Submitted by Danny Grubb
On June 5th, 2007 Sgt. Simon Baum's platoon was on the road between Forward Operating Bases (FOB), providing security for an engineer company. Halfway to their destination the HUMV's right front tire rolled over a pressure plate IED and blew the vehicle to pieces. Simon suffered the worst injuries with a broken right fibula, broken right forearm, and major damage to his right knee.
Simon's recovery took 2 years and included 15 months in the Warrior Transition Battalion where his mission was to either recover enough to stay in the Army or to transition into civilian life. Simon was determined to stay in and in April 2009 was able to join his current unit.
Then things got challenging.
In late July of the same year, Simon and his wife Rebecca found out they were pregnant. But the real shock didn't come until late August, just two days before he was scheduled to head back to Afghanistan.
Simon recalls the scene: "We went in for an ultrasound where we would find out how many we were having. The nurse said 'Here's Baby A… Baby B… here's Baby C…' at which point I told her to stop counting. We had a bit of a laugh, but it didn't really sink in at the time. My personal perspective was 'Oh, you're having triplets. That's really weird, but I'm deploying in 2 days, so I don't really have time to think about this or process it.' It really wasn't until late November when I got a hold of my wife and she told me that we were having three girls that it hit me. It seemed more real."
Around Simon's unit there were a lot of jokes. Things along the lines of "Don't mess with Baum, he'll impregnate anything!" Some of course were more appropriate than others. The usual banter between soldiers. "A lot of guys didn't know what to even think" recalls Simon, "Their reaction was 'Is that even possible?!' Some of the married guys said 'That's really cool, congratulations… I'm sorry.' They said that because they were all girls."
10 Days Of Babies
Despite the jabbing, Simon's unit rallied behind him and his chain of command afforded him the opportunity to come home and witness the birth of his daughters, who were born three month's premature.
His first daughter was born on New Year's Day 2010 and weighed 1lb 11oz. The other two were born C-section on the 11th of January and weighed in at 1lb 12oz and 1lb 13oz. Yes, you read that right, his wife was having babies for 10 days!
His emergency leave was extended so he could stay with his wife and family in the hospital. When his leave was up he had to go back, but then was sent home again when all three of his daughters had to have surgery to correct their PDA. In March he came back permanently and was assigned to his Battalion's rear attachment.
A Military Family With Multiples
Day to day life for the Baum's includes Simon going to training early in the morning. When he gets home in the evening he helps out with the girls. He puts it like this: "I go from dealing with soldiers from ages 18 - 25, who are like kids in terms of Military standing and come home to take care of my kids. I like watching my kids more than the guys in my unit."
While Simon is at work, Rebecca stays at home and supervises her own troops. "My wife is very organized. The girls were in the NICU for three months and [Rebecca] learned a lot from the staff there. She has been able to put the girls on a schedule, they take a nap at the same time every day and sleep through the night. They have been on this schedule since they were six months old."
Although this arrangement works most of the time, there are times when two adults in the house really would be better than one. "It is difficult for my wife to put all three babies into the limousine-looking stroller we have and take them to appointments. It's a production wherever we go with the girls. When I can't make an appointment it puts more stress on her so there is this constant balancing of work and family. It makes for a very challenging existence."
For now the Baum's haven't had a lot of problems with Simon switching his schedule. As his unit nears their next deployment and the training intensifies, there will be fewer opportunities to move things around in the middle of the day. "Now there is less leniency because I have to train up my guys physically and as a squad. That's something that my wife and I both understood before we got into this."
A Career Soldier
Although acutely aware of how a Military career challenges family life, Simon loves his career and has higher aspirations for the future. Asked how his career goals have changed since having children, Simon was confident about his commitments:
"Obviously I have to be more careful. I can't just be the crazy soldier that runs out gung-ho to go out in a blaze of glory. I have a family I have to take care of. In terms of my goals I feel that I am more determined to be a better soldier. I am more determined to stay in [the Army]. In October of 2009 I re-enlisted for 6 years and I am working to go to Officer Candidate School to get my commission. I consider myself a lifer. I've been in for five years now and I feel that this is where I need to be. I will do what I need to do to number one, stay here and number two, always come home."