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Military Family Guest Blog: Anticipating Our Reunion

Courtesy Natalie Ryan

Meet Natalie, 26, a civilian who works for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Her husband, a captain in the U.S. Army, has been stationed in Afghanistan since March but he is set to reunite with Natalie, and their 1-year-old daughter, Mikayla, this week. Find out how Natalie and Tommy met and started a family, and then how they stay connected from halfway around the world.

I can’t believe that tomorrow I will see my husband after nine months! It still does not feel real, and the more I think about it, the longer my to-do list grows. I do not think that Tommy will notice that I washed the dogs, or the inside of the oven, but it is a great way to fill the hours between today and tomorrow. I equate the whole process to a pregnant woman nesting; your newborn did not notice the perfectly arranged nursery, or the fact that you folded and refolded their clothes half a dozen times, but it sure made you feel better.

Mikayla will be 16 months this week, so she is not old enough to require much preparation for their reunion.  When Tommy was deploying, the USO offered a service in which soldiers could videotape themselves reading a children’s story. Then they send a copy of the story with the DVD to the soldier’s family.  We have watched our story DVD a few extra times this week in order for her to see his face as much as possible.  By now, he has the celebrity status of Elmo, and I am hoping that will make it easier to recognize him tomorrow.

Despite the fact that Mikayla has seen her dad almost every day on Skype and on the DVD, I am still apprehensive about their reunion. She has been pretty clingy this past month, and has developed a bit of stranger anxiety. I have warned Tommy that she may not give him a big sloppy kiss right away, but that it will be no time before she is comfortable with him again.

Since Tommy is on the last flight I have been able to see many of my friends and their babies experience the joys of a reunion. Each instance is different; some babies cry and others recognize their parent right away. The one amazing commonality is that within a week the family is completely whole again. The parent-child bond is restored, and they are able to fall into a routine.

I am going to be honest with you: having your soldier on the last flight is no fun.  The upside is being able to set my expectations and prepare myself. We both know that our reunion may have some tears and uncertainty, but in no time things will fall back into place and it will feel as if he never left.  

Next post: Our reunion!

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