Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Happy Veteran's Day
You can also find this article on textnovel.com. Our troops and their families deserve a shout out everyday, not just today.
Navy Wife: The Toughest Job in the Navy
I have a window decal with the above slogan and I believe it with every cynical fiber of my being. I’ve lived in New York, Florida, California, Virginia and North Carolina. Both of my children were born in Navy medical centers. My oldest son traveled through seventeen states and endured a six month cruise with me, all before his fourth birthday.
While all the men and woman of the U.S. armed forces are doing what is necessary to keep this country secure, their families are struggling to survive from day to day. Military divorce statistics are hard to come by, they’re probably locked up in a vault at Fort Knox. With the national average hovering at one out of two marriages ending in divorce court, it is my belief that the Navy divorce rate is higher than all the other branches of the military, mostly due to cruise deployments and exercises.
At the start of 2004, my husband had begun his sea duty rotation, which would last for the remainder of his military career. I was pregnant with our second child and we were holed up in a one bedroom apartment in Virginia Beach.
Nirvana it wasn’t.
We closed on a house in the middle of March, a 1960’s ranch style house in need of serious TLC, or maybe some gasoline and a match. Moving was a tedious process, especially because I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavy, so I had to pitch in on the sly. During our first meal at la casa crappola, my then two year old son decided to shove a cooked carrot up his nose. My husband, Scott, was on what is termed Cinderella liberty, which meant he had to report to the boat by midnight. We rushed to the nearest emergency room where I had to comfort my screaming son as the medical staff worked to extract the carrot. The event brought a new world of insight to the phrase ‘up your nose with a rubber hose.’
They did the best they could and sent us home with instructions to visit the medical center at Portsmouth as soon as possible, as well as a flyer on the importance of teaching your child to not stick things up his or her nose. Just in case I didn’t already feel like a parenting failure.
We managed to get Scott to the boat on time, but I got lost on my way home. All in all, it was a stellar day.
The house had been fitted to accommodate an elderly couple, so instead of a tub, there was a stand-in shower. I’d made arrangements to have a plumber come in the next day to install a bathtub, which required removing tiles from the walls to fit the tub surround properly. I was relaying the events of the previous night to my step mother when the plumber informed me he had “seen bugs.”
This, as it turned out, happened to be termites.
I made a few phone calls, one of which was to chew out our slime ball realtor for sticking us with a money pit, then took carrot-nose to the medical center for his follow up visit. After waiting an hour and a half at the pharmacy for his antibiotic, I returned home where I stared at the exposed insulation and chewed two by fours.
Things were better after that. I was able arrange for someone repair the damaged beams and the tub was in two days later. Carrot-nose and I were able to bathe in our unfinished bathtub. My father and step-mother came to visit a few days later and they put up sheet rock and painted the bathroom, as well as hooked up my washing machine, hang blinds on my bare windows and do some much needed yard work. By the time Scott called, midway through his month long deployment, I was able to report that everything was fine.
By the time he came home and I manage to get my first prenatal check-up I was five months pregnant. My first son had been nine pounds, ten ounces at birth and I’d had a cesarean after fourteen hours of labor because he’d been in distress. I’d wanted to schedule another C-section because I had heard sequential children usually tended to be larger. Scott was scheduled to start his six month deployment at the beginning of October and I was terrified he wouldn’t be there for the birth.
Since I was so far along however, it was impossible for the doctors to pinpoint the date of conception and I was told a scheduled C-section was not an option until after the projected due date.
Scott had another two month deployment that summer and I made the nine hour trip up to New York to visit with family. Traveling the Jersey turnpike in my new trailblazer afforded me several opportunities to vent my frustration and exercise my driving finger. By the time I returned to Virginia, the little house of horrors didn’t seem so bad, and I was thankful to have a place to call my own.
I went into labor on my due date, September 17th, two days before my scheduled C-section. I had also opted to have a tubule-legation, since I was pretty sure two children were enough. “Are you sure? You’re only twenty-five and this is a permanent method of birth control.” The doctors and nurses warned me. My second son weighed in at ten pounds twelve ounces and smelled like vanilla cookies. Since I’d never aspired to breaking world records, I was sure.
Scott left on cruise exactly three weeks after vanilla cookie baby’s arrival. Virginia law instructs that a woman can not drive for a month after a caesarean. A friend pointed out it was a ridiculous law, since how could the police enforce it?
“Excuse me Mam’, but I pulled you over for speeding and I see you have an infant in the back seat. Would you please exit the car and drop your pants so I can check for surgical scarring?”
Yeah, that would go over like a fart in church.
Being a good citizen, I try to obey the law whenever possible and Scott made sure the house was well stocked with diapers, formula and groceries to see me through my time of confinement. I have family that lived about an hour away from us and my Aunt came by frequently to watch the boys while I went shopping. I also reacquainted myself with the internet, which we had been without for over a year. Technology is a wonderful asset for a military spouse; it affords us the ability to communicate with our loved ones, sending pictures and personal anecdotes, to let the service members know they are in our thoughts. Of course, it often goes down and emails are read to ensure that the service members aren’t revealing mission critical information, but it’s better than nothing.
Since the six month cruise guaranteed Scott wouldn’t be home for the holidays, I took carrot nose and vanilla cookie baby to New York where we spent Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with Scott’s. No matter what was going on though, the holidays were empty and I only celebrated for the sake of the family. Scott’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve, so we had the added bonus of missing that celebration as well. He received many packages and he wrote to inform me that he shared many of the goodies we had sent with the members of the crew who hadn’t been as fortunate. We began to make plans for the following year, where we would put the decorations, the food we would have, the traditions we wanted to start. It helped get us through our loneliness.
By the time spring rolled around, I was more than ready to have my husband back home, even if it meant sharing possession of the remote. There was nothing good on anyhow.
Scott had a hard time transitioning off of the night shift (twelve hours a day, seven days a week, except for the occasional liberty,) and he joked that the Navy should change their slogan to Join the NAVY; See the inside of the boat.
Vanilla cookie baby just turned two and carrot nose started pre-school last week. Scott’s post Navy job requires some travel, but he now has the option of saying no. The military life will always be part of us and my thoughts and prayers are with all of the servicemen and their hard working families who are sometimes holding life together with bailing wire and spit. Even though military spouses aren’t directly compensated for all they do, they deserve the utmost respect for living by someone else’s agenda. Thank you for keeping the cogs turning, and sharing your loved ones so they can keep the world safe for our children.