About 5 weeks after we landed in England with our infant, my husband was deployed to a NATO job in Italy for three months. As far as deployment gigs go, it wasn’t so bad. But I was mostly concerned with myself and caring for our 7-month-old son.
Layers of stress had built up around me, starting with my pre-baby job and my husband’s 6-month absence during the pregnancy. (At least he made it home in time for the birth.) Next: being parents to a newborn. Then: he had to go back to Vegas to finish the training 9 days after our son was born. Next: we found out we were moving to England and decided to put our house on the market. Then: Bubbe’s weekend visit turned into an extended stay when she broke her leg. Then: a TDY. Also: showing a house with an infant and two dogs. And soon enough: packing up our (unsold) house and leaving the country.
And so there I was, a solo parent in a new country with a fairly new little person, trying to find some friends and not get too lost. Waiting for our internet and TV to be set up. Waiting for our household goods to arrive. Wondering if it would all fit in our tiny sliver of a townhouse.
So. Between APO mail runs and phone calls to TMO asking where our stuff was, the little guy and I got out to explore. Our English Heritage membership really paid off.
From Framlingham Castle
We were really fortunate to take a trip to Italy to visit my husband. We didn’t get to spend much time with him, and it was really hot and not at all relaxing, but… we got to see Ferrara, Venice and Verona while we were there.
Then just after we returned to England, Walden began walking. Watching a tiny 9 1/2 month old baby walk is just wild, by the way.
And just after that, our stuff arrived! I can’t be more grateful to the squadron for sparing a few people to help entertain the baby and unpack boxes. There’s no way I could have dealt with the mountains of cardboard and packing paper that would have been left. There was no room! I spent many, many hours for a couple of weeks arranging and storing and sorting and hauling away. Our house was stuffed to the brim.
The deployment ended a month later. I was drained, from the stress, from unpacking, from spending every. single. moment. with my on-the-go baby. Mostly from loneliness. While I had made friends, there were only so many hours we were able to spend together before tending to the needs of our children or families. None of our children were the same age. We did what we could… but there are a lot of hours in a day.
No napping at the Newmarket Races
Crooked buildings in Lavenham
Punting on River Cam, Cambridge
I needed a break. My husband agreed to spend an entire day with the baby so I could go to Tate Modern in London by myself. I was nervous – it was my husband’s first full day with the baby, and my first full day away. I left after breakfast and planned to be home at dinner. Mindy Kaling’s book kept me company on the train ride. Walking through London unencumbered by a stroller, on my own schedule, following my own whims… it was a massive relief.
We had our first visitors, too! My husband’s dad and stepmom flew over with our dog (well, the one we decided to bring to England) and spent some time with us on their little European vacation. It was so great to see some familiar faces, and to have Plato around. He was a little uncertain about the teetering baby chasing after him, but in all seemed pretty pleased to be back with us. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the deployment was my first without Plato around to keep me company!
So, five months into our three-year tour, we were a “normal” little family getting settled into the new country. There are two more parts of the story to come: adjusting to life with a toddler and moving to the ‘burbs, all while sneaking in as much travel as we can. There’s another deployment in there for you, too. But we’ll get to that.
To be continued…