1. Setting Sail
In January of 2016, Chris Daugherty, a sailor with the U.S. Navy, set sail for the seven seas. This wasn’t his first time leaving the country, nor was it his first time spending a long time away from his loved ones. He left home with the expectation that he would be returning in five months time.
But, once he got aboard, this sailor would soon find out that this deployment would last much longer than he had originally planned. But that wasn’t the only twist that fate had in store for him. Chris had no idea that he would come home to something that would completely change his life.
2. Military Wife Life
Though it undoubtably has its rewards, the life of a military spouse also presents its challenges. Chris Daugherty and his wife, Natasha, had long confronted the obstacles presented by his line of work. The young couple from Temecula, California were parents to three little kids and leaving them was always hard for this military man.
The whole family cried through their smiles as they waved goodbye to Petty Officer Chris Daugherty as the USS Vinson set sail for waters near the Korean Peninsula. Their dad was a Navy cryptologic technician. As he spent his time cracking codes and deciphering signals, he was entirely oblivious to the events that were taking place back in the States.
Just like many military wives and spouses of enlisted men and women, Natasha felt very sad and lonely in the absence of her beloved husband. About one week after Chris left home, Natasha began to take small steps to change her life.
These were tiny, baby steps at first, but, as weeks turned into months, her struggle to hide the truth became more and more difficult. Time passed, and Natasha was particularly adamant about making sure that one person didn’t discover the full truth.
4. Noisy Kids
Between managing her three kids and giving time to her Navy husband, Natasha Daugherty had plenty to keep her occupied. Though her first-born was old enough to know that he shouldn’t talk about the differences he had begun to notice in his mum, trying to keep the mouths of her other, more noisy, kids quiet, was a much harder task.
This busy mum had the hardest time concealing her secret from her four-year-old. Since the family were able to have regular conversations with Dad, Natasha was always worried that her daughter would accidentally let something slip that would arouse suspicion in her husband.
5. To Tell or Not to Tell?
Natasha Daugherty was wrought with distress, trying to figure out whether or not to reveal to her husband a little secret that she knew would have a GIGANTIC effect on both of their lives. Nothing would ever be the same.
Chris was in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles from home, and she knew that telling him would cause him unnecessary stress and distract him from his duties. This conundrum was increasingly amplified by the fact that the family communicated on a regular basis. They had video calls, spoke frequently on the phone, and sent each other photos. Natasha was always concerned that Chris would realise that she was keeping something from him.
6. Too Close for Comfort
This happy couple first met when they were both working in the Navy. At the time, Natasha was employed as an IT systems technician, and Chris fell madly in love. He couldn’t believe his luck that he had found such a beautiful and intelligent woman with whom he had so much in common.
They got married in 2011, and, after sharing so many years of their lives together, keeping something so big secret from Chris was really hard for Natasha. Over the course of his long deployment, there was one particular moment where she almost came out with it, but in the end, she managed to keep it to herself.
7. Waiting for the Right Moment
“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,’” explained Natasha.
In addition to keeping it from her husband, Natasha didn’t want to let their friends or family in on the secret either. Still, it didn’t take long for perceptive people close to her to figure out what was up.
8. Increased Tension
A situation outside Chris and Natasha’s control was developing in Asia. Far away from Natasha, but incredibly close to Chris’s location, a terrible threat was growing and seemed to be looming more dangerous by the day.
America and her allies were incredibly nervous as the North Korean government began to test ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs, seemingly with no end. They even shot one directly over Japan. What was in store for Chris and his unit?
9. Troubled Days
To take care of her family and to keep her mind off it, Natasha worked two jobs and continued to raise their three children while Chris was out at sea in the service of his country. Anyone else may have cracked under so much strain. Natasha had persevered, but she was starting to reach the end of her tether.
These were troubled days for Natasha, and all she could think about was how desperately she wanted to reveal the truth to her husband about what was going on in her life. There was just one week remaining until Chris was due home—that is until she received an unanticipated announcement that threw her whole world into doubt.
10. Extended Tour
He had already been away for five long months when he had to ring Natasha and tell her the bad news: Chris’ tour had been extended by another 30 days. Following recent events, specifically a missile threat from North Korea, a decision had been taken to keep his boat in the region.
As international tensions continued to worsen, the same could be said of Natasha’s nerves. She could hardly sleep, and she wanted nothing more than to tell Chris the secret that she’d kept quiet for so long. Still, she had come this far, so she decided to endure for just one more month and wait for him to come home to her.
11. Ridden with Anxiety
Despite her categorical decision to wait until her husband returned home to tell him the news that would undoubtably change his life, she knew that, God forbid, if anything were to happen to him, she would never get over the fact that she hadn’t told him.
“A soon as we started having trouble with North Korea, I became worried,” she said in an interview with NBC. “He was telling me goodbye. At that point, I was extremely emotional. I wanted to tell him, I wanted to freak out,” continued Natasha. “But I kept my calm and waited, just a little longer.”
12. On His Way Home
At long last, his six months were up, and Chris was on his way home. This Navy man began the long voyage back to the United States so that he could, finally, be reunited with his loving family.
His kids could barely contain their excitement at the thought of finally being able to see their Dad again. Natasha was concerned about how he would react when he finally found out the deep secret that she had hidden from him for so many months. As he made the voyage across the Pacific ocean, Chris was totally ignorant to the fact that he would be receiving more than just hugs when he finally set foot on his native soil.
13. Welcome Home
On June 23, 2017, the entire Daugherty family trekked out west to San Diego to welcome Chris home. As he got off the boat, he was grinning from ear to ear at the sight of his dear family eagerly anticipating his return.
Dressed in the most adorable little sailor outfits, his two daughters and son couldn’t wait to run into their father’s arms and give him a huge hug. They jumped up and down in excitement around him, yelling and firing questions at him. Natasha waited for all the chaos to die down and held back—Chris couldn’t understand why until he approached her.
14. A Precious Time
After the heartwarming reunion with his kids, Chris couldn’t wait to give his beautiful wife a big kiss. She was smiling softly and holding a large poster to welcome her courageous husband back from his deployment. He evidently hadn’t read what was written on it and instead, went straight in for a hug.
As he approached her with his arm outstretched, Natasha took a step backwards, dropping the sign on the ground. Chris stopped cold. He was completely shocked, frozen in place, until he finally said, “Is that real? Are you serious?”
15. The Big Reveal
Natasha’s sign said: “Welcome Home Baby Daddy.” He hadn’t thought much of it since the couple already had three kids. But, hidden underneath the poster was something that he could never have anticipated, something that would change his life.
Once she dropped the poster on the floor, he read what was written on her shirt: “I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he was deployed.” This was written on top of her VERY PREGNANT stomach! People crowded around, and soon everyone was very emotional. Some were even crying.
16. Mind: Blown
Chris’s mind was completely blown. “I was totally confused,” he remarked about this incredible moment. “I was looking at her, then poked it because I was not sure if she was playing a trick on me.”
Once he had recovered from the shock, the reunited husband and wife embraced and kissed, at last, rejoicing at his long-awaited return and the surprise that another child would soon join their family. They thought it couldn’t get better than this. But then something happened that made this day EVEN BETTER.
17. A Dad’s Pride
As if the stars were aligned, Chris’s homecoming just so happened to be around the time of Father’s Day! He arrived home only a few days after the annual Sunday festivities, and this was the best gift that he could have ever asked for.
“I have three already, so a fourth will only add to the excitement and craziness,” Chris declared. The family celebrated as the weight of his absence evaporated and they looked forward to their new member. Little did they know, they were about to become famous. Natasha still had another surprise left!
18. In The Know
Even though Natasha had tried to hide her pregnancy from her friends and family in order to avoid any risk of the secret being revealed to Chris, her bulging tummy eventually gave her away. Still, when she told them her plans, they were happy to keep quiet.
A friend of the couple who was present at the Navy homecoming recorded the heartwarming family reunion. It rapidly went viral on Facebook and now boasts more than half a million views. Nonetheless, nobody, especially Chris, would have guessed what Natasha did to keep her secret hushed up for so long.
19. Under Wraps
In order to give Chris the surprise of his life when he stepped off the boat, Natasha figured out some pretty ingenious methods for keeping her pregnancy under wraps. Her goal was to make it seem like everything was normal, and that meant she had to get creative.
Of course, she continued to send Chris photographs from home whilst he was away, to make him smile and to keep him updated on their lives. Because of this, she had to be super diligent, especially with the other kids!
20. Keep it Hidden
Natasha made sure to keep her baby bump hidden in the shots for Chris. In one picture, she puts their toddler on her lap to disguise her stomach. In another one, she holds up a beer can—which, of course, she definitely didn’t drink.
When it came to keeping her kids off the scent, the eldest was the most difficult. “I had to tell my four-year-old that I was getting fat. Otherwise, she would tell! Because she’s a blabbermouth,” Natasha laughed as she explained her various strategies. But that wasn’t all.
21. The Most Difficult Part
“I found out about a week after he left. I didn’t believe it,” said Natasha to ABC News. “I took the pregnancy test again and I was like ‘oh no way.’” When this happened, Natasha had been pregnant for about eight weeks.
She was so overjoyed, and all she wanted to do was let Chris in on the good news. She pulled up her email but then thought twice, realising that she’d rather save the surprise for when he got home. “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 the story is far from over.
22. Keeping the Secret
She said that keeping the secret from Chris was one of the most difficult challenges that she’s ever faced. Yet she knew that if she let him in on it, he would have been worried and upset to not be there with her.
Furthermore, it was hard for Natasha to deal with the worries and challenges that pregnancy brings with it, alone. Still, she decided that the look on his face would make it all worth it. Although Chris had missed out on the first seven and a half months of his wife’s pregnancy, there was still a second surprise waiting for them!
23. The Second Surprise
Even though she had already been able to keep her bun in the oven a secret for her sailor of a husband, she figured that she should have enough time with Chris when he got back before the baby was born to give him one more amazing surprise. We’re so happy that she was correct.
At their happy reunion, Natasha told Chris that she was expecting, but there was one key piece of information that he didn’t have about his future child. Would it be a boy or a girl?
24. The Gender
Natasha knew that, once Chris got home, they should totally have a gender reveal party. They invited over all their loved ones to share in this celebration with them.
Surrounded by friends and family, Natasha and Chris popped a bunch of balloons. Out of them fell a bunch of pink confetti! Another daughter was on the way, and they could not be more pleased. The fourth kid was due to be born in August, which gave them around two months to take some time and get something that they surely required.
25. Time Together
After Chris finally arrived home, it was time for the Daugherty family to enjoy some much-needed quality time together. Besides getting ready for their new baby by stocking up on diapers and the like, the happy couple also found time to take some adorable maternity shots.
Natasha and Chris definitely needed to spend some time with the three kids they already had before devoting the majority of their attention and time to their newborn. Since he had left for sea, Chris had been dreaming about being with his family. But there was still a catch—and everyone was aware of it.
26. The Next Deployment
Even though he was having a great time playing with his kids and witnessing his wife’s bump get bigger and bigger, one big question still lurked in the back of Chris’s mind. This same question was a concern for the entire family.
Everyone was aware that Chris would soon receive a deployment notice, but they didn’t know when. How long would he be gone? Would something happen in the world that would mean he had to leave sooner or for an even longer period of time? They all prayed that he could at least stick around to welcome his new daughter into the world.
27. Home Sweet Home
Being in the military means that there is a chance of being summoned at any given moment. Nonetheless, Chris Daugherty was crossing his fingers that he could still be at home when the time came for Natasha to give birth to their newest daughter.
Thankfully, he would be by her side, as he was told that he wasn’t due for another deployment until early 2018. That meant that when his daughter arrived in August of 2017, he could be there to enjoy the miracle of birth.
28. A Growing Family
Everyone was glad because Chris was there when Natasha gave birth to their fourth kid on September 2nd, 2017. They decided to call the baby Anara Rose. Their growing family included a 10-year-old boy, a 4-year-old-girl, an 18-month-girl, the two parents, and the baby.
“We love you so much! You have completed our family of six,” wrote Chris on Facebook after the birth of his daughter. “Can’t wait to bring you home.” Now that the family was happy with their new member, they were able to more clearly express their feelings about what had just happened.
29. All Worth It
Despite the challenges, both parents were happy that they got to share in the surprise of the pregnancy in person. Natasha had an especially tricky time keeping everything hushed, but she was so glad that she did. Chris was glad that he made it back in time to see his daughter be born.
Natasha was also happy that her husband hadn’t worried about being away while he should have been devoted to his work at sea. What they both said will bring a tear to your eye.
30. What They Said
“It was an awesome surprise to find out that way. Finding out in an email or over the phone, that’s easy, but since she saved it, it was special,” Chris said with tears in his eyes. Natasha said something along the same vein.
“It was difficult but totally worth it in the end,” said Natasha to NBC. After having successfully sprung the surprise on Chris, Natasha continued to rock the boat when she explained whether or not she had any more surprises up her sleeve for Chris’s next deployment.
31. Another Surprise?
Before Chris left out to sea again with the Navy, the couple conducted an interview with CBS. “What surprises are you going to have in store next time?” asked corresponded Jamie Yuccas. Natasha laughed and said, “Nothing.” Though we can hardly be sure of that!
Well, since the first one worked out so splendidly, that’s probably enough. And, although this came as no surprise, the family still had to prepare themselves when Chris had to go back out to sea while Anara Rose was only four months old.
32. Back on Duty
In the early months of 2018, Chris left aboard a ship bound again for the western Pacific Ocean. This tour of duty took him to Guam, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Even though Natasha had promised him that she wouldn’t keep any surprises from him this time around, his heart still yearned for home every day.
After spending so much time away from his family, Chris promised that he would put down electronic devices to spend more quality time with his loved ones when he returned. Four months after he left, Chris finally set sail for the US, wondering whether or not his wife really would keep her promise about no surprises this time.
33. Military Family
In April of 2018, Chris Daugherty landed home again to greet his loving family. Everyone was surprised when this time, there were no more surprises after all (at least that we know about).
Everyone could tell how much Chris had missed his whole family, especially the baby. Even though this homecoming may not be as sensational for us, the last was something that we’ll never forget.
34. Kept in Our Hearts
If Natasha giving Chris his big surprise soon passed on from social media to mainstream media. Stations all across the country got word of this heartwarming story, and many articles hit the press. The couple kept receiving invitations to interview from all sorts of reporters.
Of course, Chris Daugherty is one amongst many Navy men who miss their family while out at sea. While all this was happening, another military man was experiencing a similar situation on the other side of the US. Though he knew that his wife was expecting, there was a big catch.
35. Far Away From Home
Unlike Chris Daugherty, Jon Keeney was fully in the know that his wife, Megan, was expecting a child. However, he was far away from home, enlisted in active duty for an even worse situation than Chris, and he had no chances of being sent home. The circumstances were not at all in his favour.
In 2012, 26-year-old Keeney was a member of the 305th Military Police Unit of the United States Armed Forced stationed in Afghanistan. He enlisted in the Army Reserves six years prior to this and completed a tour in Iraq before signing up to go to war in Afghanistan. While he was far away from friends in family, he received some shocking news.
36. Bound to Serve
Jon Keeney received the news that his wife, Megan, was pregnant a mere two days before he had to get on a plane to go to war. Now there were more lives that he had a duty to protect, at home in West Virginia.
But, during Jon’s absence, Megan was given some challenging news from her doctor. During the fifth month of her pregnancy, she was informed that, due to a heart condition, her baby’s blood flow wasn’t quite as it should be. This meant that giving birth would be a more complicated and risky procedure.
37. Precious Leave
Even though Jon had sworn to serve his country, he couldn’t get his family off his mind. He desperately wanted to go home, even if only for a short time, to be with his wife while she underwent this risky childbirth. Even if she survived, what would happen to his baby?
Everyone was glad to hear that Jon was granted some precious leave for the last few weeks of Megan’s pregnancy. As he started heading back home from Afghanistan, it seemed like the world had turned against him. His flights had been cancelled!
38. Working Against the Clock
As Jon desperately tried to get home on a seemingly never-ending series of flights from his military police base in Afghanistan to his hometown in West Virginia, things seemed to be going from bad to worse. All of the delays were making him incredibly nervous.
It was a dire situation. After his charter flight from Germany to the United States was grounded, he was stuck there for four full days. He was working against the clock, and he knew that Megan was eagerly anticipating his return. What was going to happen?
39. Just In Time
Jon’s father decided he had to get involved and pulled some strings with his friends in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Fortunately, it all turned out okay in the end. Jon Keeney, at long last, got home to West Virginia, and just in time.
Only two days after he got back, Megan went into labor, and she was so glad that her husband was there to support her at the West Virginia University Children’s Hospital. On June 17th, 2012, they were happy to welcome Jaxson Lucas Keeney into the world. Unfortunately, he was immediately taken to the operating room.