The day that a serviceman returns home from a long deployment is usually a highly emotional scene for all concerned. And Californian sailor Chris Daugherty can certainly attest to that, especially after being greeted by his family and friends on his return from duty in June 2017. Indeed, the naval officer had not been on the pierhead in San Diego very long before he discovered that his wife, Natasha, had been keeping a life-changing secret from him while he was off shore.
Chris, 28, and Natasha, 29, are residents of Temecula, just north of San Diego, CA. As of June 2017, the Daughertys had three children together – a son of ten, and two girls, one four-year-old and an 18-month-old toddler. But, unfortunately, Chris’ role as a petty officer in the U.S. Navy inevitably takes him away from the family home from time to time. After all, the head of the household serves as a cryptologic technician. This is an important and valuable position which involves analyzing encrypted communiques and deciphering data in other languages.
And the first half of 2017 was one such time that the father was absent from the Daugherty’s home in Temecula. In January that year, Chris had embarked on a six-month sortie aboard the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier based in San Diego. The vessel was ordered to patrol the Indo-Asia Pacific region, joining a number of other ships to strengthen the presence of the U.S. Third Fleet in the area. However, Chris’ deployment took a very worrying turn not long into the ship’s mission.
From February onwards, North Korea had been testing a series of ballistic missiles. The tests brought a high degree of uncertainty to the region just as the Carl Vinson’s flotilla began its patrol of the Korean Peninsula. With tensions rising, Chris’ deployment was extended for another month, prompting the officer to send an emotional email to Natasha. And, unfortunately, it was a message that the Californian housewife interpreted in one way. “He was telling me goodbye,” she later recalled to local TV channel NBC 7 San Diego in June 2017.
Thankfully, however, Chris returned home safe and sound on June 23, 2017. And as the Carl Vinson docked in San Diego, the sailor was greeted by his family and friends on the shore. But for a reason unknown to the returning hero, Natasha held herself back as the others crowded around. It turned out that she had been concealing a jaw-dropping secret from her husband while he had been away.
After hugging his three kids, all of whom were sporting cute naval outfits, Chris approached his wife totally in the dark about what was about to happen. Natasha had been holding up a decorated sign, but as the officer moved in to hug her, she lifted it up to reveal a message on her top. “I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he deployed,” read her shirt, which Chris could now see had been hiding a very definite bump.
Yes, Natasha was pregnant again, carrying little Daugherty number four. “I found out about a week after he left,” she explained to ABC News in June 2017. “I didn’t believe it. I took the pregnancy test again, and I was like, ‘Oh, no way.’” Despite her excitement, however, the expectant mom went on to explain why she had not told her husband the good news straight away.
Natasha continued, “I was excited about it and 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.’” Subsequently, the service wife attempted to throw Chris off the scent. Natasha remembered, “I emailed him back and said, ‘I just miss your voice.’”
But in the meantime, the mom started recording the pregnancy for Chris to catch up on once he was safely back in Temecula. “I decided [I was] going to document it with weekly belly pictures for him so he wouldn’t miss it,” Natasha told ABC. However, she had to create a different story for the photos that she wished to share with her husband while he was aboard the Carl Vinson. Indeed, to keep Chris clueless, Natasha hid her growing baby bump in a number of clever ways.
And hiding in plain sight seemed to be the order of the day. “I would always use the kids to cover my belly,” Natasha recalled to ABC News. “My best friend… would put emojis in front of [the bump] just in case to throw him off.” Nevertheless, despite her best efforts, keeping this particular secret proved to be incredibly difficult – especially when Chris was in peril, patrolling the Korean Peninsula.
During that tricky period, the anxious expectant mother came very close to revealing the truth. “As soon as we started having trouble with North Korea, I became worried,” Natasha told NBC 7 San Diego. “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.”
And Natasha’s perseverance paid off in the end, as Chris was left totally stunned by the sight of the eight-month baby bump upon his eventual return. Unsurprisingly, however, she became incredibly nervous ahead of the big surprise. But her anxiety then was to see her husband’s reaction.
Indeed, it seems that it was a very worked-up wife awaiting the petty officer’s return on that San Diego pier. “My heart was racing,” Natasha recalled to ABC News. “I stood back and let the kids run to him. I hung back for a minute, and then he reached into me to give me a hug, and then I dropped [the sign]. He just stood there in shock. He didn’t know what was going on.”
Chris certainly confirmed as much when he spoke to ABC about the big reveal. He remembered initially thinking that his wife was playing a prank on him. “There were a lot of thoughts going through my mind,” he admitted to the news cameras. “The first was confusion, then I thought she was joking… so I poked it to make sure it was real.”
His poking over, and Natasha not owning up to punking him, made the cryptologic technician re-interpret his wife’s signals. Chris recalled, “I was extremely confused, so I asked, ‘Is that real?’ to be sure, then hugged her because it was the only thing I could think to do!” As for Natasha, she reflected on just how tough it had been to stay shtum during those long six months.
She told ABC, “I wanted to share the excitement and joy with him about getting a fourth baby, he definitely wasn’t expecting it.” But it seemed that the one thing Natasha hadn’t been expecting was the loneliness of the secretive situation being so difficult. “Being pregnant is such a fun experience and not being able to share it with him it was really hard,” she added. “I was working the whole time and taking care of the kids, so I had to push through everything.”
Inevitably, the special Daugherty reunion was captured on camera, with Natasha uploading the result to her Facebook page later that day. And, since June 2017, the heartwarming video has gone on to earn close to 600,000 views on the social-media platform.
As for the bump, Chris and Natasha hosted a gender-reveal party on the day after the Carl Vinson docked. The baby’s status was secreted away inside one of a number of black balloons hanging from the venue’s ceiling. And family and friends were delighted by the sight of the expectant parents searching for the right one. After some frantic popping, the guests finally discovered that the Daughertys were going to have another baby girl.
Then, in September 2017, Natasha successfully gave birth to a healthy fourth child and third daughter. Prior to that, both she and Chris had revealed that this would be the last addition to the Daugherty family. And with this in mind, the naval officer conceded that Natasha could hardly have broken her news in a more fitting fashion.
Chris told ABC News, “I was extremely happy with the news because we both wanted a fourth child. And since it is our last, I was happy she did something memorable and fun.” Meanwhile, with another deployment due in 2018, his wife was asked by CBS News if she had any other surprises planned. “Nothing!” Natasha innocently responded with perhaps the hint of a secretive smile.