Dale Roe, 34, from Somerset, knew what she was getting into by marrying someone in the Royal Navy. But that didn't make it any easier when her husband Steve had to go to sea just weeks after their daughter Poppy was born...
Was it difficult starting a family when your husband was away so much?
It was really hard. Steve had a deployment just six days after we got married and was away for six months – not ideal for a newlywed couple. Then he started training in Yeovil, two hours away from me, so I became a 'weekend wife'. I wouldn't say we were obsessing about it, but after two and a half years of using no contraception, nothing was happening and it was getting frustrating. I thought things might change when we moved down to a married quarter in Yeovil together, but the week before we moved I found out I was pregnant!
Were you worried Steve would miss the birth?
I was due on 9th July 2010, and Steve was due to go to sea three weeks after. I thought the timing would be fine, but as is the case with most first babies, my due date came and went. I was really concerned. Then, eight long days later, Poppy was finally born.
How did the birth go?
I had a sweep on the Thursday, the 7th July. But nothing happened. On the Friday my contractions started, but they weren't painful enough or close enough together for me to need to go into hospital until the Saturday morning. I didn't progress as well as I'd hoped though and in the end Poppy was born by emergency C-section at 10pm that night, after she became distressed.
How soon after did Steve have to leave?
Thankfully, because Poppy was born by C-section, Steve was granted compassionate leave, but only four weeks and he had to be flown out to meet the ship. Unfortunately I got a bacterial infection called staphylococcus from my surgery, so after spending a few days at home, Poppy and I had to go back to hospital until the antibiotics started working. It was an extremely tough time for us all.
How did you cope after Steve left?
Better than I thought I would! Once Steve had gone, I found I got into my own routine, and could nap when she napped. I missed him enormously of course, but I also felt if he was around I might have been hormonal and taken things out on him. It was odd as I had to remind myself that I would have to teach Steve all Poppy's routines when he came home. I sent him photos regularly to keep him up to date on how Poppy was growing and changing.
What happened when he came back that first time?
There was terrible snow in December 2010 so I couldn't collect him from the ship in Plymouth. I waited at the house with Poppy for him to arrive home. When he came in the first thing I noticed was that he'd grown a beard while he was away and I was positive that Poppy would be scared of him! But she wasn't. She didn't cry at all and started prodding his face – she seemed to recognise who he was. Whether it was his smell or something else, I don't know, but they have a very special bond. It was amazing to watch.
What's her relationship with her dad like now?
Poppy is 13 months old and a real little person. She and Steve have a fantastic relationship and bond now. They love spending time together and Poppy adores a bit of rough and tumble with her dad.
When will Steve be going away next?
He is going away again in October but he isn't doing the full deployment. He'll actually be coming back at the end of January because we're expecting our second baby in March!
How do you see the future?
When Steve returns in January he will have done his sea time for a while, so he gets to be land-based for a year or two. He'll be able to spend time with us as a family. It will be hard when he goes away again. I'll have to prepare for the tantrums and try and make it as smooth a process as possible.
Coming from a navy family myself (and Steve is from an army family) I can ask my mum and mother-in-law for advice on how to handle the children when they get older. I'm very lucky to have them all so I try and stay positive.
Are you a forces wife? Did you find it difficult coping by yourself for long periods of time?