Putting together a honey-to-do list for her husband is the least of Susan Forester's worries as she prepares for her husband, Capt. Brian Forester, to return from Iraq later this summer.
For one thing, Forester, a company commander for the 4th Brigade, deployed in October when his son, William, was about 2 weeks old. He saw him again when William was about 4 months old. Now it is time for Forester to return from his third deployment and get to know his son and reacquaint with his wife.
Like many other spouses, Susan, 28, is setting the stage for her husband's welcome home.
"One thing I know for sure is that my expectations don't need to go through the roof," Forester, of DuPont, said. "I need to give him time to readjust before I throw at him the things I want him to do."
Forester, who is dealing with her husband's third deployment, is always looking for ways to make his return smoother than the time before. All three deployments were tough, but this time things were different, because besides missing her husband she had a baby to take care of by herself. The solution to coping with these types of situations is communication, she said.
"I have learned that the best thing to do is to communicate when he is gone and when he comes home," she said. "While he is gone, I have tried to share the small things of our day, such as William eating grapes for the first time or the first time he pulled himself up on the edge of the coffee table. These are the things that brightened William's day. When he returns home, I want to be sure to include him in those things as they happen."
Also to prepare for her husband's return, Susan has attended workshops and talked to other spouses and her husband about the redeployment process. The workshop included classes on topics ranging from expectations, stress and finances to parenting issues.
"I have learned new ways to communicate," she said. "When Brian comes home, I know I can't expect him to know my daily routine or how to care for the baby. I have to give him time to learn those things. I have to try to keep my expectations in check and not put too much pressure on him."
As a surprise, Forester is preparing a huge welcome home basket that includes her husband's favorite chips, cookies, a gift card from REI and a new iPhone.
"I am trying to come up with things to do for him that he would never do for himself but that he will really like," she said.
Lisa Chase is planning for the late summer return of her husband, Sgt. Keith Chase, who is assigned to the 38th Engineer Company, from his first deployment. Their only child is 21 years old, so the transition and adjustment to a young child does not exist.
However, the deployment has not been without its difficulties, said Lisa, 40, who is the FRG leader for the 38th Engineer Company. She has been forced to deal with their daughter's health issues and other trying situations in her husband's absence. Also, she has learned a lot about herself and grown as a person. She started working out with a personal trainer in March; she has learned to say no more often, and she is planning her schedule to coincide with her husband's when he returns.
"I am cutting back on my commitments," she said. "I am scaling back on babysitting and doing those types of things ... . I am taking time for myself right now. Then, when he gets home, I am going to make myself available for him and make sure my schedule works with his schedule. I want to have all of his favorite foods in the house... that is an absolute must."
Lisa also has arranged for a social worker to come and speak to the other spouses in her husband's unit to help them prepare for the looming redeployment.
"We don't know what our spouses are going through over there," she said. "For me, I want to be sure that I allow my husband time to get acclimated. We have all changed. We have to give one another an opportunity to get used to each other and adjust to being a couple again."