No one tells you that parenthood is going to completely transform your marriage. No one tells you, as a woman, that taking care of your baby and your post-pregnancy body is going to leave you without any strength left. Becoming a mom completely rocked my world.
Joel and I once again transitioned after Grace was born. I was trying to be the best momma to my new little mini-me and was having a hard time emotionally giving up the working-girl Jill. Joel felt like I wasn't giving him enough attention and I honestly, at the time, didn't feel like I had any more to give. We had some crazy fights during this time. I was still completely emotional from just having a baby, so I know I didn't always act rationally when Joel wanted to discuss things. But because I was so irrational, I was convinced Joel was the irrational one. Honestly, there was a whole lot of irrationality in our household during that time.
It took us a few months to get in the groove of having a new little person become a part of our family. But by the fall, we were working hard to make it work. It was during that time that we found out that Joel would be deployed soon to Iraq. We let that news just sit with us for a while before we told family. I wasn't handling the news well and the anticipation of him leaving was killing me.
In February 2007 Joel left for Iraq. He walked out the door with all his bags and I collapsed on the floor. I knew the next 6 months were going to be tough and suddenly I was thrown into single parenthood.
Joel's Iraq deployment was hard on me. Grace was 11 months when he left, and still not sleeping through the night well. I was trying to figure out how to manage the household without Joel's help or advice. I was completely anxiety-ridden over Joel's safety and was an emotional wreck. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I'd care to remember and I was worn-out from being Grace's mom and dad. At night, I would sit in bed with the calendar and just stare at the days, weeks and months that had gone by and look to the weeks ahead wondering what it would feel like for Joel to come home.
So, Joel's homecoming was what I was fixed upon. It was all I could think and dream about - the sight of him coming through the glass door at the airport with his arms wide-open.
A few weeks before he came home, the base's Family Readiness offered a briefing for family. The briefing was basically useless. I was most excited to hear from a psychologist they brought in to talk about post-deployment transitions and PTSD. She was a non-military psychologist, but had worked closely with many war veterans. She basically told us that our soldier's best bet, if they were experiencing problems, was to find a counselor/psychologist who would accept cash payment so there wouldn't be a paper trail. She said that if our soldier saw a counselor and the military knew about it, that it would create too many career problems, so it was just best to do everything hush-hush. I couldn't believe it! I still can't and it makes me sick... but that's for another time.
I was excited yet totally stressed over the thought that Joel would be home soon. I was having a hard time sleeping and developed TMJ, to the point that for about 5 days, I wasn't able to close my jaw. All I wanted was a date. THE date.
I wanted him home. I wanted his homecoming. I wanted for our family of three to be together and for us to leave the deployment, war, loneliness and hard times behind.
Little did I know that the hardest time was about to come.
"Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!"