Watching our friend and blogger Raleigh Duttweiler and her Marine husband Bill go through a deployment pregnancy made me do a rethink.
In the past, I have said that there are two kinds of military families. Those who have never had a baby during deployment. And those who have.
The first type — the Have Nots — usually think that having a baby during deployment is a perfectly normal part of the profession (that you could have avoided if you only thought ahead.)
The second type — the Have Done Its — do anything in their power to get that young soldier, sailor, airmen, Coastie or Marine home for the birth.
The Have Done Its are well aware that the loneliest day of your military family life is the day you give birth alone — or hear about the birth of your child on the phone, by email, or through the Red Cross.
There’s a third kind of deployment baby.
So I was so glad when Raleigh and Bill showed me that there is really a third kind of military deployment baby in our world — the Just Made Its.
The Just Made It Deployment Baby is the lucky one whose servicemember dad arrives just in time to see that baby born. Or the baby makes his or her appearance just days or weeks before the deployment begins.
Bill’s deployment was originally scheduled to end around the time of the baby’s birth. But you know how deployment “schedules” go — there are no guarantees that the deployment won’t be extended and extended and extended again until that baby walks across the stage to pick up a diploma.
The babies themselves aren’t any more reliable. To a baby, a due date is a merely a suggestion. It’s an invitation to show up whenever they darn well please.
Will the Marine be home in time for the birth?
Just like so many other military wives, anytime someone asked Raleigh about her due date, there was that long discussion of whether or not Bill would be there or not.
So Raleigh had plans in all directions. She had plans for if Bill arrived in time. She had plans if Bill’s deployment was extended three, six or 18 months. She had plans for the baby’s late arrival and for the baby’s early arrival. She had plans that would pop into place if they baby arrived at a gestational age small enough to wear a Beanie Baby t-shirt.
At work, we stalked Raleigh’s Facebook page until she posted a picture of her Marine deployment baby. Then we all got teary.
Because the look on that young Marine’s face is absolutely priceless. I hope every Marine Dad looks like that when they first lay eyes upon their child. But I think there might be something extra there. Something put there by the too-long absence of deployment.
Maybe that is the benefit of a Just Made It deployment baby. What you almost missed is that much more precious because you almost missed it. Being present in one of those big moments then seems like a gift.
I hope for all dads that the deployment—whether it is pending or just ending before a baby’s birth — makes you understand how much you have in your family. I hope makes you realize how all of these most precious moments are so fleeting. I hope it makes you know how much you have been missed and how welcome you are back home.