Updated: Jan 14
I’m a mother of three, but I am raising a one year old for the very first time. How is that possible?
I had the pleasure of being promoted to Bonus Mom when my oldest was 8 years old. Taylor and her father came blasting into my life and it felt like we had always been together. My little string bean has now morphed into a poised young woman at the age of 15. How did we get here??? *enter giant globs of tears* I wish I could have been there when Taylor was a tiny rascal, to see her adventures and to teach her so many things, but alas the universe had not yet contrived a way for us to find each other.
I remember the moment when I was pregnant with Mia and found out my unit would be deploying. It’s a raw memory to this very day and I can still hear the ringing in my ears drowning out everything around me as my brain tried to make sense of what I was hearing. I was four months pregnant with my firstborn child, standing in formation surrounded by my brothers and sisters in arms. We were being notified that in a year we would be deploying to Afghanistan. No one knew I was pregnant at that time, it still felt too soon to share the news. Standing there in formation holding my tiny spark of life I nearly fainted. Already feeling like the life I had imagined for us was fading away before it began.
As a soldier, deploying is a right of passage. It isn’t something we run away from, it’s something we run towards. Imagine an athlete who trained for the Olympics their entire life and never got to go. We were hard-wired that way. I was proud to fulfill my duty to my country. Yet I felt my life pulling me in two directions. On the one hand I was a young mother needing to nurture her child and on the other I was a warrior being called to duty. They were polar opposite demands. I spent the remainder of my pregnancy carrying the knowledge that I would soon be leaving my unborn child and the guilt ate a hole in me.
When Mia finally made her big debut she was 6 lbs and 7 ounces of perfection. New motherhood with this tiny princess was my greatest joy, but that time was tainted by the ever ticking clock of our impending departure. Six weeks after Mia was born it was time to start hitting body conditioning hard to prepare for the journey ahead. The next 8 months were spent with my unit ceaselessly training and the reality of what was to come couldn’t be escaped. In many ways I began to distance myself from Mia and her father in advance of my departure. Emotionally, it was a heavy burden to bear and if I let myself feel the sorrow of leaving them would have consumed me. It was easier to take all those feelings and tuck them away neatly in a box in my mind. Seal it closed and never open it.
The day before I left Mia took her first shaky little steps at only 9 months old. It was as if she new change was coming and wanted to bestow upon me a parting gift to treasure. Something to carry me through. The next day I stood on a tarmac to board a plane to the other side of the world and kissed her for the last time. Walking away that day was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Each step felt weighted in concrete and my every instinct as a mother was to turn around and run back to her. Goodbye, sweet girl.
Compartmentalizing. Soldiers are good at that. There’s no room for distraction on the battlefield. There’s no time for regrets. There is only the mission before you and the comrades at your side that depend on you. The first week became a month. One month became two. Each day that passed was another day behind me that I started losing the details of her face. The feeling of her tiny hand in mine. Mommy will be home soon. Rip another page off the calendar.
Fast forward and I’m sitting on a plane on that same tarmac returning home. Mia is now 18 months old and I’m wondering if she will even know who I am when she sees me again. I had picked her up a little teddy bear along our travels and was clutching it in my hands, twisting the fur and anxiously waiting for disembarking. The tarmac was filled with people. Parents greeting their children. Spouses holding their loved one. News channels. Cameras. Bright colors on banners. The energy of the crowd was overwhelming and I picked my way through clusters of families trying to find my own. Then I saw her. She wasn’t a baby anymore. She was a tiny person. With pig tails sticking straight up in the air and the most inquisitive eyes you’ve ever seen. She was searching the crowd too. I held my breathe and steadied myself for the inevitable devastation when she didn‘t know me. It was my fault. I had left her, but it was all done now and there was nothing I could change. One step forward.
When I reached for her for the first time in what felt like a millennia Mia lifted her little arms and reached for me too. I could see the recognition in her eyes. She knew me!!! I was her mama, ofcourse she knew me! We could be separated for a lifetime, but we would always find one another because I would move mountains to be with her. I remember the lavender smell of her hair that day. I remember the feeling that opened up in my chest of every emotion I had buried and the joy bled into the sorrow and back again and I could have been nothing more than a puddle with her in my arms. I remember the feeling of her chubby fingers holding my cheek. I remember the sound of her laughter when I gave her the stuffed bear. His name is Maxwell and she sleeps with him every night until this very day...eight years later.
So, yeah. My youngest just turned one and I am blessed with the pure joy of raising a one year old for the very first time and it’s like magic. ~ Nicole