Behind every member of America’s armed forces is a family anxiously waiting for them to return home. Although it is not an easy job to protect the country, those who stay behind at home have many day-to-day challenges without their loved ones. But many get used to it, like Natasha Daugherty.
Natasha’s husband, Chris, was deployed in 2016, so she learned the challenges and sacrifices that come along with the life of a Navy wife. When Chris left, the couple already had three children, which was more than enough for Natasha to handle. However, her biggest challenge was keeping a huge secret from her husband.
A Big Sacrifice
In 2016, Chris Daugherty got the news that he would be deployed to the Korean Peninsula on the USS Vinson. Preparing for his departure was tough because he had to leave behind his wife, Natasha, and their three small children. Chris knew he would miss big milestones, holidays, and many memories during his deployment.
Chris was set to work as a Navy cryptologic technician, deciphering codes and signals from around the globe. His family didn’t know what he would be doing aboard the USS Vinson, but Natasha was well aware of how hard it would be to live without her husband by her side each day.
A Lonely Time
It didn’t take long for the loneliness to hit Natasha. Like many Navy spouses, she expected the emotions, but it didn’t make the time any easier. She tried to keep busy by organizing the house and caring for their three children, but the sadness was always in the back of her mind.
Natasha decided to change her usual routine so everything would run as smoothly as it had when Chris was home. It started with small changes, but it got harder to pretend everything was okay without her husband. Natasha had her hands full with the kids and put on a brave face.
Their Son Noticed
Life as a single parent was tough to balance. Chris and Natasha had a son and two daughters; their eldest was old enough to notice how much things around the house changed without his dad. Their son noticed changes in Natasha, and he didn’t want to worry his father by telling him on the phone.
However, their too younger daughters were not old enough to know that some things shouldn’t be said to Chris during their brief phone calls. When Chris was deployed, their second child was four, so she was aware of the changes at home. Natasha worried her daughter would say too much about the changes to Chris.
Changes on the Homefront
No one wanted to upset Chris while he was so far away, but Natasha couldn’t help but worry if it was bad to keep all the changes at home a secret from her husband. Everything going on at home would last much longer than his deployment, and he would find out eventually.
But Natasha didn’t want to unload on Chris when he was thousands of miles away. She knew he was probably stressed about his job and worrying about her and the kids, so Natasha didn’t want to add to the pressure. A distraction would have been bad for the crew and his family.
They Stayed in Touch
Although Chris was thousands of miles away, Natasha and the kids stayed in contact with him through regular phone calls when he was free. But the regular phone calls made it even more difficult to keep a secret from him.
Natasha wanted to tell him what had been going on at home and share some big news, but she knew it wouldn’t be good to tell him over the phone. He was going to come home sooner or later, so Chris would find out what Natasha was hiding after his deployment.
She Had Experience
Natasha knew how challenging life in the Navy was because she previously served as an IT systems technician. She met Chris during her service, and it was love at first sight. Chris never imagined he would meet the love of his life in the armed forces.
Natasha and Chris had so much in common; he was head over heels for her intelligence and beauty. After dating for a while, the two tied the knot in 2011 and started the family immediately. The two were extremely close, and she couldn’t keep anything from him.
Keeping a Secret
Chris and Natasha had been together for so long, so he could always sense when something was off. However, she did her best to keep a big secret while he was deployed. It was the hardest thing she had ever had to do, and she almost caved early on.
Natasha was hiding a big part of her life at home from Chris. Shortly after he left, she got news that would change their lives forever. She wanted to call him while he was en route to the Korean Peninsula but decided against it.
She Wanted to Tell Him
Natasha thought about emailing Chris, but her message never materialized. She kept reminding herself that it would be a bad idea to distract him from his duty. It was challenging because Natasha also had to ensure no one told Chris the news before she could.
She also had to keep the news from her friends and family because she didn’t want them to spill her secret. However, it was getting harder and harder to hide the news. Natasha was experiencing many physical changes that became harder to conceal from people around her.
While Chris was away, Natasha continued working two jobs and took care of her three kids. She had to sacrifice as much as Chris, but it would have been understandable if she succumbed to the pressure. However, Natasha pushed through the hard times.
When she married Chris, Natasha knew what she was signing up for. She understood that Chris could be deployed and knew it wouldn’t be easy without him. But when the time came, the days were harder than she imagined. Luckily, Natasha was a strong woman.
His Tour Was Extended
Chris’ initial tour was supposed to be five months. Natasha was excited to have her husband return home, but a week before his expected arrival, he called with bad news. Chris explained that his deployment was extended for another month.
Just when Natasha thought things would be easier, she had to wait another 30 days. It had been a tough five months, but she made it through and would be able to last. However, Natasha had kept the secret from her husband for so long and wanted to tell him the news.
She Was Worried
As Natasha watched the news, she became more concerned for Chris’ safety. She worried that something would happen to him before telling him the secret she had been keeping. Natasha thought she couldn’t forgive herself if anything happened to her husband.
However, she again decided not to tell him the news over the phone because it was more important than ever that he focus on his mission. Tensions were rising in the Korean peninsula, and she just wanted Chris to return home safely, so she kept quiet.
Finally Coming Home
During his final month, Chris often ended his calls with a heartfelt goodbye as if it would be the last time he talked to his family. But his six months finally came to an end, and the USS Vinson made its way back to the US. Chris was excited to see his family after so long.
On the homefront, Natasha was relieved that she wouldn’t have to keep her secret for much longer. Their three children were ecstatic to have their dad home, and they all made signs to bring to the port to greet Chris.
Chris’ ship docked on June 23, 2017, and his family anxiously waited for him to disembark. As he exited the boat, he saw his wife and kids waiting with big smiles on their faces. Natasha dressed the kids in mini sailor outfits, and they ran to greet him.
Natasha stayed back from the group and let her kids enjoy their father’s hugs. It took Chris a moment to understand why his wife didn’t join their children. As he walked the kids over to his wife, she held a sign that said, “Welcome home, baby daddy.”
Chris couldn’t wait to hug his wife, and the sign didn’t seem out of the ordinary. Natasha held the sign in front of her stomach, and when she moved it to hug Chris, he broke down in tears. She revealed her growing baby bump after six months of hiding it.
Chris froze, asking, “Is that real? Are you serious?” Natasha wore a shirt that said, “I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he deployed.” She had taken a pregnancy test when he left and kept the news from him the whole time.
Chris was shocked. For a moment, he didn’t know if his wife was playing a prank or telling the truth. He touched Natasha’s stomach and asked how she had kept this secret for six months. Chris composed himself and hugged and kissed Natasha.
After half a year away, the family celebrated Chris’ return and the family’s expansion. It was a beautiful homecoming that no one would ever forget. Other people at the port were also brought to tears watching the special moment. And Natasha had more exciting news.
A Memorable Father’s Day
Chris’ homecoming perfectly coincided with Father’s Day weekend. The family celebrated the holiday a few days late upon Chris’ return, and the pregnancy announcement was the best present he could have ever received. It was also a relief for Natasha not to have any secrets.
Everyone was excited to openly celebrate Natasha’s pregnancy after keeping it a secret for many months. With a trio of kids already, Chris and Natasha were ready to add to their crazy and exciting household. But that wasn’t the end of their story.
Although Natasha wanted to tell Chris the news before sharing it with her friends and family, she couldn’t hide her growing stomach while he was away. Natasha made everyone promise to keep the secret until he came home, so his return was a joyous moment for those who knew the news.
Not only did Natasha and the kids greet Chris, but their close family and friends joined to see his reaction. One of their friends captured the moment and posted it on Facebook. The heartwarming video quickly went viral.
While Chris was away, Natasha had to be secretive about her pregnancy. She came up with creative ways to hide her growing belly from friends and family for as long as possible. Natasha also ensured nothing seemed out of the ordinary during her video and phone calls with Chris.
Natasha also had to keep her three children from spilling the secret when they talked to Chris. She posed strategically in photos to send to Chris so her bump didn’t show. She used props and held her children to cover her stomach.
It Was Hard
Natasha found out she was pregnant only a week after Chris left. Therefore, she kept the secret from him almost as long as he was away. She wanted to tell her husband immediately but thought about it for a long time, ultimately deciding it would only distract him.
Natasha even drafted an email sharing the news with Chris. After writing it down, she realized it would be a bad idea, so she changed the message to share how much she missed him. Although she didn’t tell him, Natasha documented the pregnancy to show him when he returned.
Some might say it’s wrong to keep such important news from a spouse, but Natasha did it because she loved him. She understood Navy life and didn’t want Chris to spend his time worrying about her and the family while he needed to focus on his mission.
Chris and Natasha had experienced the challenges and worry that came with pregnancy, so she knew it would be too distracting to tell him. In the end, the surprise was worth it. Chris’ reaction was priceless, and he would never forget that moment with his family.
She Saved a Surprise
Natasha had experienced most of her pregnancy alone, but she saved a special surprise for Chris’ return. She waited to find out the baby’s gender until he was home so they could hear the news together. Soon after celebrating his homecoming, they held a gender reveal party.
The couple invited their friends and family to their home for the celebration. Everyone gathered as Natasha and Chris prepared to pop a balloon with colored confetti inside that would tell them if it was a girl or a boy.
Chris and Natasha popped the balloon, and pink confetti rained over the happy parents. They were so excited to add another little girl to their growing family. Their friends and family cheered with happiness, and everyone celebrated their bundle of joy.
With Natasha’s August due date quickly approaching, the couple began the final preparations for the baby. Chris and Natasha had two months to enjoy the pregnancy together, and those special moments were indescribable. They also got the nursery ready and stocked up on the essentials.
Savoring the Moments
Luckily, Chris and Natasha had just enough time to squeeze in a maternity shoot. She was relieved not to hide her growing stomach anymore. The two months also gave Chris plenty of bonding time with his three older children before baby number four arrived.
Everyone was excited for the baby to arrive, but Chris got another deployment notice close to the due date. Everyone worried he would miss his daughter’s birth and hoped he wouldn’t have to leave right away. He had already missed most of the pregnancy.
Expecting the Unexpected
The couple understood that life in the Navy could change at any moment. Deployment notices came regardless of the family’s plans, but that didn’t make this notice any easier. Chris and Natasha just prayed he would be present for the birth.
The family was relieved to hear that Chris wouldn’t be deployed until early 2018. It meant he could be there for the birth of his daughter and help his wife adjust to life with four children before he had to leave again. It made everything a little less stressful.
A New Family Member
On September 2, 2017, Natasha gave birth to their daughter Anara Rose. She joined her ten-year-old brother and her four and one-year-old sisters. The Daughertys were now a family of six and couldn’t have been happier to welcome Anara into their lives.
Chris shared the news of the birth with his friends and family on Facebook. He wrote, “We love you so much! You have completed our family of six. We can’t wait to bring you home.” As the family settled into their new routine, Chris and Natasha had time to reflect.
Both parents agreed the surprise announcement was worth the wait. Chris was glad he found out about the pregnancy in person rather than over the phone or in an email. It was more special this way. Natasha also recalled how difficult the six months were without him.
She was happy she waited and enjoyed having him be part of the process when he returned. Natasha said Chris is an amazing father, and she missed watching him with the kids while he was deployed. It only made his upcoming deployment that much harder.
It Was Worth It
Some people might not have been able to keep the secret, but Natasha was glad Chris stayed focused on the job without worrying about the family. She didn’t want him to feel regretful about leaving his family behind for all those months.
Natasha was happy to have her new baby and husband by her side and enjoyed every moment with them. In the months leading up to his deployment, the couple tried to savor every second together because they knew it would be even harder to say goodbye to Chris now that the baby had arrived.
They Shared the Experience
Because the video of Chris’ homecoming went viral, the family gained a lot of attention online. They shared their thoughts on the situation, with Chris saying, “It was an awesome surprise to find out that way. Find out in an email or over the phone; that’s easy.”
He knew it hadn’t been easy for his wife to keep the secret. Natasha said that having children was a big experience for them, and she wanted her husband to find out the news in a special way. Chris was proud of her for doing everything on her own.
No More Secrets
Before Chris left again, he and Natasha spoke to CBS News about the experience. Reporter Jamie Yuccas asked if Natasha had any more surprises planned for Chris’ next return. She laughed, saying there were no more secrets this time around.
One surprise was enough for Chris. The family adjusted to their new normal with Anara, who was only four months old when Chris left again. However, the family had plenty of time to prepare before his deployment and were ready to say goodbye for another few months.
He Left Again
In early 2018, Chris departed for the western Pacific for another four-month tour. He was set to go to Guam, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Natasha didn’t have any special surprises waiting for Chris stateside, only the feelings of loneliness she had felt before.
Chris missed his wife and children while he was away, and Natasha counted the days until she could hug her husband again. His time at sea made Chris aware of how important family time was. He didn’t take those moments with his kids for granted when he was home.
Chris returned from his tour in April 2018. However, this homecoming was more traditional than the last. His four kids and wife were waiting at the dock to greet him, and it was Anara’s first homecoming experience. Although there were no surprises, it was still special.
The family knew Chris’ job would keep him away from time to time, but it only made his time at home more precious. One day Anara will be old enough to understand the special moment she represents for her family. The Daughertys will always look back and smile at that memory.