Today and tomorrow's story comes from Jose and Elianid's beautiful family. We start with Jose's story today.
Tell me about the birth of your daughter.
The same week I found out I was going to be deploying to Iraq, we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. I told my boss, and he told me he would try to get me back stateside for the birth. I arrived two days before the due date. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law were there, and the experience was unique. My mother-in-law prayed in the bathroom of the delivery room. My sister-in-law was running around taking pictures.
I’m surprised that you made it in time for the birth.
I was lucky because I got to Kuwait from Iraq, and I left in a few hours, but there were people who were there for weeks waiting for a flight. We induced the birth, and the baby didn’t come down for a while. The doctor told me I could go and get lunch. While I was out they called me to say that the baby was coming. I had to rush to the hospital. I was so amazed when our child came. My wife was in so much pain, but as soon as our daughter was born, it all changed. She was so calm, hugging the baby; it became something completely different. She was twisting in pain before and as soon as she came out, it was all forgotten.
How soon after the birth did you have to go back to Iraq?
I left after six days. It was really hard. Having your baby in your hands, and my wife was going through a lot of emotions, having me there but knowing that I would be leaving again. You get two weeks of leave, but I lost two days coming, two days going, two days before the birth, so I only saw my daughter for six days. The next time I saw her again was when she was four months old. At the beginning she cried every time I picked her up, and it took her a while to warm up to me. But now they are both daddy’s girls. I have to travel a lot, but when I come back, everywhere I go she just follows me around.
There are so many things that military families have to work through.
I was in Iraq, I didn’t want my wife to be alone in a new base all by herself, so she went to Puerto Rico and lived with her family. I was trying to help her enroll in military health insurance while she was there. She arrived in Puerto Rico a few months pregnant, and most doctors didn’t want to take her on, and so it wasn’t easy with that. The time zones were different, we were different in day and night, so it wasn’t easy to communicate.
Had you been in the military system for a while?
Now we’ve been in nine years. When we were married, I had been in a year, and our daughter came two and a half years later. In Puerto Rico she had the benefit of family, but we had our second daughter here in D.C. We found the hospital and the insurance better here.
How was it for you to go from being in Iraq to being back home and welcoming your baby?
When I came for the due date, Puerto Rico was 90 degrees, but I thought it was cold because it was 130 degrees in Iraq. I had to adjust quickly, but I was freezing. Even now, I have to work hard to reset my mind as fast as possible. I travel a lot, but when I’m back for three days, my daughter won’t let me go. We use a calendar, and we circle each day. She has a daddy doll. She thinks I work at the airport, and if she sees an airplane, she thinks it’s her daddy. My first year based here at D.C. I was gone more than 260 days.
Are you going to stay in the military?
Thats a good question. We need to make that decision pretty soon, to keep going for another ten years, or find something else. We like the Dallas area, or Florida, because we like the dual language communities. It’s an honor to serve in the military, but it is hard on family life. We will see what happens.