This week’s guest is sharing here experience of being a mom deployed overseas. Cynthia left for a deployment when her daughter was a year old. Hear about her experience of leaving her daughter behind and serving her country overseas.
The most common phrase I heard right before I left for my first deployment was “I don’t know how you do it… leaving your daughter behind”.
In being completely honest, I also questioned how I would be able to do it. How could I survive 6 months without my daughter?
Yet my experience is not unique. Every day, men and women deploy to all parts of the world, leaving their babies behind. When duty calls, we have no choice but to answer our nation’s call. I have been both the single mom left behind as her husband went off to fight a war and the mom who had to leave her baby behind.
You might be wondering which is harder? Well, it depends.
My husband and I realized that before babies, the person left behind always had it harder. While one person was left to pick up all the extra chores, the other was on a new and exciting adventure.
When we had our daughter that all changed.
My husband left about 5 months after our daughter was born. He struggled to say goodbye, but once he was downrange, he was focused on the mission ahead of him. I, on the other hand, struggled to be a working single mom. Then, 9 months later, it was my turn to say goodbye.
I knew I had a chance of deploying, but I never thought it would happen right after I had a kid. When the official tasking came down, I struggled with how I felt.
On the one hand, I was excited to deploy.
For a military member, a deployment legitimizes your service to your country, but on the other hand, I had no idea how I could leave my daughter.
It was this sort of pride issue as if no one could raise my child better than I, not her dad and certainly not God.
Days before my departure I remember sitting on my recliner and cuddling with her. I cherished that moment and even recorded her little breath as she slept so I could watch it while I was gone.
My last nursing session with her, I held her and decided to be present in the moment. No kindle book or TV. I watched my baby girl fall asleep nursing and fought back the lump in my throat and the tears threatening to break through.
I couldn’t let myself get weak. I knew that once I broke the seal that prevented tears from flowing, there would be no way of stopping the waterworks, and I could not afford to start.
The week before I left was filled with internal battles between excitement and pain. I would begin to think about all the things I would miss, and my heart would ache. My eyes would tear up thinking about how she would wander around the house calling for mum-mum and never find me. Or how she would cling to her caregivers at the CDC (child development center) to get the comfort she couldn’t get from her mommy.
No mom wants to be replaced. But on the other hand, I felt this strong sense that God was sending me on a mission.
God gave me the verse “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).
That verse provided me comfort the day I left and continues to offer me comfort on the hard days. Like spending mothers day alone, or seeing your child kiss and hug the phone thinking they can actually reach you.
The hardest part of being away changes day by day. Some days, the hardest part is seeing her little face on the phone playing with her toys and wishing I could play with her. Other days, the hardest part is knowing other women are interacting with her and jealousy rears its ugly head. Most days, the hardest part is seeing a different baby on that screen, one with more teeth and more hair who talks a lot more and runs all over the house.
I have accepted the fact that I have missed those little moments I will never get back, but I will not dwell on it. Instead, I will be strong and courageous.
So for those of you who don’t know how I do it… Know that I take it one moment at a time. I trust that God is protecting my baby girl and granting my husband the strength to rock the solo parent ops.
I set my pride and selfishness aside for the call of my country and hold my daughter with open hands turning her over to my Almighty Father.
I never thought I could do something like this, but this opportunity has proven otherwise. We are all capable of more than we have ever imagined so don’t sell yourself short.