Tuesday, January 9, 2018

C-Sections and Deployments

by Monica Bobbitt

Twenty years ago today this baby girl was born. A week later her dad deployed for the first time.

That first week post-partum pre-deployment is a blur to me now. I remember I was exhausted and apprehensive. And scared.

Not that anything would happen to Dan, I was too naive for that but scared to be alone with two children entirely dependent on me.

Scared I would mess it all up. Scared I would mess them up.

A few days after we brought the baby home from the hospital, I came down with a severe case of mastitis. Two days after that, Dan deployed.

I was alone with the responsibility of parenting a 23-month-old and a newborn, while sick and recovering from a c-section.

I felt so much mom shame. I'd had a c-section, again. I struggled to breastfeed, again, before finally switching to the bottle, again.

I felt like a failure.

My house was a disaster, I couldn't vacuum for several weeks post-op. And my toddler refused to eat anything but Mini Gos and canned mandarin oranges.

I was supposed to be this strong, resilient army wife. But instead, I felt anything but.

I could have (should have) asked my friends for more help, but I didn't want to be a burden. They helped me enough as it was. And besides, it wasn't their job, it was mine.

And I wasn't so good at asking for help back then.

I had never felt so alone as I did in those winter days of January and February.

I was so tired and so overwhelmed.

I would sit up at night, feeding the baby, feeling sorry for myself and lamenting on all the things I had to do alone. Dan was missing so much: time with the baby, Connor's second birthday, my birthday, Easter.

All I could see was how miserable I was and how lonely I was.

And how hard deployment was.

I thought it was the hardest thing ever.

I couldn't see outside of my postpartum deployment haze. All I could see was how hard my life was, I couldn't see how good it was or how fortunate I really was.

I focused on the negatives, not the positives. I didn't realize I was making a difficult time even worse.

Fortunately, as the months went by, I adjusted to single parenting. We got into a routine. I got more sleep. The snow melted and spring finally came. And eventually, the deployment came to an end.

Age, experience, widowhood have given me a perspective I couldn't have then. It's easy to look back now and see that that deployment wasn't the worst thing ever. In fact, there are many things far worse than deployment.

But to the Monica then there wasn't, it really was the hardest thing she'd ever been through. That was the only frame of reference she knew.

I sometimes wish I could go back and reassure her as she sat there in the dark feeding the baby, tears streaming down her face. I wish I could hug her and let her know that everything would be okay... eventually. To tell her that despite the c-sections and bottle feedings and Mini Gos, her kids turned out okay, much better than okay. That they grew up to become amazing young adults.

But then, I'd have to tell her about the really hard stuff too. Because you can't have the good without the bad. And so I'd have to tell her that there are actually things far worse than deployment. I'd have to tell her about folded flags and granite headstones. I'd have to break her heart sixteen years too soon.

There are just some things you can't take a shortcut through, you have to experience them and live through them in order to grow.

And really, there are no shortcuts through hell.

Twenty years ago today a vibrant little girl was born via cesarean section. She was bottle fed.

A week after she was born, her dad deployed.

He deployed twice more before she was ten.

Twice he moved for several months before her family did.

Sometimes her mom fed her boxed mac and cheese and hotdogs. Sometimes her house was a mess.

When she was sixteen, her Dad was killed in a training accident.

Her mom has made all kinds of mistakes since then. She once even epically threatened to quit being the only parent.

Her mom no longer feeds her Mac and cheese, though. And the house is a lot cleaner now.

Today that baby turned twenty. She's a Dean's List Scholar at the University of Toronto. She speaks three languages and will spend the summer studying in Germany.

As it turns out, her Mom didn't mess her (or her brother and sister) up after all.

Last year that baby girl sent her mom a text,

"You're a good writer oh mother of mine. I feel like I don't tell you enough, but I'm really proud of you."

Not half as proud as I am of you Elizabella. I wouldn't trade one single day, not even that terrible one, of the last twenty years of being your mom for anything.

But I am awfully glad you don't wake me up at night anymore. If only I could say the same about your dog.



To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica Bobbitt on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/agoatrodeo/


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