Ask anyone associated with the U.S. military and they will tell you that it’s not easy. Military service members get deployed for months at a time, having to leave behind their family at home. Military spouses have it hard too, as they often have to run the household and take care of the kids all on their own. This was exactly the case for Chris and Natasha Daugherty. As Chris would leave for long-term deployment, Natasha would keep a huge secret from him until his return home.
And as a mother of three youngsters, it was a definite challenge.
Chris Gets Shipped Off
Chris Daugherty was a U.S. Navy sailor who went on deployment in January 2016. It wasn’t the first time he would be away from his family and it wouldn’t be the last either. But this time, he was in it for the long haul – five months, at least.
There’s always some uncertainty when the military sends you overseas and Chris couldn’t have imagined what went down when he was finally in the middle of the ocean.
He Wouldn’t See The Signs
Chris set sail with on the USS Vinson in January 2016. They were headed to the Korean Peninsula, where Chris would utilize his skills as a cryptologic technician. While on the ship, Chris was responsible for deciphering codes and signals.
Ironically, there was something cryptic going on back at home that Chris would fail to notice. Had he seen the signs, he might have guessed something was up but his wife Natasha was good at keeping secrets.
All On Her Own
Back in Temecula, California, where the Daugherty’s were settled at the time, Chris’s wife Natasha was readjusting for another extended period of time without her husband. Within a week, Natasha started to miss Chris but she had to stay strong for their three children.
It was also around that time that Natasha’s life started to change. Without Chris in the picture, she wasn’t sure exactly how she was going to execute things from there on out.
The Kids Were In On It
With three young children to take care of, Natasha certainly had her hands full. Her eldest son was well aware of what his mother was going through, so convincing him to keep her secret was a piece of cake.
The same couldn’t be said of Natasha’s four-year-old at the time, who was known to be quite the blabbermouth. Natasha did everything in her power to make everything seem normal, especially since they regularly spoke to Chris while he was away.
Soon, things would heat up as a military threat came Chris’s way…
She Was Torn
Between phone calls, video calls, and sharing photos online, Natasha didn’t know if she should tell Chris what was going on. It was sure to have a huge impact on their lives and she knew that he would find out eventually.
Still, she didn’t want Chris to be anxious or distracted while on the job. Being away from his family, Chris wouldn’t be able to do anything about it so Natasha did what she could to conceal the truth.
Natasha Felt Bad For Chris
Natasha was employed as an IT systems technician with the Navy when she met Chris. Working for the military was just one of many things they had in common. The couple married in 2011 and subsequently went on to have three children.
Over the years, Chris and Natasha grew extremely close. It’s probably why she had mixed feelings over keeping her secret from Chris. She almost gave up and told him at one point, but decided to wait things out.
She Almost Caved
"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," she later recalled.
It was hard enough to keep the secret from Chris and their four-year-old, but Natasha also had to deal with keeping quiet around friends and family who saw her regularly.
Chris Was In Actual Danger
While Natasha struggled to keep quiet on her side of the Pacific Ocean, things on Chris’s end were starting to get a little dangerous. Close to Chris’s base, North Korea began frequent tests of ballistic missiles, which had Americans and world leaders on edge for quite some time.
The tests somewhat impacted the Sea of Japan, where Chris’s ship was located. Oblivious to what was going on back home, Chris had more dire matters to worry about.
The end of his deployment certainly had an emotional outcome…
Trying To Keep It Together
Back at home, Natasha ended up having to take on two jobs while also caring for her three kids on her own. Others who find themselves in her position might have given up but for the sake of her family, Natasha knew she couldn’t throw in the towel so soon. But there were definitely times she wanted to break down and tell Chris everything.
Still, she knew there were only a few weeks left until his return.
The Unfortunate News
After nearly five long months, Natasha expected relief upon Chris’s return. Instead, she received a call from him that would make her question everything. Chris told her that his deployment would be extended for another 30 days due to the North Korean missile situation that was going on overseas.
At that point, Natasha could have just told him the truth but instead, she decided to swallow her anxiety and keep waiting. It would be one more excruciating month before everything unraveled for the Daughertys.
She Was Scared Something Would Happen
Even though Natasha told herself to hold on for one more month, she couldn’t forgive herself if something happened to him while he was away. Especially with what was going on with North Korea at the time, everything was up in the air.
"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," she later told NBC.
Finally, the six-month-long deployment was nearing its end and the USS Vinson set sail to return home to San Diego, California. Chris was excited to see his family again, but he couldn’t have imagined what would be waiting for him when he arrived.
The three Daugherty children were excited to see their dad again but it was Natasha who was filled to the brim with emotion. It wouldn’t be long before she finally had to come clean to her husband.
When he finally found out, he could hardly contain himself.
A Warm Welcome
On June 23, 2017, Chris’s ship docked in San Diego. Natasha drove down with their three kids to welcome him back home. As he disembarked, Chris spotted his loving family waiting for him on the dock. By the time he made it down, his daughters were already running towards him.
He was swarmed by his children and didn’t notice that Natasha was holding back from greeting him. He wouldn’t even realize why until he approached her.
She Finally Came Clean
Chris was so happy to see his three kids once again. After being bombarded with hugs and kisses from them, it was finally time to embrace his beautiful wife. Natasha stood off to the side with a welcome poster and a smile.
As Chris opened his arms to embrace his wife, she took a step back and dropped the sign she was holding. At that moment, Chris was dumbfounded. "Is that real? Are you serious?" he said.
She Had A Lot To Show Him
The welcome sign that Natasha was holding read, "Welcome Home Baby Daddy." Chris might not have thought anything of it at first, since he technically was the father of their three children. But then Natasha dropped the sign to reveal what she had been concealing for six months: a bulging baby bump!
Natasha also wore a shirt that read, "I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he deployed." Chris was in a state of shock.
He Didn’t Want To Believe It
Chris almost didn’t believe what he was seeing. "It was 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," he later recalled.
As it became more clear that he and Natasha had another kid on the way, the only thing Chris wanted to do was hug and kiss his wife. But there was still more in store for this emotional moment.
Natasha amazingly kept the secret for that long, but you won’t believe the lengths she went to to keep things that way.
A Great Day To Be A Dad
To top things off, Chris’s return had actually fallen on Father’s Day that year. There was certainly no better way to celebrate being a father. "I have three [kids] already now so a fourth will just add on to the excitement and craziness!" he later said.
The whole family was definitely relieved at this point. Chris was reunited with his family, the kids had their dad back, and Natasha no longer had to keep her secret. But that wasn’t the only surprise she had for her husband.
She Had A Little Help
It’s a wonder how Natasha managed to keep a secret like a pregnancy from her own husband for so long. While she even tried to keep it from friends and family, she obviously couldn’t hide things when her belly started growing.
She rallied everyone together to help her keep this secret from Chris until his return. On the day of his homecoming, a friend filmed the family reuniting and posted the video on Facebook which went viral.
More People Were In On It
Natasha undeniably worked pretty hard to balance work, family, and her big secret. The whole time Chris was gone, she was still communicating with him often and sending him updates with pictures of their family.
She had to think of some pretty sneaky ways to hide her pregnancy from him that whole time, especially as more friends and family found out. She tried not to raise any suspicions and even had to lie to her four-year-old!
She Did What She Had To Do
For six months, Natasha had to think of some pretty innovative tricks to conceal her pregnancy. In most photos that she sent him of the family, she hid her bump by having their toddler in her lap.
In one of the photos, Natasha even took a picture with a beer in her hand to make it seem like she still drank. "I had to tell my four-year-old I was getting fat. Otherwise she would tell!" Natasha later recalled.
The pregnancy wasn’t the only surprise she had in store for Chris…
She Wasn’t Expecting It Either
When military men unsuspectingly come home to pregnant wives, usually you’d think something sketchy was going on. But Natasha made it clear that her fourth pregnancy was something even she wasn’t expecting.
"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,’" she later recalled to ABC News. When Chris initially left, Natasha was already eight weeks along.
A Hard Decision To Make
Natasha grappled with telling the truth or hiding it. As mentioned earlier, she did email him to call her as soon as he could. After going back on that decision, she emailed him again saying, "I just miss your voice."
Even though she ultimately decided to keep it from him, she documented the pregnancy to show him when he got back. She ultimately went through seven and a half months of pregnancy without her husband!
A New Surprise
Anyone in Natasha’s position would probably have a hard time hiding their pregnancy from the baby’s father. She had accomplished the seemingly impossible, but as it would turn out, there were still more surprises in store for Chris.
Even though Natasha was finally relieved to have her pregnancy out in the open, there was still one more secret she was holding onto. Chris finally knew that Natasha was expecting but what exactly was the real question.
The Gender Reveal
She may not have been able to hide her pregnancy for long, but Natasha had another secret that she managed to keep all to herself. When Chris was finally home, Natasha decided to throw a gender reveal party for all of their friends and family.
The party was buzzing with excitement as everyone gathered around Natasha and Chris, who popped a balloon that burst with pink confetti. Everyone was thrilled to learn the Daughertys were having yet another baby girl.
There was cause for alarm again, though, when the baby girl didn’t come as expected…
Living In The Moment
Upon Chris’s return, they had just two months to completely prepare for the arrival of their baby girl. With anyone in the military, time spent with family is extremely precious. Natasha and Chris did everything they missed out on while he was away.
They not only fit in a maternity shoot, but they spent as much time as possible with their three kids before the new baby arrived. Things don’t always go as planned though and it wasn’t long before life threw another curve ball at them.
He Wanted To Be Around
Chris, after all, was still active-duty military. The possibility of getting deployed again and for how long was looming over his and Natasha’s heads, which is why they tried to make the most of their time together.
He had already been away for so long, so the last thing he wanted was to be shipped off overseas again. At the very least, they hoped Chris would still be around for the birth of his third daughter.
So Much More Waiting
Chris knew that he could be called onto the ship at any given moment. As the month of the expected due date rolled around, Chris still hadn’t received orders but Natasha wasn’t going into labor either.
The anxiety of waiting for both was starting to take its toll on Chris. Luckily at that time, he was told that he wouldn’t get his next orders until the following year. It was a huge sigh of relief but Natasha was still overdue.
The Second Welcome
But finally, the big day came around and Natasha gave birth, later than expected, on September 2, 2017. They named their daughter Anara Rose, who became the youngest of their 10-year-old son and their other daughters, who were four and one respectively.
Natasha was so happy that she had her husband by her side when she finally gave birth, especially after worrying that he wouldn’t make it home int he first place.
But it wasn’t long before the Navy tore him from his family again…
They Were Complete
When their youngest was born, Chris shared on Facebook, "We love you so much! You have completed our family of six. Can’t wait to bring you home." The Daughertys were even more complete than when Chris left nine months earlier.
After their story became national news, the Daughertys had time to reflect on what just happened. Natasha was actually pleased that she kept the secret for so long, taking comfort in knowing that Chris could focus on his job overseas.
It Was All Worth It
"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," Chris later told NBC. Certainly, this would be one of the most memorable moments in their marriage and for their family as a whole.
When everything was said and done, Natasha told news outlets, "It was difficult but worth it in the end."
They Weren’t Done Yet
The Daugherty’s heartwarming story gained national media attention and everyone from CBS to NBC wanted the inside scoop, so Natasha and Chris did many interviews. CBS correspondent Jamie Yuccas asked Natasha, "What surprises are you going to have next time?" With a demure laugh, she replied, "Nothing."
It seems as though one big surprise was enough for Natasha, who now was a mother of four young children. But soon, she would have to take care of all of them on her own again.
Chris Had To Leave Again
Just four months after Anara Rose was born, Chris had to leave his family again. In January 2018, he was deployed on a four-month tour of the western Pacific. Chris would see amazing sites in Guam, the Philippines, and Vietnam, but the whole time he was thinking about his family.
Before he left, he and Natasha promised each other that there would be no huge surprises when he returned home again.
No Secrets The Second Time
Chris returned from his Pacific tour on April 2018 and had a happy reunion with his family again. His daughters were just as excited to see their daddy again as they were when he came home the previous year. Chris was also relieved to see that Natasha wasn’t hiding anything this time around.
Because he was away so often, he made a vow to put down his devices whenever he was home so he could focus on the family.
The Daughertys Aren’t Alone
Chris and Natasha still managed to do interviews even though he was deployed again, as everyone wanted to publish their story even after the baby was born. Perhaps one of the reasons that the Daugherty’s story became so popular is because there are so many families out there who can relate to it.
Indeed, there was another military service member on the other side of the country who was going through something similar, except he knew.
He Left Voluntarily
Like Chris Daugherty, Jon Keeney was away on deployment back in 2012. He had signed up for reserve duties after having already served in Iraq. Sure enough, he was given orders to go to Afghanistan, where he was a part of the 305th Military Police Unit of the U.S. Armed Forces.
He knew he was there voluntarily but while he was away in the Middle Eastern desert, he would receive news that would rock him to his core.
He Knew Beforehand But Got Bad News
Jon actually knew about his wife Megan’s pregnancy just before he went to Afghanistan. Megan updated Jon regularly about the pregnancy, as they knew there was no easy way for him to just come back home.
But five months in, Megan would tell Jon something that would make him uneasy. Their developing baby had a heart defect that caused its blood to circulate irregularly. As a result, Megan was bound to have a complex and risky pregnancy.
The Journey Home
There was no way to ensure that their baby was healthy and safe until it was born. This made Jon extremely anxious as he needed to be with his wife, but he also knew he’d made a commitment to the military.
Luckily, considering the precarious situation, Jon was able to secure leave and was scheduled to go on the next flight back to West Virginia. Everything was going to work out, until all flights out were canceled.
Too Many Roadblocks
Because Jon was leaving his post so soon, he probably took a series of stand-by flights to get back home to his pregnant wife. Some flights offer available seats to active-duty military members and their families whenever there’s room, but this in itself is a process.
Jon took a series of connecting flights just to get to the U.S. from the Middle East. When he reached his Germany layover, his flight home was canceled again and he was stranded there for four days.
Just In Time
At that point, Jon wasn’t sure if he’d make it home to Megan, who was due at any moment. Luckily, his father had connections to some U.S. Senators, who used their advantages to get Jon home as soon as possible.
Two days after Jon finally landed on U.S. soil, Megan went into labor. On June 7, 2012, she gave birth to a girl, but they didn’t celebrate for long as the baby was whisked off to the operating room.
The Greatest Relief
It was stressful enough for Jon and Megan to be away from each other during her pregnancy, but that stress was probably nothing compared to how they felt while doctors tried to correct their daughter’s heart complications.
Luckily, the surgeons at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital did everything in their power to bring the baby to a point of stability. Finally, Jon and Megan could breathe a huge sigh of relief. They were not only together again, but they had a new baby as well.