beside them. We hold eachother up, we give of ourselves knowing there will be times that we will need to take of them. We depend on this reality to help us through our tomorrows. There is no stronger bond that exists among friends than that shared by the women who know what it means to love a soldier.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.