What is normal? I knew life and H would never be the same again after his tour to Afghanistan. Too many friends lost, too many people killed. He'd killed people, confirmed kills. How does someone deal with that?
You'd think T would've given his daddy a chance to get back into his family role before saying hello. I suppose life doesn't wait for anything. You just have to take it as it comes.
For the first few months of T's life, myself and H were a little disconnected from each other and the world. H would drink, and I remember him staying up until silly o'clock because he couldn't sleep. Within his first week of being home, and the first week of T's life, we had been to church and H had been for quiet words with his close friend. Something I was grateful of, H wouldn't talk to me about his experiences out there, not like he needed to. He needed to talk to someone who was able to understand, even if that person understood only a little. I would get upset if he spoke to me, have nightmares.
That night H lit a fire in our back garden, I gave him space. He needed to be alone sometimes, maybe he needed to cry, maybe he talked to lost friends, who knows, but I knew he needed time. He took with him a big Cuban cigar that my aunty had given him before he left, "This is for you, it's for you to smoke when you come home, safe!". In his other hand he took outside a bottle of Jäagermeïster, I'm not certain how much he drank.
I sat inside, J in bed, and T asleep next to me in his Moses basket. I was so tired from night feeds, I was curious but I didn't have to energy to peek on what he was doing. I don't know how long after I found out, but that night he sat out the garden, reading and then burning his last letters one by one. I'm glad of this, that is not a letter I'd like to find one day. It was written for a purpose, and thankfully that purpose didn't come to light. Curiosity used to sting me like a snake bite, but I knew that if I knew what he had written to me, to the children, it would haunt me for the rest of my life.
H was a good father. He'd always been excellent with J. If I wasn't breastfeeding I know he would've fed T, he'd wake up in the night and sit with me. When H went back to work I would sit alone feeding T, tears falling down my cheeks, I'd wipe them before they had a chance to fall onto T's face. I longed for his feet to be touching mine, for his cheeky kisses that would bring me to life when I was dozing off. At least he would be there at the weekend. I'd sometimes text him, but it was hit or miss whether he'd wake to his message. Those were lonely times.
I always wondered whether H would be "normal" again. He was thrown into war, only to be pulled out and thrown into fatherhood.
At weekends, and during his post-deployment leave we both floated around like zombies, me due to the night feeds and T draining every ounce of energy from me through the breastfeeding. H due to his lack of sleep and his intake of alcohol.
Once T was a bit more knowing, and actually did stuff like laugh, and follow H around the room, I think H perked up. The love from father to son was always there, but the frame of mind H must've been in seemed to fade it sometimes.
H loved play fighting with J, and J loved it too. They'd play pile on and tickle T together. It was beautiful to see these moments, like roses amongst the thorns. Life would get better, and go back. We just all needed time.
I was on a crazy mission to lose weight, I had daringly bought a wedding dress whilst pregnant. I had bought it in my pre-pregnancy size, and raced time to fit into it. I jogged a local park, and ate only a piece of fruit and a yoghurt for lunch.
I kept my dress in my mums attic room, to keep wandering eyes off it. Myself and a close friend dared a fitting, the zip was only going up half way. This was not good. I had to up my game.
In the June before the wedding I started a new job, routine I thought would help me from snacking. I also joined Slimming World. With H finally coming back to us, I would not let this minor issue (it was not minor to me) get to me, I would beat it, like H and I had beaten our separation and our crazy reunion.
Everything for the wedding was set. The stress of everything was being lifted. I could focus on my beautiful wedding day.
With a matter of months before the wedding I felt I was ready to fit the dress. As H was on ceremonial duty, he already had his outfit sorted! My mother and I slipped away, up to the attic. H grabbed my hand before I ran up the stairs after my mum. He kissed me, that was enough.
I ran upstairs with butterflies. I wriggles out of my clothes and stepped into the dress that my mother had laid out for me. She pulled it up, past my hips, I closed my eyes. I held my breath as she pulled the inner layer tight across my back, and with one pull the dress was fastened around my body. "It fits" I squealed. I looked at my mum, tears filling her eyes, she turned from me grabbed my veil and carefully placed it in my hair as we both looked into the mirror. That was the moment it was real, I was going to be a bride, a bride for the best man in the world. We giggled as I took it off and got re-dressed. The moment between mother and daughter the moment that dress is put on is magical.
"Right let's get married" I said when I got downstairs. With a kiss we sealed the deal.