The photo above is from Tuesday as I enjoyed my breakfast with him via FaceTime and filled him in on our new house inspection.
It's different this time than last. Everything is different. He is not in a warzone. This deployment is scheduled to be shorter. He will most likely be able to take leave and be home when baby girl arrives (if not for the birth than shortly after for some quality newborn time).
He's already done this job. This time, instead of waving good-bye to him at LAX, I dropped him off on a familiar base with a large group of people. He flew on a plane with men and women he's worked with everyday for the past 18 months. He has friends and co-workers on this adventure with him. He isn't going off to some scary unknown place to do some scary unknown job. He knows what he has to do and he is good at it. That makes a huge difference for both of us.
And I've already done this job. I have been alone for months at a time. I have packed up one house and set up a new one. I recognize that some days will fly and I'll feel unstoppable. I also remember that some days the pain of him being gone will hit me like a truck and I'll wonder how I'm going to keep going. But I can deal with the pain. I can make the best use of my time. I know what I have to do and I'm good at it. That makes a huge difference for both of us.
Plus, this time, I am not exactly alone. I've got a little kicker with me constantly, reminding me that it's not just me. (It's also not just about me, so peanut butter on a spoon does not a dinner make.) I have a physical marker of the passing of time and she's growing everyday. In 18-20 weeks (my due date is a moving target), if things progress like they should, a baby girl will enter our family. Whether or not Paul is in the room holding my hand or on the phone listening for her cry or sitting on a plane anxious with anticipation, she'll arrive and we'll go from two to three forever.
So yes, this time is different. Hard, for sure. Stressful, of course. Frustrating, almost always. But also possible, manageable and completely life changing.
And just like last time, I refuse to wish away a moment.