Deployment Series: The First Month

Several times in my twin pregnancy, I found myself feeling about 15 different emotions in rapid succession, over the course of about 30 seconds. It’s not a perfect comparison, but that’s a pretty good representation of what the first month of a deployment feels like, after you’ve had the teary airport goodbye.

After the probably tense and anxiety filled time of the lead up to your soldier leaving, it’s totally normal to feel some sense of relief. Weird, right? But it definitely happens. There’s also the overwhelming “what in the world have I gotten myself/my family into?” that comes right about the time you wake up after your first night alone. Or, maybe you feel like Wonder Woman and Rosie the Riveter combined – you’re gonna kick this deployment’s ass! You may just feel bummed out. Or, you’re feeling all of those all at once, which is normally where I’m at. That first month I normally alternate between “I’ve got this” and “oh wait, no, this sucks” pretty rapidly.

Marriage and family doesn’t happen in a vacuum, so add in however you were feeling or dealing with before they left, and it can create more challenges. If you and your spouse were working through some stuff when they left, it’s going to feel pretty amplified during that first month, and possibly throughout the deployment. If your kids were acting out beforehand, that’s going to continue. This is totally normal, and it’s why “they” tell people not to make any big decisions (buying a house, buying a car, getting married, etc) in the 90 days before or after a deployment. Emotions are going haywire.

Because the first month is, well, the beginning – it’s a really good idea for the families behind, and for the ones overseas, to pace yourselves. And be realistic about where you’re all at emotionally. Figuring out the communication situation is generally a little rough at first, depending on the deployment location. It’s so easy to get mad at your soldier during this period – but one thing that helped J and I was for me to remember he’s just as stressed as I am, and he’s trying to figure out a “new” job in a new country, possibly while also dealing with things like lost gear, poor internet connection due to sandstorms (yes, that’s a thing). Between the emotions and the new jobs, taking some breathing room can be really beneficial.

I’m also a big fan of taking the first week to kind of just be sad, or angry, or however you’re feeling, and while you’re doing that surround yourself with your “safe people” who you know have your back and won’t judge if you go on a crying spree over military movies and ice cream (my go-to) or if you need to just be pissed and spew some profanity for a few days. My mom did this for my siblings and I when our dad would deploy, and it was actually an awesome way to teach that 1) your feelings are what they are, and 2) they should be dealt with, not just stifled or shoveled over. But once the predetermined time was over, we all got on with our life and went about our normal rhythms.

Lately, after J leaves, I also like to take my first few days and do something of a clean-sweep. He’s inevitably left some gear in the living room, or laundry not put away on his side of the bed. And in the lead up to the deployment, there’s a little bit of a lag in the housekeeping department. So I tidy up and get myself to something of a “clean slate”. It really helps, especially after the few days to be bummed out, and signals to my brain that it’s time to dust myself off and get moving.

I know that I’m going to sound like a broken record here – but making sure you’re talking to your people throughout all this is huge. Your people can tell whether or not you’re struggling or simply having a bad day. And can remind you that you’re crushing this whole deployment thing. They can help you move to your new place, they can help move furniture, talk to you while you clean, lounge on weekends where you are not wanting to do much of anything, and keep you busy while your soldier can’t talk or has communication issues. The key is making sure they are your safe people. That may not be your husband’s people, and it may look like having different people for specific situations. But the important part is that they’re your safe people.

There’s no magic formula, y’all. I really wish there was. But… the first month can be really hard, and honestly deployments just suck. If there were a formula or some fail safe multi-step plan, I can be sure it would contain a few things. Give yourself grace, and give your spouse grace, and your kids. Allow yourself to have feelings. Good ones, bad ones, big ones, small ones. Have safe community.

Deployment Series : The Lead Up

This is the first part in a series of posts just about deployment and how I’ve learned to adjust to the different challenges and stages (so far)!

I am not a patient person. Shocking, I know. I don’t like surprises and my already higher than average anxiety skyrockets when I know there’s an upcoming event, good or bad. Waiting for things is the worst. Some people thrive on that anticipation. I am most certainly not one of them.

Which makes the fact that I married J even more hilarious. He’s constantly gone, and when he is home his schedule can change from day to day. I can generally handle the back and forth and be mostly okay (which is a success on my book). But it makes the lead up to a deployment the absolute worst, followed quickly by the reintegration period in my ranking of “Things That Make My Anxiety Go Crazy”.

There’s no sense of purpose in the waiting, other than packing and checklists for things you don’t want to have to think about. Once the packing is done, it’s just… sit and wait. Once the deployment actually happens, and I’ve watched him walk away, I can start counting down the time until I get him back. I can give myself a routine. I can have some level of normalcy inside what is a very weird situation. I want Jason home as much as he can be, but in the last 2-4 weeks before a deployment, I almost start wishing he’ll actually go so we can just get on with life.

And then I feel like a jerk. I mean who wishes for their husband to leave?

According to conversations with my other military spouse friends – most of us. It’s not that we want them to leave and be in danger. It’s just that is so incredibly difficult to be in that space of waiting and waiting and waiting. And, it’s no picnic for the one deploying either.

Our first deployment we didn’t really have the lead up – because I was so freaking panicked. Not about the deployment or him leaving. He graduated from training, then one week later we were going to move 10 hours, then another week later he was deploying. I almost didn’t have time to freak out or worry. I was too busy!

Before our second deployment, I’d had a few different schools to help him get ready for, and while not on the same scale, I think it really helped us learn to be intentional with preparing for the actual deployment. Here’s some of the stuff I think helped us tackle the waiting and start his second deployment off on the right foot.

Don’t assume they know how you’re feeling. J is wonderful. Seriously, the man is a rockstar. We’ve spent the last 18 Months kind of rewiring and reworking our marriage, and it’s been so difficult and so amazing. So, I assumed he just knew what was in my head. And I assumed what he had in his. The result? I didn’t know how much he had on his plate. And he didn’t know what I needed to hear from him. After a conversation, we were able to get on the same page and it was so much better.

Make A “To Talk” List. I love lists. Love them. They’re scattered in my apartment and in my phone everywhere. We put that list making to good use, and wrote out a list of what we needed to do, and talk about before he left. Everything from deployment expectations to finances to my deployment goals and bucket lists. It was awesome and it made sure we didn’t have that last minute “oh shit we need to talk about ______” moment.

Go on a date. Don’t talk about the deployment. We got to go out after a particularly intense day of getting ready to leave for him. We didn’t go anywhere fancy – we went to Red Robin and then got ice cream. And we talked about everything BUT the deployment. It was almost like it didn’t exist, and it was amazing. And it gave us some time to be a couple without the looming absence over our head.

Breathe. And call your people. Deployment just sucks, okay? It’s freaking hard even on the best and most well adjusted marriage. More than once I had to realize that all the deployment prep I thought I HAD to do, could totally wait until he was gone (and I had copious amounts of free time). The things that couldn’t wait? Enjoying my time with J, and making sure I talked to my best friends and my community. They reassured me that everything was going to be just fine, and it allowed me to believe that and just enjoy my time with him.

I’d love to hear what you’ve done or what has worked for your marriage and your family!

The Sheeppups (Sheepdog Twins?); An Update and a Backstory, and The Longest Post I’ve Ever Written

**TW; I’ll be talking infertility, Jesus, pregnancy, and medical procedures. Also this will be very, very long. I was going to break it up into parts but I just didn’t feel like it.**

For those of you following on my Instagram page, or those who know J and I personally, in October we announced that our fertility treatments had worked, and we are now expecting our twins in April or May of next year.

pregnancy announcement

DANG are we excited. Full disclosure, I was not actually wanting to put out an announcement. At least, not online. Pregnancy announcements made me want to punch people in the face, and honestly I didn’t want to make someone else feel like that. J and I talked about it, and he very slowly brought me around to the fact that a ton of people had been following our journey from the beginning and were rooting for our family, and even that there were people who wanted to hear and see a success story. That these little ones have been fought for, prayed for, anticipated, and loved well before we got the call from our doctor saying they were on their way. (Well, that we were pregnant… I didn’t find out it was twins until later.)

It took a lot of convincing and several questions asked from internet friends and in-person friends, to realize I was kind of hiding my story because I struggled with some guilt in and around getting pregnant. Since opening up about our struggles, I have met people in my community and online that were walking this difficult journey, at so many different points. It’s incredibly difficult not to feel guilty. But my wonderful husband challenged me to write about it, because even throughout those bitter moments over pregnancy announcements, and the absolute rage at people who got pregnant on ‘accident’ (which is a whole other thing) the success stories at any point in this journey kind of kept me going. God worked through a few couples to get me to a much less bitter and angry place in this journey, even if it didn’t feel like it was getting ‘better’.

I’ve said it before, but J and I both knew even from our first date that we both wanted kids, badly. I have nannied all ages and types of kiddos, and it only made me want to be a mama more and more. And J is MADE to be a dad. I can’t explain it more than that, but watching him with kids is just the most amazing thing. He can get on their level in a way that most people have to practice and learn through years of having their own.

I’ve had pretty debilitating ovarian cysts since I was a teenager, and so there was always a concern to me (confirmed by a few doctors) that I was going to have a harder time getting pregnant than most, but that it shouldn’t be impossible, especially with timing and being aware of my body.

When we got married, we both agreed I wouldn’t be on birth control and we’d be prepared for kids in the event that they hopefully showed up quickly.  And then… they didn’t. We both sort of chalked it up to him being in training and being gone SO often, and made the decision to start actively ‘trying’ (truthfully the only difference between just not using BC and ‘trying’ is adding PreSeed, and *ahem* frequency) during a time his course was going to start slowing down, about 5 months after we got married. It is, after all, very difficult to get pregnant when your husband isn’t around. I changed how I was working out, and changed my eating habits. Still, a negative test every month.

This went on for about 8 months, and I started having an increase in cyst symptoms. The pain level I was dealing with right around my period sent me into the emergency room on one occasion, and J even had to come home from PT to take me in to the hospital because I was in such pain I couldn’t not throw up, and obviously couldn’t drive myself. My boss was incredibly understanding, and my friends rose to the occasion and drove me home from the ER that day. I was missing between one and three days of work every four weeks, and we realized that I probably needed to get into the doctor, and try to get seen, and hopefully that would help us get pregnant.

Military medicine being what it is, it was damn near impossible to be seen. And I started rapidly losing hope. I had a primary care physician who was, to be totally honest, absolutely horrible at her job. I scheduled an appointment to get seen, and my desire to get into the fertility clinic on post was brushed off as ‘it hadn’t been long enough to worry about it’ despite the horrible pain I was having, and the fact that J and I are healthy and needed to get down to the bottom of what has happening (or, not happening). I was given a prescription for a narcotic to deal with the pain, and basically told ‘keep trying’. People around us kept getting pregnant, and I kept getting negative tests. Our first deployment was looming, and we were no closer to getting into the clinic. It took me going into the office of the officer in charge of the clinic and explaining in detail why the level of care I was getting was not okay, and pushing – HARD.

I got my bloodwork, and it came back fine, and then got a procedure/test called an HSG. They use a catheter to flood the uterus with dye, and watch it on a screen. It’s to tell if your tubes are blocked or obstructed, and to make sure they’re functioning the way they’re supposed to. It was incredibly painful, and I had a doctor who did not take my level of pain seriously, and chastised me for reacting poorly. (One of my friends was with me in the hospital and she said she heard me shout in pain while she was in the hallway.) My tubes were not blocked, and according to that radiologist, everything looked fine. This was about two months before we were set to move back north, and J was going to deploy immediately after we moved. The infertility clinic wouldn’t have accepted me on such a short timeframe, so we decided to keep trying naturally for the next two months and hope one of those would work. The day before J left for Afghanistan, my period showed up, and I was doubly devastated.

While he was gone, I worked out and tried to get my body in a better state health wise. I completely ignored my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, but physically I was working out and eating well. However, I was slowly getting more and more depressed. One day I’ll go into that a little deeper, but I assumed that once J came home, I would feel completely better and we’d be able to sort out what the heck was wrong with me. Not surprisingly that didn’t happen, but we got in with an amazing counselor, and we started working through things with one another completely differently. Still no positives.

Several months later, and many different failed attempts, I got in with a doctor who listened to me. After almost 2 and a half years of trying to just be heard and taken seriously, I had found a care team who was willing to listen to my concerns and help me advocate for my care. I talked about the level of pain I felt every month, and what our time constraints worked. My doctor immediately put me on a plan with some drugs, and December of 2017 we did our first medicated cycle. And, it failed while J was at training. I was moving past upset and into absolutely pissed off. January, another failure.

In January, I started going to a women’s group, and through that group and a wonderful friend of mine, I met a group of women who were wanting to pray for J and I in this journey. They laid hands on me and prayed for health and clarity, and most of all for peace and strength in this lengthy process. I’m not exaggerating when I say that meeting them absolutely changed how I started to go through my treatments. I cried and cried and they just let me cry and prayed over me through the tears.

February 2017, we did our first IUI. Unsuccessful. And excruciating, physically for me, as well as emotionally. My poor mama held my hand and calmed me down while I cried in hysterics on the exam table during the IUI because I “couldn’t just get pregnant like a normal person.” Unsuccessful.

March. Unsuccessful. April. Unsuccessful. May. Unsuccessful.

Through all this I was dealing with increasingly worse pain every month, and it was only because my boss was a rock star and incredibly understanding that I was able to keep up a job and some semblance of normalcy. Even in that ‘normalcy’ though, I was taking hormones and injecting myself with a drug once a month to try to get my body to do what it should have been able to do naturally. My emotions were shot, my body was over it, with every IUI more painful than the previous, and J and I were having to re learn how to do this as he came in and out of training and schools.

In May my doctor brought up the idea that not only did I have large ovarian cysts, but that I also probably had endometriosis. She suggested that we do the remainder of the June cycle, then that in July I have a laparoscopic procedure to check for and remove any endometriosis. If we decided against it, she said our best chance would be IVF, which would cost around 20 grand. (None of this had been covered by insurance, and none of IVF would be either.) J had brought endometriosis up before as the possible source for my increase in pain the previous year, but the idea of surgery while my husband was in and out of the state was absolutely terrifying to me. He was calm and logical in the appointment with the doctor, and promised he’d do everything in his power to be able to be there the day of the surgery the next month. I was still resistant to the idea, but then J and the doctor explained that I could possibly have YEARS pain free and not have to miss out on my life. Even if it didn’t lead to us getting pregnant, that alone seemed worth it.

July 24 I had my laparoscopy and neither my doctor, or J, or my best friend, were very surprised to hear that she had removed a bit of endometriosis. J even slept in a chair in the living room to wake me up to take my meds and to keep an eye on me.

I took the next two weeks to recover (where I also learned I am a HORRIBLE patient) and we started in on the next round of IUI, but with a new drug that I would actually have to inject every day until ovulation. Then every other day I would go in for an internal ultrasound, and a blood draw to see whether my body was responding well or not. As if that wasn’t enough fun, I also got to experience intense mood swings, and severe bloating.

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In that month, fresh from minor surgery, and now on fertility hormones, I really felt like God had me at my physical weakest. I was exhausted. I was emotional. My husband was working during the week and gone in another city, and we were trying to be married on the weekends, but only on the weekends where he also didn’t have training, and didn’t need to be gone. My counselor was working with me on my anxiety and I was seeing improvements there, but I was so doubtful that the cycle was going to work. I told J that much. I had no desire to keep doing this anymore and I could only take so many more negative pregnancy tests, so we agreed that if the IUI was unsuccessful, we’d move toward IVF after two more attempts.

August 22 At 7 in the morning, J drove the two hours from where he was working and met me at the hospital so we could do the IUI. That IUI was, not surprisingly, incredibly painful. Afterwards, J headed back to work, and I went home for the horrible two week wait. (Which is the longest two weeks ever, and if you’re trying to get pregnant it happens EVERY month and takes approximately 300 years.)

During the TWW I was also on another hormone to help my body create a more hospitable environment for the babies I was hopefully incubating.

September 2, we went in for a blood pregnancy test to see if the IUI had ‘taken’. The Nurse said my results wouldn’t be available possibly until the next MONDAY and then they would have to call my doctor from the lab, so the nurse at the doctor’s office would then call me with the results(it was a Saturday, and Monday felt forever away, especially with J heading to work for the following week.) Not being one to let rules get in the way, I called the hospital where I’d had the bloodwork done. The nurse was incredibly reluctant to give me my HCG numbers, but I more or less bullied her (if you ever read this, I’m really, really sorry. Hormones and anxiety are a very strong mix). She told me the number, and a quick google search confirmed that the IUI had actually worked.

I had gotten on pinterest every week for two years and had all these cutesy plans on how to tell J he was going to be a dad. That didn’t happen. We were living at my parent’s house (The Farm) and I just tore across the yard in tears. I couldn’t even tell you what I told him only that “it worked…. I’m pregnant” was somewhere in between shaky crying.

Those first few weeks were stressful. When I was somewhere around 5 weeks, I felt intense pain and cramping, and called my doctor. With cysts and endometriosis I was convinced I was having an ectopic pregnancy, and so she had me come in to do an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay. Texts were sent out for prayers, and I drove the hour into the doctor first thing in the morning, after an extra sleepless night. I remember tearfully praying that my baby was going to be okay, but worshiping during the hour drive. My best friend drove down two hours to be with me, and was holding my hand when my doctor told me that the reason for the cramping was because there were two babies who were exactly where they needed to be.

Right now as I type this I am 17 weeks and 1 day. I’m out of the first trimester and in a few weeks we’re going to find out what the genders are. We’re staring another deployment in the face, and I’m looking at the possibility of delivering without my husband there. This isn’t exactly what I imagined when everyone told me “it will happen in God’s perfect timing”. But there’s been something so sweet in turning to people who have been by my side in this journey, and knowing they have my back when it comes to the rest of this pregnancy, and learning to be a mom.

If you made it to the end of this, I am not only impressed, but deeply grateful. This has been such a weird and exhausting and challenging ride. If you are needing a success story, I hope J and I can give you some encouragement. If you’re needing someone to cry to or vent to, I’d love to be that too. If you’re one of the hundreds of people who have prayed for our kids, our marriage, and our health in this process, please know that I could not have done this without you. We could not have gotten through this without knowing people were praying for us, and I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to put into words what it’s meant to us.

7 Books That Help Me Get Through Military Life

  1. The Five Love Languages Military Edition : The Secret To Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman and Jocelyn Green. This is on the top of the list of books I lend out to my military friends – both to soldiers and to their spouses/significant others. This book goes through each of the five love languages – the ways people give and receive love –  (physical touch, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, and gift-giving) and walks through how to make each love work with the challenges of military life. Long distance obviously makes quality time, acts of service, and physical touch a little challenging – especially in the ‘traditional routes’ – and the frequent lack of communication makes words of affirmation a little difficult as well. We read through this when we were dating and engaged – all long distance – and I would highly recommend every military couple go through it together. Not only does understanding each persons love language help both people feel loved, it also allows for much more efficient communication, which is crucial to making this life work well.
  2. Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joyby Emily Ley. I just finished this book, and I loved it. Emily Ley is not a military wife, but her book reads like you’re getting coffee with one of your girlfriends. She’s the creator of The Simplified Planner, which has essentially changed how I plan my week and schedule our family. Her focus is on finding joy in your daily life, and simplifying. Her tagline is ‘I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection’. Be honest – how many of us need the reminder to show ourselves a little more grace in this life? I know I do! Especially on those days where I feel like the ‘worst army wife ever’. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever packed an essential piece of gear your soldier needs… and then put it in a box in the very back of the storage unit.)
  3. The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel. So, I actually did not know this was a book, originally. I was told to watch the miniseries by one of my favorite military wife friends, and was obsessed by the end of the first episode. The book/series both follow the wives of the first astronauts, from being military pilots’ wives, to space training, on through some of their husbands leaving/retiring from the program. These women knew they needed a tribe to get through this life. We may not be sending our soldiers to the moon, but the need for a tight-knit community has not changed. There’s a focus on how the world was rapidly changing, and how the wives had to either change with it or get quickly swept up, and it’s hard not to compare life then to life now. (But with a definite appreciation for new amenities like Internet, FaceTime, and air conditioning!)
  4. For the Love: Fighting for Grace In a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker. If you have not read a Jen Hatmaker book, stop what you’re doing and go get this one – immediately. I love her books. Not only is she absolutely hilarious – I haven’t been able to get through a single one without laughing – but she has excellent marriage advice that can apply no matter what your significant other’s job is. This is the book I reach for when I’m handling one of J’s deployments or schools – where the dog is sick, the car breaks down, and the washing machine is spewing soap all over my floor.
  5. Invisible Women: Junior Enlisted Army Wives by Margaret C. Harrell. My mom gave me this book when J and I got engaged – when I was getting ready to become a junior enlisted army wife myself. Aside from being filled with helpful (if a little dated – the book was published in 2000) information, this book taught me just how much military wives have to say, and that I was in for quite a culture shock. When J and I first got married, he was a Specialist, and I had been the kid of a dual-military family. Understanding the struggles that some of the women around me were going through helped me to both feel like I wasn’t on my own in this, and also to understand that I have no idea what battles those wives at the commissary are facing, and not to pass judgement. In a world where the people who seem to be the meanest to other military wives are other wives, it’s a good reminder to have.
  6. On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peaceby Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen. I’m not going to lie to you – this is a heavy read. I’d suggest reading it in pieces, truthfully. But it is normally at the top of any list of books I suggest, especially for women whose husbands will be frequently in combat. Understanding the way that combat (and the intense training that highly deployed jobs require) rewires the brain, has impacted how I approach J and our marriage in times of high stress (IE, the reintegration period after a deployment). Understanding the type of person who chooses to run towards bullets, and who chooses a dangerous job in defense of others, actually helped me understand the things I found as ‘annoyances’ to be J’s strengths, and many of the things that actually are the reasons I love him. **Grossman also has another book, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society , that I would highly recommend as well. Obviously this is also a heavy read, and can be considered disturbing by some.**
  7. While They’re at War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront By Kristin Henderson. This is one of the first books I read when J decided he was going to be pursuing his new career. It takes place in Fort Bragg, which was probably the initial appeal. (I love Fort Bragg… I know, super weird but it’s actually not that bad of a place once you get to explore.) It follows a group of wives through what it’s like to have their soldier’s deployed. The wives are Active Duty, so it looks different than a national guard deployment, but there are definitely some similar through lines – the anxiety and stress, the need for community, and the reminder that everyone’s story is different.

Honorable Mentions – These books are not necessarily what I would call ‘tools’ so much as military-related books that I read over and over and over again, especially when J is gone or busy.

  1. Home and Away: A Story of a Family In a Time of War by David and Nancy French.
  2. American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal by Taya Kyle

Truthfully, I could have made this list go on and on for pages and pages. I love reading military books . Love them. If you have any you love – I’d love to add more to my bookshelf, or recommend a few others!

A Sheepdog Wife Update (Because I’ve Been Quiet For A While…)

So, I’ve taken the last few months to kind of re-work what I thought this blog was supposed to be, and turn into. The ‘game plan’ and objective has changed approximately 900 times. Instead of dragging you (and my brain) along on every single change of direction, and u-turn I’ve taken on this journey, I thought I would give a post that kind of outlines why I started this in the first place, and where I hope to go in the near-ish future.

Four years ago (ish) my now husband and I had known each other for about six months. We were ‘talking,’ or dating, or whatever it is kids call it today when two people are trying to decide if they want to be together long-term. I knew he was in the National Guard, which meant weekend drills that truthfully didn’t affect me much. I had always said that, as the daughter of two soldiers, I would NOT marry someone in the military – but I figured I could handle the ‘one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer’ style of military life.

One night, right before he headed out of the country for two weeks, he dropped the bomb on me that he was going to try to take his military career to the ‘next level’. It would mean a three year long school, ten hours away from where I was living. It meant not only leaving his long-term (and higher paying) business consulting job, but taking a roughly fifty percent pay cut, and a much more dangerous job. He had his mind dead set on this, and I would need to either be supportive, or back off and let him ‘go it alone’. It took all of 30 seconds for me to know I wanted to be part of this adventure if it meant that we could do it together.

That night is probably the exact moment that the idea for this blog started to take place. I’m a researcher by nature, so I went home and immediately started reading. Blogs, websites, books, forums – you name it. I needed to know how best to help J and encourage him through this. The next three years would be physically (for him) and emotionally demanding (for both of us). I wanted J’s career and our marriage to make it through – stronger on the other side. On top of that, I wanted to really understand J. What makes someone leave a comfortable office job, and want to go get shot at? (For less pay!)

If I’m being honest, I couldn’t really find much. There were some great resources for people just learning about the military, or who were absolutely new to this community and wanted to learn things like rank, pay, or all of the thousands of acronyms. I’d grown up military – both parents were in – so I knew the basics and had a solid background of knowledge to work with. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I settled for looking up as much info as possible on the job and the training, and kind of drawing my own conclusions. This blog got started then – mainly as a place for me to be able to process, and handle some of my snarkier opinions.

Fast forward two years. We got married and I moved down for the last year and a half of training. I met other wives married to these wonderful guys – as well as the ‘guys’ themselves. The more I got to know them, and the more I struggled through learning how to be married (which is challenging enough!) and how to be married into this crazy lifestyle, the more I realized the reason a lot of problems were arising in the marriages in this community was because we were all incredibly unprepared. Sure, the handful of us who were military ‘brats’ had a leg up – but as we moved forward with our husbands’ careers, the more we realized that we didn’t know.

I started really thinking about writing the book sometime about six months before we were going to move. I’d read that the divorce rate in the community J and I were about to join was hovering right around 75 percent. That blew my mind, and broke my heart. Right around then, J and I decided he was going to fight to go on a deployment with his unit, leaving two weeks after we would be moving back to our hometown.

I was going to have to readjust and learn a whole new set of rules. And, I wanted to be able to pass this knowledge on to wives, girlfriends, and fiancees who might not have the time or desire to spend weeks researching or reading about their husband’s job – or those women who don’t live near a base, and can’t create a ‘tribe’ of anyone who really understands. The more I thought about it – and the more I really talked to my girlfriends who were walking through this, and learning by lots of trial and error – the more I realized that I HAD to write a book. I had to pass on any knowledge I could, to help people get through this life even a little easier than I had.

I’m still (slowly) churning out the book, but it’s becoming more of a corner-piece to a much more elaborate plan, and something far larger than I anticipated. The goal of the book is going to be to tell the military wives story, (the real one, not the one that’s on Lifetime… I love that show, but that is not what my life looks like) and to give all of the military marriages a better chance at killing that 75 percent statistic. The over-all goal is to actually be a part of lowering the statistic, by giving the ‘sheepdogs’ and their wives a chance and the tools to really thrive in this life – not just get by on survival mode. How? In the spirit of authenticity, I’m still working that part out. I’ve gone back and forth between expanding the blog into a forum where we can reach out to one another and give and receive advice, or even a non profit to create a ‘curriculum’ for people in this community to follow.

For now, it looks a lot like this – writing for the people who take the time to read it, and sharing even when it’s ramble-y and snarky. And, for making myself available for questions and vents and suggestions. (Seriously – I’m on Instagram as TheSheepdogWife! And I can always be reached via email or comments here!)

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To My Fellow Military Kids

When meeting someone new, you’re almost always asked to “tell them about yourself.” I’m guessing most people would respond with an answer that includes what they do for a living, what they do for fun, and probably their marital status. Generally speaking, I have some version of that answer, too. However – I almost always include the words “I’m a military brat” in there. It’s not out of arrogance, or wanting to gain sympathy. It’s legitimately the first thing that I’ve taken my identity from, for my entire life.

Fellow “brats” you definitely understand what I’m saying with that. There is something about growing up attached to our armed forces that just changes you, and influences you in a completely unique way. I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘well, military brats have to grow up so much faster.’ And while I think that’s probably true, I don’t know that I’d choose those words to describe growing up. Mainly because I feel like that has a negative connotation – being “forced out of childhood.” When, really, it just makes you understand the world around you a lot differently than other kids your age.

People always say “wow, I can’t imagine how you do that? Isn’t it hard to give up your parents like that?” If you’ve asked this, I’m sorry for the blank stare you probably received in response. Yes, my parents have missed things. Birthdays, Christmas, Football games and proms. But those aren’t the things we remember. We remember the times we saw dad fly in and out of the flight facilities in Missouri and Indiana. All three of us chatting up Generals like they’re our buddies. Meeting state senators, and Santa Clause having a crew cut one year at the Christmas party. And every military wife, girlfriend, parent, an child will say that deployment ceremonies are miserable. (Although after a few they kinda seem the same) But we will all also say that homecomings are some of the happiest, proudest moments in your life. (Side note: we’re just as proud at the deployment ceremonies.) Those are the things you focus on.

You cant go through this life without feeling pride, almost every time you mention your parents… And then you automatically think about your friends you’ve met who share the same experiences. When you’re a military kid, you’re in a pretty elite group, and every other one you meet is instantly inducted into your group of friends. We watch out for each other, and relate to each other like no one else can. We are most definitely the most patriotic group of American’s that will ever be found. We remind others to put flags out, and defend those who are defending us. It’s tiring but always worth it.

So, to all my fellow ‘brats’ (does anyone else hate that term?!) thank you so much for sharing this amazing, burden and blessing. Especially those of you I’ve had the extreme pleasure of being friends with through out my life. At any given time, you’ve provided support while my parents were gone, and then we switched out. People often forget you need encouragement too. So, here it is; It has been an honor to get to be part of this ‘club’ with you. And for those with parents gone, or getting ready to leave – it really does get better. Not easier, but better. Jason explained to me the phrase “Charlie Mike” today. (Bonus points to those who don’t need a translator) It means “Continue Mission” – they have theirs and we have ours. And it’s pretty self explanatory, I think. Whatever comes up, deployments, training, moves, just adjust and adapt. You have a pretty amazing group of people to help you make it through.

What Nobody Tells You About Infertility As A Milspouse

If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, then it is no surprise that J and I are battling through the infertility journey. If you just started reading this, then welcome! And if all of this is news to you – I’m about to give you the rundown. **Heads up, there’s more language in this post than normal, and I talk about the… parts and pieces that go into having a baby. **

J and I got married in October of 2014, and were so excited to get to start our family. There’s never been a time in either of our lives where we didn’t want kids, wholeheartedly. We didn’t completely jump into ‘trying’ until we had been married for about four months, because of his training schedule. Like basically everyone who is in the military, or attached to it, we were aware of the realities of trying to get pregnant when half the equation is unavailable for weeks and months at a time. It didn’t really hit me that we’d need to see a doctor until we hit the year mark, and nothing was happening.

And that is when I realized this was going to be more of an uphill battle than I first anticipated. I fought, in tears several times, to get to be seen in the infertility clinic and was blocked by a PCM (Primary Care Manager or a General Practitioner for the army) who was more interested in getting numbers out than she was about providing solid care. I tried and pushed all the way until my husband left for Afghanistan, and still could not be seen. Defeated, I just gave up on even trying to figure out this process while he was gone. “Normal” infertility-related depression and anxiety was coupled with wondering if I’d get my husband back from the desert, and fighting with a system that seems determined to make you fail.

Somewhere in the trying while we were together, we also decided to move forward with other routes to having children – foster care, and eventually adoption. We were both completely surprised at how much foster care seemed like the ‘right’ path for us – even having never previously considered it. How could we not want to open our homes to kids who needed parents who desperately wanted them?We’re in the beginning of this process – hard to get licensed when J is in and out of the country! But are so excited to get to fight for little ones who need to just be loved fiercely.

We’re currently at a wonderful doctor, who is willing to work with us on our schedule, and is incredibly knowledgeable, and great at handling these sensitive issues – especially when I’m at most of the appointments by myself. But, it has taken every single bit of the last two years to get to this point, and start seeing any progress at all. We’re just now getting to tests that my original doctor should have ordered from the very beginning.

Since we’re making progress, I feel like I owe it to the women who are in this journey with me who are also trying to manage life as a military spouse as well… We’re a subset of a very small community, and there are a few things I wish I’d been told upfront in this journey – long before the first doctor’s appointment.

You Are Going To Feel Alone. Anyone who has gone through infertility can tell you that it is incredibly isolating. One in eight couples goes through some form of infertility. It can be incredibly embarrassing, or just painful to talk about. Being a military spouse can be an absolutely isolating experience all in and of itself – especially if you are a National Guard or Reserve spouse. This was one of the first things I had to learn after J and I moved me up to the frigid north while he was in Afghanistan, and even now when the appointments seem to always fall on a drill weekend. Women I knew who were going through infertility would talk about how their husband couldn’t make it to appointments because of a meeting or something. I wanted to scream – or cry – because mine can’t be there even when he want’s to. It’s incredibly hard to not feel like you’re doing it all by yourself.

Which brings me to…

Find Your Support System – And USE Them. I have to be honest, this was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. My husband is in and out of my life, and we’re not able to have kids – so make some friends? Heck no! I also thought that I was completely on my own. And then I started paying attention. My best friend has been cheering J and I on since the very beginning – and when I didn’t understand test results she explained them to me, calmly and patiently. And the first time I needed to give myself a shot, J wasn’t around and she willingly (in the middle of her living room) gave it to me, simply because I was too nervous to. My best MilSpouse friend drove me to an incredibly painful test, and sat in the waiting room until I was done, to drive me home. Once we got home, she made sure the dog was taken out, and that I had plenty of snacks within walking distance.

I also got online – and I can’t begin to say how helpful that is. Ladies – we are a subset of an already small community. There are COUNTLESS groups of infertility support groups, and ones specifically made for military spouses going through this journey. It’s been unreal the amount of compassion and information that I’ve gotten from these groups – from a place to vent about how everyone else is pregnant, to the best ways to handle the side effects of the medicines. That may have been the most pleasant surprise of this journey so far; the amount of kindness from strangers, just because my walk looks a little like theirs.

People Are Going To Say Some Really Stupid Stuff. Oh man… Ohhhh, man. This is a doozy. And as much as I don’t like this, it’s kind of a fact of life when you’re an Infertile Myrtle Milspouse. You see, people don’t seem to understand the military. Makes sense – only one percent of the United States’ population is or has been in the military. It’s a weird, weird life and people don’t know how to react. So they say some stupid stuff. (Raise your hand if you’ve had someone ask if you miss your husband…) It’s mostly innocent, and not malicious. With only about 15% of people having gone through infertility, people also seem to say some pretty stupid things about that. (“Why don’t you just adopt?” Why don’t you just shut up?) Going through both at the same time? They’ve got no idea. And it can get very, very hurtful – very quickly. I have had people ask J for medical advice about their pregnancy, even knowing that he is obviously not an OB and that he’s in the middle of infertility. Also – had a woman tell me she ‘understood at least 50% of what I was going through”… after getting pregnant naturally… two days after J left for Afghanistan. She is not a milspouse. Malicious? I don’t think so. Hurtful? Hell, yes. And Sometimes it’s just AWFUL – like the time I had someone ask if I was going to try IVF just so that “If something happened, then it would be like I had a piece of J.”

The thing is – you can choose to freak out (easy option) or you can educate people. Say, “Hey, that’s pretty insensitive – here’s what you can say instead…” There is NOTHING to be ashamed about – you didn’t bring on your infertility, and you shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed about it. And while you absolutely need to make sure you have people around you – you do not have to deal with people who make the journey more difficult!

ADVOCATE FOR YOUR CARE. I really had to resist putting this in size 35 font and making it underlined. There are not enough words for how important this is. Story time…

I spent months trying to get into the infertility clinic at our old duty station. I was supposed to be in a fertility referral appointment that had taken weeks to get into – when my doctor informed me that, actually, I would be getting my yearly PAP. I was ovulating, so J and I had been intimate the night before, and so I spoke up saying that I was concerned about that possibly causing issue for the test. The doctor seemed annoyed and said that no, it would be fine. I had waited for this appointment for WEEKs, so against my better judgement, I agreed to go through with the procedure. A few days later I was told that my results were ‘abnormal’ and that I needed to get a second painful procedure. Not only that, but I would be barred from entering the infertility clinic until after J and I were already going to be moved. I was devastated – heart broken. I decided to take a pause on invasive tests and craziness, and get into my civilian doctor and get the PAP a second time. J and I got into an amazing infertility doctor. I told her how anxious I was, and what had happened previously. She had me take the test, and the results came back perfectly normal. On one hand I was incredibly relieved – but on the other? I now have to wonder all the time if J and I would have our little miracle by now, if I had only pushed harder.

You know your body better than anyone else does! Speak up!

Be On The Same Page As Your Spouse. This could have gone in one of the other points… but I (and J, when he read this later) thought that it should be it’s own. I was mentally in the infertility journey months before J was there with me. Every month when I wasn’t pregnant I was absolutely wrecked, and J just wasn’t there with me. Part of it was because he was too busy, or even gone. And part of it was because I could not find the words to articulate what I needed from him. If you need your spouse to be at appointments, tell him. If that’s not possible, find something that works – a touch base phone call, or an email when they’re deployed.

Your husband loves you, and wants you to be pregnant so badly. He may not be able to truly understand, but I can say based off of J and I that it can be a complete game changer when you are both open and honest about where you’re at. Infertility is awful, and can drive such an emotional distance between people. But there is absolutely no reason for it to wreck your marriage.

Remember To Date Your Spouse. So… I know we all talk about the ‘practice makes perfect’ joke when trying to get pregnant… But can I get real for a second? (If I haven’t already scared you off!) Trying to have a baby… is sometimes the absolute least sexy thing in the entire world. Between the ultrasounds every two weeks, the peeing on ALL the sticks, the horrendous side effects of the meds, and the making sure you have sex IN THE FERTILE WINDOW. (And don’t even get me started on Pre-Seed – I may have possibly scarred one of my best friends for life on that one.) It’s just… all a bit much.

Inevitably you are going to feel like a busted incubator, and your husband will feel like something of a sperm donor. In the hustle and bustle of blood draws and fertility med administration, it’s incredibly easy to not prioritize a date night. And it is absolutely important. Shave your legs (yes, seriously), throw on a cute outfit, and talk about anything BUT doctors appointments. Hell, make a sheet fort and eat pizza and put a ban on any kind of infertility talk. It’s the huge elephant in the room – but it is essential for both of you to ignore it every once in awhile.

This is one of the hardest things for me to do right now. I am so desperately chasing after having kids, that it’s difficult not to get some incredible tunnel vision. Fortunately I married a very spontaneous man, who makes sure that at the very least we have some infertility-free take out Indian food every now and then.

I wish I could get to the bottom of all this and say that J and I have it all figured out – but, again, I’d be lying to your face. Trying to get pregnant and struggling with it is so frustrating. Trying to keep your sanity as a Military Spouse is also really frustrating sometimes. But there can also be amazing good to come out of both – even at the same time.

 

 

Hey Y’all – My Life Isn’t Sad. Pleas Stop Apologizing For It.

Oh, the holidays. Tons of food, decorations, gifting, and lots of parties – J and I had FOUR Thanksgiving celebrations last weekend. Four.

We had a blast at all of them, but there was something that happened at almost every single interaction that I couldn’t quite understand, and that kind of started to really irritate me.

So, J has been in and out throughout the year (mostly out). This means that he provides the interesting anecdotes that people haven’t heard before. (There are only so many variations I can tell of the things that broke while he’s been gone – they all start to sound the same). It also means that he provides easy conversation – not necessarily in talking to him, but in that people always have a good couple of questions to ask; where’s he at, where’s he going, and what’s he got ‘going on’ these days. Totally get it – he’s pretty cool. Doesn’t bother me at all – I like bragging a little.

It’s what happens after I answer that bothers me. You see, J’s schedule will consistently comprise of a lot of time ‘out’ and then a lot of what we are going to call being ‘in flux’ which is a nice phrase that really means ‘who even knows at this point’. That’s essentially my answer, with one absence that we know is upcoming so people can plan around it a little bit. We’re buying a house, so that comes up and I have to say that, yep, I shall be doing the move while he’s gone… And then – inevitably, someone looks at me and says “I’m so sorry.”

I thought that maybe it was just me – we are a guard family after all, and a little removed from the level of knowledge that happens when living around a military base. But it actually seems to all across the board in this community. Several of my active duty wife friends said this is common from women whose husbands aren’t deployed often, or don’t go to many schools.

I guess I’m just confused as to what people are apologizing for… That he’s going to be gone? That it will be stressful? That he presumably chose this job and chooses to be away from me? I’m always torn between staying quiet, or telling people what this reality looks like.

If he’s gone, it’s because he’s earning a paycheck to keep his wife (and dog) fed and housed and clothed. He’s the primary breadwinner for our family, so if he’s gone it means that he’s getting us closer to our financial goals.

If it’s stressful it’s because he chooses to keep his skills and is getting to go to more schools – which means he’s learning new things, which means more career progression – that can only be a good thing!

If he’s gone, yes, he’s choosing to be away from me. But I knew that going into this that he wasn’t the type to ‘ride a desk’ and have a normal 9-5 job. Through the last year, J and I have been learning more and more about each other – and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that I would much rather him be in his job, where he feels like God is calling him to be, where he loves to be  and then come home and enjoy being able to relax and just be with me. He looks forward to deploying, and that’s something we have had to talk about, and will continue to work through, but because he looks forward to being gone, he also looks forward to being home with me. And unlike a ‘normal’ job – he can’t exactly ‘bring work home’ with him – which is a nice bonus.

And the people in this community that he and I get to do all this with? Oh my gosh – they are the best. I’ve gotten to make lifelong friends. These friendships aren’t due to proximity – they’re tested by moves across the country, different deployment cycles, and the ups and downs of emotions that go along with all of the above. And are without a doubt some of the most encouraging, challenging friendships that he and I have gotten to make.

None of that is sad – at least not to me. But every time someone apologizes to me for my life being simply what it is, I feel a little like the kid who has fallen in the playground. You know – kid falls, scrapes up his palms but is otherwise fine. He would normally get up and shake it off. But this time, another kids mom rushes over and says ‘OH NO!’ Kid starts crying, because clearly something must be wrong – the other mom sees it even if he doesn’t! That’s kind of what happens for a minute after people apologize to me. I have to remind myself that my life isn’t something that needs to be apologized for. It gets kind of challenging, though because if enough people in my life and my friends’ lives think that it’s sad, and that they feel sorry for me, it’s pretty easy to fall into the hole of ‘well I should feel sorry for myself then, because clearly something is wrong.’

Obviously that’s on me – other people only control what they say, not how I respond to it. But it’s also on me to explain what is actually going on and give people a more comprehensive perspective on what life is like. How else can they know what to say if no one talks to them about it?

One of my friends put it best this way – “Ask me something instead. Something helpful so I can talk about this. If you’re curious – ask about my stories. I have so many stories. A lot of really sad ones, or frustrating ones, but some awesome ones too. But I can’t tell them to people if they don’t give me the chance, or cut me off with an ‘I’m sorry,’ before it even gets there.”

One of the things that J and I want to instill in our littles – foster, adopted, or bio – is that we’re a team. And “Team Sheepdog” (that’s not our last name – obviously –  but I’m not putting it in here – OPSEC and all that) is going to move forward on what ever mission that we feel God has for us. One of the things that gets said the most around here is “It is what it is”. (If my former nanny boss is reading this she just laughed. I say it so much in my life that she bought me a mug that is just white text simply stating ‘it is what it is’ and I bust that mug out every. single. time. J is gone!) It doesn’t mean we just allow things to roll over us, but that we ‘adapt and over come’ whatever obstacle we are coming against. For that we need people in our community to understand the realities of what we do – the good, the bad, the painful, all of it.

He’s going to be gone, he’s going to be in dangerous situations, and I’m definitely going to be stressed out. It is what it is, but it’s definitely better when shared with people.

If You Haven’t Realized This Yet – I Have No Clue What I’m Doing Either

 

I had someone tell me a few weeks ago that I seemed (from the outside) like I have everything all together with my life. That I’m a strong person in light of my husband’s chosen career path, and the amount of time we have together (or lack thereof).

I received the information, processed it, and cracked up. “There’s no possible way she’s talking about me! She didn’t see the breakdown I had over the check engine light coming on in J’s car. Or the fact that I haven’t washed my hair in three days.” I seriously laughed out loud to Bravo.

If there’s one thing that I don’t feel like – it’s a strong person. Or a person who has any amount of her ducks in a row – I don’t even think I have all mine in the same pond at this point. J and I are working through some serious issues. (What married couple isn’t, or hasn’t?) But we’re getting kind of shaken to the core in some areas of our marriage. Then, we’re working around the ‘will he be in this country next year’ issue that so many military spouses get to battle around when planning anything – home, school, babies. Which is oh so fun to plan and arrange around.

And – what makes it even more fun: I have NO IDEA how to handle any of this. Like, no freaking clue.

If you’re a MilSO reading this, there has probably been a point in the last six months where you have said something like ‘I’m done’ or ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or, if you’re me, where you’ve refused to put real pants on (running leggings to the rescue), scooped your dog up into your bed (when your husband expressly told you to absolutely not to), and laid down in bed and cried for hours. And basically stayed there for a month, binge watching NCIS or The Good Wife. (Netflix and chill – only if ‘chill’ means bring a tub of ice cream into bed with you.)

The dog had to be rushed to the vet. The car’s check engine light came on. You and your husband fought during one of the handful of conversations you get. Everyone around you got pregnant, and you don’t even get the chance to try. Friends and family say hurtful things (or worse, don’t say anything at all). You get sick and have no one to take care of you. This probably all happens at once – or it feels like it – and you get to a very adamant and emotional ‘done’.

It’s hard enough. But then you take a moment and look at yourself in the mirror, And you feel worse. How come other wives don’t seem to only go out in yoga pants? How come other wives are able to get up out of bed in the morning without giving themselves a 20 minute peptalk? They don’t distract their husbands, and they certainly don’t feel like a big, fat, failure for pretty much the entire deployment. They’re not crying in grocery stores or gas stations, or on their couch by themselves, or subsist for 6 months on nothing but microwave macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets and iced coffee – copious amounts of iced coffee.

So, you feel like a terrible wife. You’re supposed to be the ‘strong army wife’! “Ranger on!” “Continue Mission” “Other Hooah Phrases!”

Stop it. There’s no picture perfect strong military wife. Comparing yourself to someone, anyone, else is a surefire way to feel like you’re not getting anything done. Shocking, I know.

In the military spouse and significant other community, there seems to be this idea that military wives have to have everything together. Your husband’s dinner is already ready (no matter that he may not come home until after midnight), and his uniforms are perfectly pressed. His deployment goes smoothly, and when things fall apart, you just smile through the craziness and learn how to be a vet, a mechanic, a plumber, and an electrician all in one year. Or – you’re told you should just be constantly worrying about everything. Worry about your soldier in combat, or you’re not a good wife. Worry about how everyone will approach you during the stages of a deployment. Worry about your kids. Constantly.

Guys, neither one of those options is sustainable. And what’s absolutely ridiculous is that we KEEP buying into them, then (not surprisingly) we are not upholding the impossible standard we’re putting on ourselves. Cue the tears and “I’m a failures”. I know this is all across the board, but it seems to be particularly prevalent among the younger spouses, and those with no kids.

I wish I had something to give to y’all. Some kind of army wife decoder book, or a road map on how to handle things when you kinda sorta feel like your life is crashing in around you. I don’t have any of that. What I do have is a lot of knowledge about the army, so I’m rarely surprised. Very rarely. (Note that I didn’t say rarely upset. I said surprised.) And what I also have is an awesome tribe, who are forcing me into giving myself grace. Sometimes not so gently.

So that’s what I’ve got… A tribe of people who let me run to them and who immediately make me pick my battles with myself. Get those people and make sure you help each other. Make sure you have people around you who will not let you dig yourself into a hole you can’t get out of. If you don’t have those people – find them.

And second, you’re probably crushing it. Absolutely owning on whatever crisis happened while your soldier was gone, or whatever gross life stage you guys are working through. Yeah, you wore yoga pants every day for a week. But – you managed to keep your cool and learned to fix a broken washing machine. Or, you moved yourself into a new place while your husband was gone. And if all that fails when you look at that other wife who seems like she has it all together – remember, at some point she probably sat at home with that tub of ice cream and 3 seasons of Scandal in a weekend, too.

There’s A Reason Those Homecoming Videos Are So Short

We’ve all seen those homecoming videos. You know the ones that I’m talking about.

Soldier surprises kids by showing up at a football game. Or the group of perfectly done up military wives welcoming their husbands home on the tarmac. Clever signs, and only pretty criers. Don’t get me wrong, I love homecoming videos. J and I have one that my dad filmed in the airport, and I could probably watch it over and over again, all the time. It’s on my Instagram, and it’s adorable. Seriously freaking adorable.

But the full video is something like 45 seconds to 1 minute long. And there is a definite reason for that brevity – it’s not real. That is not real life, and it’s not what the expectation of your soldier coming home should look like.

It truly is a fairy tale couple of minutes. That ceremony where they all pile off the bus, or fall out of formation, or even just running and jumping into your soldier’s arms in an airport. That’s homecoming. And that high (while awesome) is pretty stinking short lived. Like, the second you have to corral your party of excited in laws and family members into a restaurant, or get people to get out of the way at the airport – it goes away. And is replaced by all the 1,700 emotions you’re going to have built up along the way to this deployment.

And don’t lie – you’ve built up some emotions on the route to this homecoming. Anger at the car problems you had to deal with on your own. Depression at the several months of nights spend cuddled up with a dog/cat/body pillow with your soldier’s t-shirt on it. Confidence from the time you fixed the leaky toilet by yourself. And then the weeks of anxiety over the moment that is happening right now. Did you pick out the right dress? Are his family members going to drive him crazy? Drive you crazy? What if he doesn’t like your newfound attitude? What if you guys don’t like each other? What if he’s different? (He will be.) What if you’re different? (You will be, too.) What about getting… intimate? Cause that’s been not a part of your life for a while – and you have the furry legs to prove it! (Sorry, mom.)

Reintegration. For most people, that word means almost nothing. For military families, it can be the most tense part of the deployment cycle. I can guarantee at least one person here read that sentence and felt themselves physically tense up. If you’ve gone through a deployment as a spouse, or even a child, you have a ‘after they got back’ story. It’s probably not a good one, although sometimes they get funny later. ( I have some good ones about the last six weeks that I’ll be able to tell in about five years.)

I would love to tell you that J and I have this whole thing worked out, and that I’m writing this from a place of being ‘on the other side’ of reintegration, and that we’re perfectly adjusted and loving being back together, 100% of the time.

If I typed all that out, I would be lying. Through my teeth. In the spirit of full disclosure – I’m horrible at this. I am absolutely atrocious at having J come home. It’s so exciting… but then I start itching for him to just get the heck out of my space. Terrible, right?

J and I have now been married for 1 year and 10 months, almost exactly. Of that 1 year and 10 months, we’ve been physically together for about half of it. Extend that to include dating and being engaged – we’ve been ‘together’ for almost 4 years, and have been together for slightly over a year of it. You would think that with being apart, and having him come in and out of my life over and over again, that I would be much much better at having him leave and then come home.

I got used to having the bed to myself (and Bravo the Infantrydog, of course.) I got up when I wanted, and went to sleep when I wanted. Then all of a sudden I had a 200 pound man laying next to me, taking up my space and setting alarms for six in the freaking morning to go to the gym. Every day. I hadn’t gotten up at 6 in the morning since… since before he left. And now just because he wanted to work out with his friend, I had to change my routine for him? That pissed me off. Enough that I was willing to throw what I would now call a tantrum over it. For basically the entire time he was home.

Didn’t he know I didn’t have to be at work until 8:30? And that meant that I needed to sleep in? And how could he not realize that I needed to be asleep much, much earlier if he was going to be getting up and starting my day right along with his?

Women who have been married much longer than I are laughing  – we were not arguing about the gym time with his friend. We weren’t even arguing about the fact that he was getting me up at six in the morning.

We were arguing about the fact that I had (have) no idea how to be married to this man anymore. He’s different. I’m different. Not good different, or bad different. We’re just different people than we were when he left. And we don’t know how to be married as these different people.

I’m going to go ahead and say that almost every single military couple has felt this way after a deployment. Even a short one. And if I thought it was frustrating for me to have J come crashing into my life, trust me, he felt the same level of frustration. But I didn’t want to see that – he ‘got’ to go do his job, and then ‘got’ to come into my life and screw up my schedule. But on his side – he was coming in to a world where his wife had all new systems, and was leveling all her frustration about his absence on him.

I think the most difficult part is that while lots of people were willing to tell me it would be difficult – no one really sat me down and talked to me about what to expect. Not really. Being ‘just’ national guard, our challenges are a little different than those of an active duty family. And there weren’t a lot of people around who would understand when I was asked if I was happy he was home, all I wanted to say was ‘yeah but he can go to a school any day now.’

There’s no perfect formula for the perfect army wife – and if there was, I promise you I would be failing at it, and chipping away at that image every time I open my mouth, let alone sat down at this laptop. I’ve got lots of stories to prove it – ask in a private message and I would love to tell you.

I wanted to put this up here, and I wish I had done it sooner, but I guess it’s better late than never. So, here goes…

It’s okay to be angry when your spouse leaves. It’s okay to be anxious about them coming back. It’s okay to just not like your spouse. It’s okay to even not want to be around them when they’re home. It’s okay to be annoyed at people when they breathe too loud or ask your husband stupid questions when he comes home. It’s okay if you just need to climb in your car with the radio all the way up and just primal scream if you need to. Just… make sure you’re not pointing your car in the direction of the neighbors yard. If they see you that can be weird. Or so I’ve heard.

However, it is not okay if you don’t talk about it. Talk to your spouse. If they can’t or won’t talk, talk to your friends. If they don’t get it, or won’t talk to you, expand. I just set up an extra special email just for this. Comment – send me messages, DM me on Instagram or even just creep on whatever I’ve posted. The reason I do this is so people can learn from the things that I haven’t quite mastered yet. The point is – talk to someone. It doesn’t make you weak if you can’t ‘handle’ post deployment tempers or mood swings – it makes you a person.