The Homefront Essay

Commentator Rebekah Sanderlin's husband is serving his third tour in Afghanistan. Does she miss him? Yes. Is she glad he's gone? Kind of. She looks back on a tough eight months and manages to find the upside of down.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

And we leave you tonight with an essay sent in by Rebekah Sanderlin. Rebekah's husband, Bobby, is a soldier now serving in Afghanistan. She writes to us periodically to share her thoughts about life on the home front.

Ms. REBEKAH SANDERLIN (Essayist): When I tell people that I am grateful that my husband is on his third combat tour, I get strange looks. They think I'm crazy or maybe hateful. The truth is if given the choice, I would prefer to have him home with me right now. He is in danger and that's a thought that never leaves my mind.

I am not grateful for the uncertainty, fear and loneliness that accompany these deployments. But I am grateful that his absence this year has freed me to focus on other things.

In January, we learned that I was pregnant with our second child. A few days after receiving that happy news, we learned that my father had esophageal cancer and would likely die before the end of the year. Then, just days after dad's diagnosis, my husband was told that he was going back to Afghanistan for his third tour.

But if Bobby were not deployed now, I would not have packed up my life and moved my son 600 miles away to be with my dad during his last two months on earth. Dad wouldn't have been able to read "Curious George" books to my son every night or to pour over old family photographs with me each day, helping to label the backs so that the names and faces wouldn't be forgotten.

I would not have seen the excitement in my father's eyes as he watched the screen during my 3D ultrasound, knowing that it would likely be his only glimpse of his granddaughter.

I learned more about my father in those final two months of his life than I had learned in my 32 years.

And if four years ago my husband had not deployed two weeks after the birth of our first child, I wouldn't know for certain that I am in fact capable of caring for this newborn on my own.

So, here I am in the final weeks of this pregnancy juggling new baby fears, swollen ankles and the demands of an energetic preschooler, more or less on my own. My husband is gone and he will not be back in time to hold my hand through the contractions, just as he wasn't here to hold my tissues as I eulogized my father.

He and I share moments like this via satellite phone, that is when we're lucky and the sandstorms don't block the reception. But that's okay, because like everything else in life, there's a bright side.

I get to bring this baby, a daughter, into the sisterhood surrounded from the moment of her birth by strong women; friends and relatives with their own hardship scars, many who also have husbands deployed. A typical birth experience with just the mother's and father's arms waiting to cradle her doesn't seem good enough for my girl.

I want her to be born for strength, groomed for it from the very beginning. I want it to be her birthright.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: That essay from Rebekah Sanderlin. Her daughter was due September 14th, but we just learned that Rebekah gave birth this morning to a seven-pound, 15-ounce baby girl named Rudy Catherine Sanderlin. Congratulations, Rebekah and Bobby, and Rudy, too.

That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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