When it rains, it pours for deployed spouses

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When it rains, it pours. I think every deployed spouse has muttered that under their breath. It never fails, when your husband or wife is deployed, something major always happens in your life. It's up to you to handle it and bounce back. I think the word they like to throw around is resilience. However, I call it something a little more useable in a sentence: deployed spouses have to "roll with it".

I can tell you stories about friends that will make you shake your head in wonder. I know friends who have given birth on Skype or on the phone; or didn't even know if their husband was alive while in delivery.

It's not just having babies while the husbands are deployed that gives us the strength people speak of. I have friends who have lost their jobs while husbands were deployed because they are suddenly single parents and had to choose family over career, lost their house in a hurricane, or lost a family member in their home town.

Each of them having to figure it and/or mourn on their own; never giving away too much on the phone calls to their husbands. They don't want them to be distracted or worried. I wonder if being a military spouse gives us broad shoulders to carry the burden, or if we are born that way?

I also have broad shoulders. When Chip deployed, I was faced with a family crisis. We had just moved from Maxwell AFB to a nice little neighborhood in Virginia and started to settle in. My kids were just babies, Erik 18-months and Abby 6-weeks. Within three months of being there, Chip informed me he's deploying to Iraq in a few months. "No problem, I can do this." I said to myself.

Within a month of him deploying, my son became seriously ill. Actually, all three of us were sick, but Erik had to be hospitalized. I didn't know anyone around me. There wasn't a base that we belonged to because he worked out of the Pentagon. I didn't know his boss's number, or even name for that matter. And I couldn't call my husband because he's in a secured place.

I was riding in an ambulance and thinking about how I don't even know my neighbors. Hmmm, except... there was a nice family up the street that I, by happenstance, asked for their number when Chip first left. I called the fellow mother to reach out for help. I couldn't focus on anything, and I couldn't take care of my son with a 9 month old on my hip. I asked her to help me. She met me at the hospital and took my daughter, Abby. I didn't see her for three days. All I could do was hope they were taking good care of her. I had to trust a stranger.

I did all of this while my husband was calling to have our daily chat. All I wanted to do was pour my tears, my anger and my fear into the phone at him, but I couldn't. He could do nothing to help me and it would make him feel helpless. I was alone and had to roll with it.

Erik recovered after about a week, my neighbor who took care of Abby was my new best friend, and family rallied around me for the next month. I was forced to create my support network by asking for help. The experience, however traumatic, made me realize that it could have been much different. Asking for help was the only way for me to manage the crisis.

Don't be afraid to ask. More importantly, insist on helping deployed spouses or neighbors in need with phone calls, coffees or childcare. I suffered alone for weeks before I was forced to ask for help from neighbors and family. Pride was in my way. I didn't want to burden anyone, nor did I understand the help I needed.

If your spouse is up for deployment or currently in a deployment, start developing your support network now, if you haven't already done so. Ask for help when needed, talk to the Key Spouse when she calls (and return her messages) and more importantly, accept help when offered. Don't wait until a crisis happens to learn who you can count on.

When your husband or wife is deployed, make sure you find your umbrella ahead of time. Because when it rains, it pours