Thursday, May 24, 2012

Life of an Orthodox Father

I am Orthodox. I am an American Soldier. I am Daddy.

One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life is to be in the military. One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life is to be Orthodox. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life is to be a father.

I wasn't around much during the time when my wife was pregnant with our daughter; life happened and we were separated for the majority of my wife's pregnancy. Both of us being in separate branches of the military and it was bound to happen. But not only was I absent for my wife's pregnancy, I was also absent for most of the first year of my daughter's life.

I was deployed to Iraq - in fact I had not even been in country for a month - when my wife gave birth. Due to how soon after my unit's arrival my wife gave birth I was unable to go home to be with my wife when she was in labor or even afterwards. The first time I met my daughter was when I went home for leave in July. She was five months old.

I had no clue what to do. I had always told myself that I wanted to have children, but when confronted with my own flesh and blood I was petrified. Those two weeks went by in a blur and I can barely remember them. I hardly had any time to get to know my daughter.

Fast forward a few months and I am home from my deployment. My daughter is now nine months old and I have no clue who she really is, and she doesn't really know me either.

My first two weeks home were pure hell. I told my wife I needed two weeks to slowly get back in the grind of things - she gave me two days before she left me home with our child. I had no clue what to do. I didn't know my daughter, I didn't know what each cry meant. I didn't know how to calm her down and get her to fall asleep. I didn't know. I had a nervous break down, and I don't think I have ever fully recovered from that.

I had to keep pressing on though. I had to be a father. I had to be a daddy. I was determined to show this carpet commando that I was her father and we would have fun!

I got over my initial shock and started changing diapers like a champ. I was able to rock her to sleep better than my wife could (true story, I was there). And, I could play and make her laugh and giggle.

So all was good, right? Not so much. Despite improving and being able to bond ever so slightly with the rug rat I still felt like I was a stranger in my own home. I still felt like I was living in someone else's shoes. It was still rough going for me, perhaps because I was still trying to figure myself out.

Some where in between us moving from Georgia back to Tennessee something clicked inside of me. I think it might have been my being received into the Church that finally put me at ease, or maybe I had just gotten over the shock of being home, whatever it was I could tell that my daughter and I were growing much closer. I think she figured out that I am Daddy, and I figured out that she is my Ryvre.

It felt good to be able to know who my daughter was. It felt good to have that bond with her. I can not begin to describe the bond between a father and his daughter, but when it is there you can tell, and when its not you can tell.

Life wasn't all kittens and unicorns from there. No, I was still in the military, which meant that I still had to disappear for two days a month and two weeks a year. Every time I left it was hard on both of us. We both missed each other terribly, and the stability that a young child needs was ripped asunder by the military's impeccable bad timing.

It seemed that every time something pivotal was happening that I had to miss it due to the military. Top of my list would have been my daughters second birthday, but I was able to be there for that, it took a lot of persuading, but I was finally able to get there.

Another thing that has made life harder on my wife and I is when we found out that our daughter has seizures. That first time was excruciatingly frightening. We had no clue what was going on until my wife got a hold of the pediatrician. Soon we were on our way to the ER. We have spent a few nights in the ER since then and none of them have gotten any easier.

She has to be on a special diet to help keep her seizures under control, no meat, no dairy, no animal products whatsoever, no red 40, etc. Some people don't understand this dietary restriction and they think that it's ok for her to deviate every now and then, but it's not. My daughter's next seizure could very well be her last. Yeah, we don't kid about the diet.

On top of the seizures are her sensory issues as well. She can't handle sudden change, loud noises, crowded areas, or too much of anything or else she can go into sensory overload which could cause a seizure. So she goes to therapy where they work with her on her problems. She has very many different appointments with many different doctors with many different specialties. Not much of it is covered by our insurance.

I feel like of all of this is in place to help me be a better father, to be a better daddy. I have no choice but to be a caring father to her. I feel like I'm trapped and I'm sure she did it on purpose. Every cry, every hurt, makes my heart break. But I want her to have the best that life can offer her. I want her to know that I am doing everything I can to make sure that she doesn't have to worry about anything.

Of course, right as I feel like I am the greatest daddy in the world. Right when my daughter and I having fun every day torturing my wife. Right when my world seems prefect I have to deploy again.

Now I can only talk to my daughter over Google Talk. I know she misses me, and I miss her too. Some times she gets moody if she doesn't get to talk to me, so I try to make sure that I call home every day.

I can't wait for the day when I get to go home and see her face when we see each other again. I can't wait to hold her and tickle her. I can't wait to give her kisses and let her ride on my shoulders. I can't wait to be home with my daughter and have her be with her daddy.
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