In England · Military Life

Halftime Show: Part 2 – Deployment #1

Climbing the Walls

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.

Baby & Cannon, Orford Castle

At Orford Castle

Framlingham

From Framlingham Castle

Audley End

Audley End

Wrest Park

Wrest Park

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.

Venice

Venice, Italy

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.

Boys

At Wimpole Estate

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.

Our Junk

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.

At the Races

No napping at the Newmarket Races

Lavenham

Crooked buildings in Lavenham

Punting on River Cam

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.

Thames, London

Tate Modern Installation

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!

Baby and Dog Reunion

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…

This post is the second of four in a series about our first 18 months in England. Read more: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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11 thoughts on “Halftime Show: Part 2 – Deployment #1

  1. Holy cow, I feel like I needed a deep breath after all of that! You went through so much in such a short amount of time! I’m glad you were able to escape in London for a bit!!

  2. Whenever I start to think I’m having a rough go of it, I’ll just remember this story. =) But it seems to be working out for you guys!

  3. I agree. I needed a deep breath too. And yes, super-human.
    The first two pics of W are awesome! (Well all your pics are anyways).

  4. Thanks for the support, ladies. It wasn’t until I looked back on everything that I realized how overwhelming it was. Though… we kind of have this “someone always has it better, someone always has it worse” mentality in this house, so I sometimes feel guilty for thinking it was hard. Especially when I read about families who endure such great hardships as the result of what can happen during deployments, like these: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/ptsd-epidemic-military-vets-families

  5. Wow, you have had a really tough time of it, going to a new country where they speak a different language, with a little baby and an absent husband – it doesn’t get much more challenging than that!! I am full of admiration for you. It was lovely to see the photos of Essex and Suffolk, as that’s where I am from. My parents live near Lavenham, we used to go to Cambridge all the time (my brother went to Uni there), and I did a sailing course at Orford. It’s great to see these places viewed from a non-English viewpoint. It’s also not such a well-known part of England, so wonderful to think that your American readers will be seeing the excellent photos on your blog!

  6. Thanks, Fiona! While I (fortunately) didn’t have to learn a new language, I often found it difficult to understand what the locals were saying (i.e. does half-four mean 3:30 or 4:30? And I sometimes confuse 30 with 13!). I really have enjoyed exploring the region and experiencing “real” England. There’s no place I’ve been quite like it!

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