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  • Shay Marie

Pregnancy and a Deployment

Updated: Feb 5

My husband and I made the decision to try to start a family while drinking at an airport bar in Denver. We had just been on vacation with family, including our adorable niece who was one at the time. I was supposed to start my next pack of pills and we decided I should throw them out instead. Who doesn’t make these decisions over a beer in an airport?


With our timing it seemed unlikely things would work out, but I wasn’t getting any younger and I didn’t want to wait another year until he was back from deployment. We were getting married in a couple of months and I figured it would take some time for my body to level out after being on the pill for so many years. We would have one month to try after we got married and before he left. While he was opposed to me being pregnant while he was gone, I assured him the chance of it actually happening that quickly was slim.


I took so many pregnancy tests that month. I mean, I know they say the absolute earliest for a positive is six days before your period, but that probably means you should start testing eight before to look for the slightest hint of a faint line. When I was five days out from my period I took another test and the whiteness was blinding where the line should’ve been. I figured we’d have to wait until he got back at that point since I felt like some sign of success should be showing by then.


Being one of the last weeks my husband was home, we had a big day planned that started with mimosas at brunch, cocktails at a hockey game, and wine at dinner. The next morning I went into the bathroom and took out another test. I peed and sat there waiting, staring at it knowing it would be the same as yesterday, but it wasn’t.


The faintest of lines came up. Almost so faint I wasn’t sure it was there. I held it up to a light, I took a picture with my phone, I stared and stared all while my heart was pounding. Was it an evap? No, I swore there was the slightest hint of pink color to it. I knew enough to know that the line wouldn’t be much darker if I tested again that day, but my impatience got the best of me and I was out buying more tests before the end of it. The next morning I took another test and this time that line wasn’t so faint. It was there, it was darker than the day before, and I was overwhelmed by the realization I had another life growing inside. (Also a little concerned I had probably drowned my embryo in alcohol just two days prior.)


I continued to test every day. It’s normal to take like twenty tests to confirm you’re pregnant after you find out you’re pregnant, right? I had heard so many stories about miscarriage and chemical pregnancies that I held my breath every morning the line would still be there and look as dark or darker than the day before. Every cramp and odd feeling triggered anxiety that something was wrong. With my husband leaving soon, I was scared to death that in the sadness of him leaving we would also experience the grief of a miscarriage.


At one point, my husband commented that maybe I shouldn’t get my hopes up yet. While he had no mean intentions behind those words, they stung. He didn’t want me to get my hopes up? What I don’t think he realized was the second I saw that line, I envisioned this baby. All the hope in the world flooded my heart, and I was living every day fearful that it would be taken away. I felt like things had worked out too easily for us. When was the other shoe going to drop?


The time came for my husband to leave and I cried countless tears driving home. It was storming the majority of the drive and my stress hit the roof. I cried because my husband was leaving and I cried because I was certain my anxiety would cause something bad with my baby.


I was so concerned about something happening with the pregnancy that I stopped some of my normal activities. I ran before getting pregnant, but stopped because I worried I would somehow do more harm than good. Any doctor will tell you that you can continue what you were doing before you got pregnant, but my anxiety and I didn’t want to risk it. I avoided all foods and seasonings that had ever been linked to miscarriage. I mildly freaked out one night after eating potatoes seasoned with rosemary. By six weeks I was suffering terrible nausea and on a rare off day that I felt okay, I’d obsessively start googling loss of pregnancy symptoms, certain something was wrong.


When I went in for my first ultrasound, I was sick to my stomach. I was by myself, and while we were hoping my husband would be able to FaceTime, he wasn’t. I’ll never forget the feeling right at the beginning of the ultrasound. As soon as the picture popped up I started crying because I knew there wasn’t a heartbeat, but there was. It was there. My blob of a baby on the screen had a beating heart. It was so surreal knowing I was walking around with two hearts beating inside of me.

When I got home from that appointment, I found flowers had been delivered from my husband. He later admitted he didn’t put anything on the card because he didn’t want to say something about the baby and find out that the appointment hadn’t gone well.


My husband was stationed in the states for the first several weeks for training. He then had a few days between his training and leaving for his deployment. During that time we decided we’d meet for a weekend together by the beach. We arranged our flights to connect at the same airport and go on from there. We had chosen to get genetic testing done, and the results came in the day I was leaving. What are the chances I’d get that call only hours before my flight? I asked them not to tell me the sex, but to put it in an envelope. I picked it up on the way to the airport and it took everything in me not to look. My husband still to this day doesn’t fully believe me when I tell him I didn’t.


When we met at the airport, I could barely restrain myself. I wanted to open that envelope right there, but my husband insisted we wait until we were somewhere a bit more memorable. The next day we had lunch near a marina and walked down to the docks. We sat there with a view of the water and opened the envelope. It was a boy! We were having a son. I’ll never be able to express how grateful I was to have that moment and that weekend before he left again.


The moment we opened the envelope. Note husband's look of terror.

Once overseas, my husband tried to call every night. My new routines mostly included work, Netflix binging, a call from him around 8, and going to bed right after. One thing I realized I should’ve appreciated more during my first pregnancy that I didn’t have during the second was the ability to sleep ten hours a night.


The rest of my pregnancy continued in a blur of exhaustion, couch time, and telling Netflix to stop judging me. Pretty sure our couch had an indent where I’d spent countless hours curled up counting down to the next call, next day, next month. I watched the entire series of the Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, Game of Thrones, The Sinner, The Handmaid’s Tale, and more. The amount of times Netflix was concerned about me and asked if I was still watching was embarrassing.


I wish I could say I stayed active, I spent a ton of time with friends, I pampered myself, I embraced pregnancy, but I did none of those things. I went through the motions of life just counting down to both meeting my baby and my husband coming home. I will always say time never moved slower for me than it did during those months.


I sent my husband countless pictures of my bump, videos of the baby kicking and moving, pictures of the ultrasounds, video of hearing the heartbeat. We continued to talk every night if possible, emailed, texted, and were in constant communication. That's something not possible for all deployments, and we recognized while our situation wasn’t ideal, it was much better than some. We knew how lucky we were.


Our baby boy was due December 27th. As the date got closer, we got the greatest gift. My husband was granted leave to come home for the birth. We planned that I would be induced to hopefully deliver on the due date if things worked out, and by some miracle they did.


My husband came home late Christmas night. We spent the next morning relaxing, went out to a nice lunch, and got to walk into the hospital that afternoon knowing one way or another we’d be walking out together with our baby boy.


A few words of advice from my experiences:


- Stay active during pregnancy and unless your doctor says otherwise, continue doing what you did before you got pregnant.

- Enjoy a cup of coffee.

- Pamper yourself in some way while you have time if this is your first (you won’t get the chance with your second).

- For the love of all things holy, stay off of Google.

- If you happen to be reading this facing a deployment, have a communication plan that works for the circumstances, and make it one of your top priorities.

- Do not just sit at home alone if that’s your situation. Get out of the house. Meet with friends. Visit with family. Go sit in the sunshine.

- Speaking of friends and family, lean on them, lean on them hard.

- Do watch lots of Gilmore Girls.

- Know that if you fail to do all of these things and just find yourself counting down the days in a sunken in spot on the couch with Netflix asking for the third time if you’re still watching, give yourself a hug, because maybe that’s just how you need to get through it.


To all of the military mamas that either serve or have significant others serving, thank you. You are all warriors.


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