Chris was stunned. Reflecting on the moment he called it, “awesome confusion.” He wasn’t sure if his wife was playing an elaborate joke and had to prod her belly to be sure it was all real. He could barely believe his eyes. He couldn’t understand how she’d been able to hide her pregnancy from him for a whole six months, even though he was halfway across the globe.
Chris composed himself and finally, after half a year away, was able to hug and kiss his wife. He celebrated not just the return of his family, but its expansion. Each homecoming was meaningful to the Daugherty family, but this one would live on as the most special the family had ever and, likely, would ever experience. But the surprises weren’t over just yet. Natasha had waited patiently, and it was time for her husband to know everything.
Extricating himself from the arms of his children, Chris was finally able to approach his wife, standing a few feet away. She was still holding the sign she had made to welcome her husband home. Chris didn't take the time to process the words on her sign, but immediately went in to hug his wife of almost six years. But there was something, besides time, and his three children, in the way.
Chris reached out his arms, but Natasha stepped back, finally releasing the poster board from her hands. Chris blinked. He stared at his wife. He stepped back himself. He stared. He froze. There was silence. There was shock. Finally the Petty Officer asked, "Is that real? Are you serious?"
Moment Of Truth
The sign, that now lay on the ground between husband and wife, read, "Welcome Home Baby Daddy." Already a parent to three children the sign had not seemed out of the ordinary. But the sign had been strategically held by Natasha, hiding something from Chris, the very something she had been hiding from her husband for the six months he had been away.
Behind her sign Natasha wore a t-shirt that read, "I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he deployed." The shirt was stretched across Natasha's very pregnant stomach. A crowd had slowly gathered around the couple. Natasha and Chris were far from the only ones crying under the watchful eye of the USS Vinson.
Chris's return home had the serendipitous coincidence to be at the same time as Father's Day Weekend. The Sunday holiday had taken place only a few days before the USS Vinson dropped anchor in San Diego. The pregnancy announcement was the most appropriate present Chris had ever received to mark the annual occasion.
With a trio of kids already, Chris was ready to add to the, "excitement and craziness," that was the Daugherty household. The weight of months of secrecy was lifted for the entire extended family as they could all finally rejoice publicly in the tiny life now on the horizon. The surprise and Chris's homecoming were more than enough for them. But it was not to be the end of the Daugherty story.
Those In The Know
Natasha had kept her pregnancy a secret as long as she could from both friends and family, so as not to ruin the surprise on Chris's eventual arrival. But biology, and her growing stomach made the happy surprise a little harder to keep quiet on land. Family and friends all agreed to keep the news from Chris, and make sure Natasha could be the one to at long last let her husband in on the happy news in person.
When it finally came time to meet Chris and the USS Vinson in San Diego friends and family, who had been so helpful and cooperative in his absence, made sure to join the happy family at the dock. One of those friends even caught the happy homecoming on video and posted it on social media. The recording quickly went viral on Facebook, racking up more than half a million views. It was amazing. The video made it even harder for Chris to comprehend how his wife had been able to maintain her special secret for so long.