Monday, November 5, 2012


I like be creative by composing music, playing the piano, drawing, painting and writing.  I also enjoy puns that lighten the mood, no matter how badly the outcome may be.  I usually save this privilege for people that know me really well - so you don't have to worry about getting hit over the head with one of my puns just yet.  This occasionally does regress a step further.  I make up words by stringing two or more words together, to form a lovely concoction of flavors.   In this case, it pertains to a very meaningful personal experience, to which I'm sure many military spouses can relate.  This one concoction contains elements of surprise, exhaustion, extreme happiness, extreme sadness, isolation, bitterness, rising through to the end, and some humor.  Humor, being an element that is a must, for any of the concoctions that make up our life of creativity with autism, twins and military adventures.

So here we go -  Pregoploymentcy 

The art of coping with a pregnancy while a husband, partner, or significant other is deployed.

This definition also calls for some equations that can be a result of a scenario such as the pregoploymentcy.  For instance, in order to break things down to fully appreciate some of the major components of this scenario, I like to think of it like this:

Deployment = stress on a spouse and stress on the whole family.

Deployment + Pregnancy = experiencing stress and personal hardship.

When you factor in another very important component to this equation, we get: Pregnancy + deployment + passive support = undergoing extreme personal hardship.

Lump on one more factor to this lovely equation and we have:
Pregnancy + deployment + passive support + stress of a possible upcoming autism diagnosis for a 2 year old = One exhausted pregnant lady that's barely able to cope, but will rise to the challenge, anyway because that is what you have to do.

Military Support During the Deployment
I love the military for so many reasons, but I have issues with the type of passive support provided during some deployments.  To say that I didn't have an easy time during Alex's deployment would be an understatement.  I can think of three people that were there for me by means of calling me on the phone up to once a week, or inviting me to an occasional coffee or dinner outing.  Some people offered passive type of support by saying "give us a call if you need anything" but didn't call to see how I was doing, didn't e-mail or stop by the house, no matter how close they lived.  The more times that people said that to me, the more irritated I got about this passivity.  What I saw was not a lack of good intentions, but a lack of follow through.  I really needed a more active type of support.  It didn't have to be anything special or anything big.  The passive level of support made me feel like while I was trying to embrace this new military life style, it is not readily embracing me back.

I was feeling more and more isolated.  I'm sure that living off base in an area that is as spread out as San Antonio, had something to do with it.  Alex and I had also talked to great lengths about how various branches of the military cope with deployments differently.  The Army for example, deploys whole units at a time.  You can imagine the spouses sharing a comradery.  They all know what the other is going through, so they naturally want to be there for each other; the situation itself lends to be of support.  The Air Force only deploys a couple of people at a time from any given office.  Most of the spouses don't really relate, unless they've already gone through this experience before.  Keep in mind that bases are different depending on the mission, but I have not seen much active support for the spouses that get left behind.  This unfortunately left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I had a difficult time dealing with these negative feelings; it took away positive energy that I needed during my twin pregnancy and single parenting Jake.  What should have been a very joyful and beautiful time in my life, was more difficult than I could have imagined.  I'd like to believe that as more and more JAG's deploy, the level of active support will improve.

Twin A and Twin B

 In one of my first ultrasounds where we listened to the baby's heartbeat, I thought and actually said out loud, "if there's another baby in there, I guess we'd miss that second heartbeat."  My mother-in-law was there with me for that one appointment.  I don't know why I was thinking that.  I guess on some level I must have already known.  Since twins didn't naturally run in my immediate family line, it was the last time I entertained that thought and put it out of my mind.  It wasn't until my 20-week ultrasound that I learned that I was having twins.  I had a feeling that it was going to be one big baby, as it was strenuous on me from pretty early on.  Thankfully, my mother was at that appointment with me at Lackland AFB.  I can't even imagine getting the news and having to take it all in on my own.  It was just too much happiness not to be able to share it with anyone else.  The lab technician did the ultrasound and jokingly asked if I would like for him to name the baby.  Playing along, I said "sure".  "the name I give to your baby is Twin A and Twin B."  To his response I shouted "I Knew it!" and mom couldn't believe her ears.  I was eager to get in touch with Alex, but since he was on a training mission at another base in Iraq at the time, I had no way of calling him directly, and I didn't want to give him the news over e-mail.  It took us about 24 hours to finally connect.  I stringed him along over several short e-mail messages, without giving anything away, until we finally got to talk and share in the exciting the news. 

Civilian Support During the Deployment

On the non-military side, I had one friend who flew in from Seattle to visit me for a week, early on in my pregnancy.  Another dear friend from Scotland came to stay with me for five weeks, to keep me company and help me with Jake - a blessing.  Family wise, my mother stayed with me for a month, and it was the best time during the deployment.  My father-in-law came for a few days visit, and then Jake and I came with him to Florida to spend Thanks giving together.  My mother-in-law also came for a short visit.  But as for local help, aside from what I had mentioned, it was shockingly scarce.   This is a matter that had affected me in such a deep and personal way, that Alex and I decided to be supportive to other military spouses, in a way that I wished I had been; even though I didn't benefit from much of this type of active support.  It is my hope that by doing this, other deployed spouses will see a positive example for themselves to emulate going forward.  I'd like to see the good will move forward and eventually become the norm.  It shouldn't have to be something that spouses have to stress over.

Weekends were the most difficult time for me during the deployment, because that is when families spend time together.  That is when loneliness can really set in and mess with your soul.  That is why I make a point of inviting spouses on weekends, in order to make them feel like they are a part of the family, they are included, they are wonderful and special.  They are not forgotten about.  Looking back, I now light-heartedly refer to this deployment time as the "pre-baby boot-camp."  One of the pluses however, of going through something like this early on in our military life (Alex deployed during his second year of active-duty) was that we got it out of the way early on.  Even if Alex gets deployed again, it will never be as difficult for me in the same way that it had been.  I will not be pregnant, we won't be stressed about an on-coming autism diagnosis, and the kids will be older.  If it happens again, I will be able to tolerate it better.  It will never be the first time twice.  It also taught me a hard lesson of having to make it on my own and to be my own best friend through tremendous challenges.  This on it's own, is absolutely a priceless life lesson.

Third Trimester
The Return of Capt Dad

Alex and Jake at the airport -  homecoming April 2009
 Just because the deployment was over, it didn't mean that there were no challenges left for this little family.  There were some post-deployment reintegration issues for us to sort through.  This is common for our returning service members.  It took me some time to recover emotionally from this whirlwind.  Unfortunately, it caused some unnecessary friction throughout and after the deployment for Alex and me.  Alex was as supportive to me as he could have been at that time, but it just wasn't enough to get me through my feelings that quickly.  It was going to take some time.  On the up-side, he was back for my third trimester and was not going to miss the birth of our twins.  That was a relief as well as very exciting.  It was nice to have him accompany me to doctor visits.  It was very fortunate timing for us, and we felt lucky to get to share this together.  We both knew of other couples that didn't get to share the birth of their child together.

Double Duty 
Once Alex returned from Iraq in the spring of 2009, we only had a few weeks to adjust to being together again as a family at this new point of our lives.  We got the twins' room set up and got reacquainted as family.  On top of which, we were observing more and more changes that pointed to autism in Jake; it was quite a scary thing.  We knew that this would be another big challenge for us, but we really had no idea what was about to transpire.  Taking care of two babies at a time, additionally, would stretch our abilities.  There was so much to accomplish, but the transition went by quickly - for better or for worse.  We had to be solid, focused, and be determined to get through it - even if it meant getting through it one day at a time.  That is what most of our early days after the birth of the twins were like.  The "one day at a time" motto I lived by during the deployment was practical and doable for me.  I was already in the correct gear from the "pre-baby boot camp." Looking back on it all, it was one big exhausting blur.  The good news was that the twins were healthy, so we were very happy, sleep deprived, but extremely thankful.   We were delighted to have these three wonderful children bless us by coming into our life. 

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  1. This is totally personal so feel free to politely refuse your answer, but did you guys attempt to plan pregnancy around his deployment buckets? My hubs and I have discussed when we want to start trying for our first, and we want to at least attempt to plan it in between the deployment buckets (which I've been told are every 2 years). But I wondered how realistic it is in real life to do that. Love your blog!

  2. Lauren, thank you for your fantastic question!! The stress of the upcoming deployment was very real for us. We knew we always wanted to have at least 2 kids, but since we met when I was 33 years old and Jake was born a month shy of my 37th year, we felt that this would be it (even though I came from a 3-child family and would have wanted a 3rd child had we met a little earlier). Fortunately, I got my third child anyway and got my one girl ;)I didn't want to wait to try until after Alex returned from his deployment because I didn't want to risk any conception issues and time is a very real factor in our 30s. So to answer your question--yes, we took the deployment timing into high consideration. There were going to be pluses and minuses to either try before or to wait. My suggestion is to do what ever you feel will bring personally the least amount of stress. As I discussed in that post, not having active enough support during the deployment, which happened to be when I was pregnant, made my pregnancy more difficult. I was exhausted most of the time and it would have been really great to get more local active support. I don't know if that is an issue where you are based as far as support goes. I hope this experience and answer to your question is helpful in any way and thank you for visiting my blog. My regards, Lily