My Military Exit
Things were moving along well. I'd just got the greenlight from the board and was ready to put my warrant officer package in. Hubby got selected in the Navy’s LDO Program and I was about 4 months pregnant waiting to meet our baby. Anxious and happy I couldn't wait for us to get promoted together, meet our baby and just complete the other half of our goals.
As I sat at the desk at work, I remember scanning through my emails and came across one marked orders. I opened the document and there they were. Official unaccompanied orders to Korea with a report date marked for six months after my delivery date. I walked into my Master SGTs office and together we called the detailer to see if things could be pushed back or get accompanied orders.
Her answer was No. There was nothing they could update while the baby was unborn. I'd have to wait till the baby had a SSN and name at which that time I could request dependent sponsorship and hope the new command authorizes the baby be added to my orders. Hubby was slated to be at a new command on deployment at the time I would leave and wouldn't be back for 3 months.
We went home, discussed the plan, and started working on our family care plan packets that were due to our commands. As we started to fill out all the questions and place names in sections of who would care for our child, all I could feel was anxiety slowly creeping up my chest. We called the couple we selected as our caregiver and discussed the plan to see if they were onboard and willing to have our child while I reported to Korea and dad returning in 3 months from deployment. The couple were 2 people we trusted and knew they would also have a support system that would assist if needed to be there for our baby.
3 months, it’s only for 3 months, then the baby will be with me is all I remember my husband saying whenever I seemed uneasy about the new plan. By the time this year is over, we’ll both be officers, do our 20 years and get out. It will be ok.
Fast forward to the next day and I was scheduled for my anatomy scan, and we found out we were having a girl. The night prior, I went to bed at peace with the plan, our documents were all signed and ready to be turned in to our commands. As I left the appointment walked to the car, I knew things were different. The calm and peace I felt from the night before was slowly melting away. The stakes were different now. There were new factors to consider. I’m having a girl. I must protect her is all I remember thinking about. After all these years of trying, 7 miscarriages, you want me to have my baby then leave her for 6 months, where she would go stay with a family member for 3 months, then go be with dad upon his return from deployment where she'll be 9 months old and hadn’t seen him since she was 2 weeks old. There's no way I'm leaving this baby. I don't care if it's a 1-week overlap. I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to her. I remember him looking at me and asking what about the plan. I remember thinking, well what if the new command doesn’t approve her to come along. What if I’m breastfeeding? What if she has a hard time transitioning to new people or back to us when we get back? Will I miss her crawl, walk, sit? She'll be 18 months old when I get back. I'll miss everything.
“I don’t think I can do this.”
“People do it all of the time babe and you will be ok, I promise.”
So that was the plan. For the next few months, we would prepare to execute it. Him preparing for deployment and I for a tour in Korea and our baby girl being left to trusted caregivers at 6 months old for 3 months until he returned.
The time came, we had our baby, he left for deployment, and I never returned from maternity leave. I didn’t discuss the issue anymore with him because it was creating so much conflict between us. He was so focused on the plan, and I was just trying to get through each day living through the guilt I already felt by considering leaving her. This wasn't one of those things I wanted to talk about. Mentally I was ready to throw it all away and figure life out just her and I because my past trauma consumed me and terrified me. I felt like staying in and being away from her before I could teach her how to properly protect herself wasn't an option I was willing to take. So, I decided to get out. I knew I was disciplined enough to come up with a new plan. I did the math, between savings, and the GI Bill we would be ok financially until I graduated and got a job. I never told him about the new plan, I just executed it. A few months later he returned from deployment.
Him: How long is the Army's maternity leave? When do you go back to work?
Me: I don't, I'm getting out and am just finishing up my leave right now.
Him: At what point were you going to tell me you’re not working or in the military anymore?
Me: You just don't get it
Him: It's not that I don't get it. It's just that you didn't trust or respect me enough to even give me a chance to. I've had your back from day 1, it just sucks that 6 years later I still have to remind you that I do.
And that was our first biggest roadblock in our marriage. In hindsight I should have talked to him about it, but I was young and had the independent mindset I spoke of in my previous marriage article and it didn't allow me to look at things from his point of view. I'm certain he would have supported my decision to get out if I simply told him how bad I was feeling about staying in. I just robbed him and myself of an opportunity to grow closer together in a crisis. And instead of making the decision together, I made him feel like an outsider, alone. I made the decision myself and didn't consider how hurt and disrespectful it would come off to be treated that way.
Always consider your partner when making decisions. You both don't always have to agree on things but you should respect each other enough to take their thoughts into consideration. Listen to one another with the intent to understand instead of listening to respond.