Life in the military can be tough. And it can be even more difficult if you’re deployed for months at a time with a loving family waiting for you at home. If you’re a mother or a father, it can start to take its toll. Although you can still keep in touch with your family from a distance, you do miss significant milestone. You just have to get used to the fact that your committed to protecting your country and these are just some of the sacrifices you have to make. What’s more, it also makes your time with your family even more special. Still, no matter how much you plan, like has a way of throwing a few surprises your way.
In January 2016, Chris Daugherty, a U.S. Navy sailor was due for his next deployment overseas. This wasn’t the first time he expected to be away from his family for such a long period of time, and this wasn’t this first time he would travel overseas on a tour either. Chris was expecting to be away at sea for just five months.
Still, being in the Navy is not always so predictable and after setting sail, he wouldn’t have known that the expedition would end up lasting longer than everyone planned for. Chris also would never have known that an unexpected twist was in store for him, or that he would receive the surprise of his life when he finally returned to the shore.
Although being a military wife is widely respected, the lifestyle isn’t always so easy and comes with it’s fair share of challenges. By this point though, Chris and his wife Natasha were used to their share of sacrifices and challenges. The couple lived together in Temecula, California with three young children, and made sure to make the most of their time together between deployments. Still whenever the deployment time came back around, they still never quite got used to it.
When the time came, the whole family set off to the port to send off Petty Officer Chris Daugherty on his travels. He was being deployed on the USS Vinson to work as a Navy cryptologic technician in waters just off of the Korean Peninsula. His job would be to decipher codes and signals, which is quite ironic – as he had no clue that there was something cryptic happening back at home, while he was away.
Just like most military wives in Natasha’s position, understandably it was only a matter of time before the pangs of loneliness started to kick in, and Natasha started to really miss Chris. After just a week apart, Natasha also started make some subtle changes to her life. It was only small changes, but with each week that passed, it became more difficult to conceal what was really happening. Natasha knew that as each week went by, she also had to still watch out for one particular person at home. So she had to make an extra effort not to let the real story get out.
While Chris was away, Natasha pretty much had her hands full with three young children. Thankfully for Natasha, her eldest was big enough at the time to understand the differences that were happening to his mom, and he realized that he should keep quiet about it. However it wasn’t so easy to keep everyone in her family so quiet, especially her talkative four year old.
Keeping Up Appearances
Natasha found it hard to keep up the appearance that everything was still normal. Natasha was also able to speak to her husband at sea quite regularly, so she had to make sure her daughter didn’t say anything that would sound suspicious too.
Whilst Natasha barely had a minute to herself, she did constantly struggle with the dilemma about whether to tell her husband about it or not. After all, it was inevitable that he would one day find out, and what she had to tell him would impact all their lives forever…
Anxious & Distracted
But she also had to consider that Chris was still so far from his family and even if she did tell him now, he couldn’t do anything about it and would just be anxious and distracted. The struggle deepened as she had to keep in touch regularly on video calls, phone calls and share photos. So Natasha had to make an extra effort to conceal the truth and pretend to Chris that she wasn’t hiding a big secret from him.
Chris and Natasha had initially met whilst they were both working in the Navy. At the time, Natasha was employed as an IT systems technician and Chris couldn’t believe his luck that he had met such an intelligent and beautiful woman. Plus they both had so much in common. In 2011, the happy couple tied the knot and now had three beautiful children together. After being married for a few years, it was unprecedented for Natasha to keep such a big secret from her husband. She did have her doubts though and contemplated coming clean to him at one point, but eventually decided to wait it out.
Not Just Hiding From Him
Natasha later recalled how, “I emailed him and I told him to call me as soon as he gets a chance but then I thought about it for a few minutes and I was like, ‘You know, this isn’t how I want to tell him – in an email.’” Whilst Natasha was struggling with keeping her secret from her both her husband and her daughter, she also tried hard to hide it from her friends and extended family. But it wouldn’t be too long before her loved ones began to notice something was up.
While Chris was away, there were a few events that were escalating on the other side of the Pacific Ocean that were beyond the couple’s control. Although it was far away from Natasha in California, the events were dangerously close to Chris’s base and there was a chance they could spiral at any moment. At the time, the Americans and world leaders were all on edge because the North Koreans seemed out of control, testing ballistic missiles again and again, with no signs of any restraint. The ballistic tests also had an impact over the Sea of Japan, which was close to Chris and his base.
While Chris was busy serving his country at sea, Natasha took on two jobs while she was also caring for her three little children. Other people in Natasha’s position might have just broken down, but Natasha had to keep going, especially as she had already made it this far. She definitely hadn’t had it easy though.
Only A Few More Weeks
At some points Natasha wanted break her silence and let Chris know everything. But she had to be strong and comfort herself in the fact that there was only a few weeks left before her husband was due to come home. But then she received another piece of news. She wasn’t expecting it, and it shook her up all over again, making her question everything.
Half A Year Sails By
Natasha had coped for five grueling months like this, and she held on the hope that it was nearly over. But then she received a call from Chris that changed everything. He told her that he had to extend his mission overseas by another 30 days because the North Korea missile situation had deepened. As the world was on high alert and international tensions heightened, so too did Natasha’s anxiety. She was almost at bursting point and just wanted to blurt it all out to Chris. Eventually she thought about it though, and made the decision to keep the secret a little bit longer. So she just focused all her energies into staying strong for just one more month before he was home.
Torn With Uncertainty
Although Natasha was adamant that she’d made the right decision by keeping the life-changing news from her husband, she still did have a conscience. She often wondered that if anything did happen to Chris while he was away, she could never forgive herself. She later gave an interview to NBC saying, “As soon as we started having trouble with North Korea, I became worried. He was telling me goodbye. At that point, I was extremely emotional. I wanted to tell him, I wanted to freak out. But I kept my calm and waited, just a little longer.”
Before long, the full six month deployment came to an end and it must have seemed like forever to the couple. As Chris’s Navy ship set sail on the long voyage home, he was full of excitement to finally be reunited with his family. The Daugherty’s children were also bursting with emotions and could barely contain their excitement to finally see their dad again. Still, Natasha couldn’t be certain how Chris would react when he saw her and realized she had been keeping such a big secret from him for six months. But as Chris sailed with his crew towards the West coast, he wouldn’t have realized what what news was waiting for him on his return.
A Soldier’s Welcome
When the big day finally arrived, on June 23, 2017, Natasha excitedly took all her children all the way to San Diego to meet Chris where his ship docked. As Chris disembarked, he managed to spot his loving family in the crowd, and couldn’t help but burst into the biggest jaw-dropping smile, grinning from ear to ear.
Before he had time to think, his two daughters, dressed in the most adorable mini sailor outfits, raced towards him to hug him like there’s no tomorrow. The children were overwhelmed to see him and jumped over and swarmed him. Chris didn’t even have a second to realize that Natasha was holding back. And he didn’t even realize why, until he walked closer towards her.
After Chris was reunited with his gorgeous children, he then looked up and started to head over to Natasha. She was there, waiting for him with a huge welcome poster and an even bigger smile on her face. From a distance, he didn’t have a chance to read what the poster said, so he just headed over to give his wife a huge hug.
As he reached her and tried to embrace her, all of a sudden she took a step back and dropped the sign. It was only as this moment that Chris realized, and his heart skipped a beat. He was frozen in disbelief at what he saw and was just able to muster, “Is that real? Are you serious?”
Three Kids Already
Natasha welcomed her husband home with a huge “Welcome Home Baby Daddy” sign. Chris might just thought that since they had three children already, technically he was already a baby daddy. It was only when Natasha dropped the placard and revealed her surprise to Chris, that he realized what the sign meant.
It was something he had never expected to see in his wildest dreams when he came home, but when he looked at her shirt, it clearly read “I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he deployed.” Wait, what??
Moment Of Truth
It was hard to miss that under the shirt, Natasha had been hiding a VERY PREGNANT belly. All of a sudden, as Chris was still in shock, crowds began to gather around the young family, but no one could contain their emotions after what happened next.
Was It A Trick?
Chris was still in shock and disbelief, and later exclaimed how “It was a pretty awesome confusion going on here. I was looking at her, then poked it because I was not sure if she was playing a trick on me.” As the news began to sink in that the couple had another child on the way, Chris began to compose himself and kissed and hugged his wife.
The moment was overwhelming for everyone and it seemed like the whole crowd was bursting with emotion. At the time, it didn’t seem possible that anything else could possibly top this, but there was another reason that the long-awaited day was even more special.
Although Chris might have been too excited about his long-awaited homecoming to check the actual date on the calendar. But his return actually coincided with Father’s Day and Chris couldn’t have received a better present to celebrate the occasion. He later said, “I have three (kids) already now so a fourth will just add on to the excitement and craziness!”
The whole family felt relieved and finally rejoice that the difficult few months apart were finally over. Now the family also had another tiny miracle to look forward to. At the time though, the family didn’t realize that their story would spread so far and they would actually become famous! That’s not all, as Natasha had some another surprise in store for Chris.
Those In The Know
Natasha had done everything in her power to keep her pregnancy under wraps and hide the truth from her friends and family. After all, if anyone found out, there would be more of a chance that someone would give the surprise away to Chris. However, she could only hide her growing stomach for so long and soon her love ones began to notice. But she still rallied all of them to do everything to keep the secret from Chris.
On the day of the homecoming, it was one of her friends that came with her and filmed the whole emotional family reunion and surprise. When her friend uploaded the touching video to Facebook, it quickly became a viral sensation and racked up half a million views in no time. Still neither Chris, nor any of these people on Facebook would have realized just how Natasha was able to conceal the surprise for such a long time. The couple were even featured on the NBC’s Today Show.
While Natasha was planning and plotting to give Chris the surprise of his life, she had to think of some pretty innovative and savvy ways to conceal her growing bump. She had to make sure she didn’t raise any suspicions that anything was out of the ordinary. So she thought of some deceptive and out of the box tricks. Although she continued to send Chris updated photos of their family to keep him going while he was away, Natasha had to be extra careful to still hide her growing bump from both Chris and her talkative toddler.
Natasha had to be a master of disguise in each of her photos to Chris while he was still overseas. She thought of some pretty cool strategies to conceal her growing bump like holding her toddler on her lap. One of our personal favorites that was sure to throw Chris off if he had any suspicions, was when she held a beer can and pretended that she was still drinking.
Don’t Blow It!
Natasha later said, “I had to tell my four-year-old I was getting fat. Otherwise she would tell! Because she’s a blabbermouth.” She really did have to do everything she could to ensure that she kept the news a surprise. But there was still more.
Hardest Thing She Had To Do
Natasha, 28, was later interviewed for ABC News and explained, “I found out about a week after he left. I didn’t believe it. I took the pregnancy test again and I was like, ‘Oh no way.” When Natasha found out the news she was about eight weeks along, and her first instinct was to immediately email Chris. However, when she thought about it again, she decided it was best to not tell him yet. So she explained, “I emailed him back and said, ‘I just miss your voice.’ That’s when I decided I’m going to document it with weekly belly pictures for him so he wouldn’t miss it.” But that still wasn’t everything.
Secret Out Of Love
Natasha later admitted that concealing the truth from Chris was one of the most difficult things she ever had to do. But she decided to do it out of love for her Navy husband, since she knew that if he found out, he would just be anxious with worry that he was missing everything. And there was no way he could just leave his post and come home either. Natasha also wanted to share all of the hopes, fears and challenges that she was experiencing with her pregnancy too. Ultimately though, she decided that the wait was worth it and went through a staggering 7.5 months of pregnancy without Chris. However, there were still more surprises in store for them!
Natasha had done the impossible, and managed to successfully keep her burning secret from Chris for so long. Still Chris didn’t realize there was another secret surprise in store. Chris probably thought everything was out in the open now, but there was still another question about the incoming arrival.Natasha was holding another secret about the baby. She figured that this piece of news could wait too, even after she had revealed that she was pregnant, as she wanted to waiting until she could finally reveal the news face-to-face. Were the couple expecting a son or a daughter?
Natasha decided that the cutest way to reveal the next piece of baby news to her family, was to organize a surprise gender reveal party. So, she invited all of their close family and friends for the big event. As everyone gathered there, anxiously awaiting for the reveal, Natasha and her husband came together to pop a bundle of balloons.
It’s A Girl!
As the pink confetti flew out into the air, it was clear to everyone that the couple were having a another girl! The family were over the moon, and overwhelmed with emotions once again. Now all the couple had to do was to start preparing for their baby girl, which was due in August. This gave them just under two months to get something else that they were in desperate need of.
Time To Process
Once Chris finally returned from his deployment, the family desperately craved some much-needed quality-time. So they took this time to stock up on all the things they still needed for the baby and to start preparing the nursery. Natasha and Chris also took this precious time to do a maternity photo-shoot, and spend as much time as they could with their other three kids. This is exactly what Chris had been yearning for the entire time he was overseas. Still, life doesn’t always go to plan, and there was still another big issue looming over them.
A Matter Of When
While Chris really appreciated being able to enjoy these precious moments with his family, there was still something else weighing on the family, like an elephant in the room. You see, Chris was still in the Navy, so it was only a matter of time before he got his next deployment notice. The only question was when he would get the notice, and for how long he would be away. All the family could do was hope Chris would still be there for the birth of his next child.
Still On Land
One of the biggest risks of having a career in the military, is that at you can be called up any moment. Chris knew this, but just hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t get called up again before the time of his wife’s due date. Well, luckily for them, Chris soon found out that his next deployment would be for 2018, so he would still be able to be at the birth in August 2017.
A Family Of Six
Soon enough, the big day arrived. It was a little later than expected, but on September 2 2017, Natasha gave birth to a healthy baby girl. The best part was that Chris was there to witness the birth and support his wife. The couple then decided to call the baby Anara Rose, and just like that she had a 10-year-old brother, a 4 year old sister and an 18 month old sister. Chris wrote on Facebook“We love you so much! You have completed our family of six. Can’t wait to bring you home.” The family could now look forward to settling into life with their newborn and new family of six!
After the baby was born, the couple could finally take the time to reflect. In fact, they were actually both happy that Natasha decided to wait to tell Chris about the baby in person. In spite of how difficult it was for Natasha to keep the secret on her own, she was just happy that she got to spend the precious quality time with Chris when he returned.
She was also relieved that Chris could focus on his deployment instead of being anxious that he couldn’t help her while he had to be away. She comforted herself in the fact that Chris was still there to be a big part of the pregnancy once he was home, and later spoke to NBC about how they felt about the whole situation.
Chris later said in an interview, “It was an awesome surprise to find out that way. Finding out in email or over the phone, that’s easy, but since she saved it, it was special.” Natasha also said in the interview that, “It was difficult but totally worth it in the end.” Everyone could only wonder if Natasha had any other secrets in store for the next time Chris would be deployed.
Any More Surprises?
As media interest in the couple grew, Natasha and Chris were invited as guests on more shows. In a later interview with CBS, the interviewer Jamie Yuccas asked Natasha “What surprises are you going to have next time?” Natasha instinctively started to laugh and simply exclaimed “Nothing.” Although she had managed to successfully pull off this surprise, it looks like this one was enough for Natasha. Before long though, another big day came along. This wasn’t a big surprise, but it didn’t make it any easier. Anara Rose was just four months old and the day came for Chris to leave his family yet again.
In January 2018, Chris was deployed again on a four-month tour of the western Pacific. This time he was set to travel around Guam, the Philippines, and Vietnam. This time around, Chris and Natasha also made a pact that there would be no more secrets awaiting him on his return.
Away From His Loving Family
While Chris knew he had to complete his duties, it was still just as hard to be away from his loving family. Chris vowed that when he finally returned, he would take the time to use less electronics and spend more quality time with his close ones. It was a long four months, but soon enough it was time for Chris to return. Still, he was still a little unsure if there were any more surprises waiting for him at home.
Family Of The Sailor
By this time it was April 2018 and the big day came for Chris to return to the shore. As the ship docked and Natasha and the kids came to greet Chris, he was excited again for his homecoming. He could also breathe a big sigh of relief, as there were no big surprises waiting for him in the crowd. Still, although the welcoming party wasn’t as epic as the last time, it was still just as memorable and just as emotional.
A Viral Birth
While their video quickly became a viral sensation on social media, it also became so popular that it was picked up by the general media. Even once the baby was born, outlets all over the country jumped at the chance to write articles and continue following their story. The couple also continued to do interviews, even though Chris was still being deployed every few months.
A Memory That Won’t Be Forgotten
While Chris knew too well the challenges of being in the military, there were also some other servicemen with families who could also relate. In fact, on the other side of the country there was one serviceman who was going through a very similar situation as Chris and Natasha. There was just once difference though, as he did know his wife was pregnant. Still, there was still a catch to their story.
While Jon Keeney was away on his deployment in 2012, he was aware that his wife was pregnant at home. However, there was just one snag, as Jon was in a more unpredictable situation and there was no way he was allowed to go back home. This was because 26-year-old Jon was serving all the way in Afghanistan, as part of the 305th Military Police Unit of the US Armed Forces. Six years before this time, he had signed up for reserve duties and already served in Iraq. After this he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. While he was completing his tour, he was surprised by the news that he never expected to hear.
Things Were Complicated
A couple of days before Jon was due to leave for his duties, Jon discovered the big news that his wife Meghan was pregnant. While he was overseas, Megan kept in touch regularly and everything seemed fine. However in her fifth month of pregnancy, Megan went to the doctor and found out that unfortunately their baby had a heart defect. The defect had caused his blood to circulate incorrectly. As the news sunk, she was also told that the birth would be very risky and complex.
Getting To West Virginia
Jon was also in a complex and risky situation. He was bound to his duties overseas, anxious about his wife, and worried if he would be able to return in time to be with her before the birth. Plus, there was even more anxiety as they had to wait until the birth to see if the baby would be ok. Thankfully for Jon, he was able to secure leave to be with his wife in the final weeks of her pregnancy. However, everything intensified further, as just before he was due to board his flight to the US, the flights were canceled.
Time To Go
Nothing seemed to be going smoothly for Jon, and he had to embark on a long journey from his base to the US, via a series of grueling connecting flights. While some of this flights was delayed, he finally reached Germany to find out that the charter flight to the US was also canceled. So Jon was stranded in Germany for four entire days. The due date was becoming dangerously close, but Jon had to remain calm as he didn’t want to stress Megan out further.
Just In Time
Thankfully for Jon, his father had a few connections to the US senators in West Virginia. He was able to use his connections successfully and they helped Jon board a flight and finally make it home in the nick of time. After landing, it took just two days for his wife to go into labor, and June 7, 2012, Megan gave birth to their daughter at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital. They decided to name the baby girl Jaxon Lucas Keeney. The couple were overwhelmed with emotion, but still they still had no time to relax as the baby had to be immediately rushed to the operating room.
The prospect of giving birth and having your baby rushed to surgery is one of the most scariest moments any parent can go through. However, a nail-biting week and a few heart procedures, Jon and Megan received happy news. The doctors were successfully able to correct baby Jaxon’s heart problems. Finally, the couple could breathe a sigh of belief and were able to take their baby home for the first time. Understandably the couple were still on edge and still monitored the baby, but thankfully the prognosis was good. The couple could now focus on enjoying the special moments together as a beautiful new family.