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Life Lessons: A Veteran On Starting Over, and Looking for Happiness

An interview with Air Force veteran Dianna Hornes, third-time mom and our OB “Cover model” for this spring’s AroundAbout magazines.

 

“I joined the Air Force after high school to get as far away from home as possible,” Dianna opens her story. “And they sent me from Phoenix to Las Vegas!” She laughs. “My friend and I joined at the same time. She wanted to be as close to home as possible – and they sent her to Guam! Go figure.”

Dianna’s new baby Matthew is the first child of her second marriage to Dennis, a Woodstock policeman. As she already had two daughters from her first, we suspect that her journey from military through family life may not have been smooth.

Q: So, first off – you’re married to a Woodstock policeman and fellow veteran, you have two little girls from your first marriage and now a newborn, Matthew. Would you mind just telling us a little bit about your story?

I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. I am the oldest and have 4 sisters and 2 brothers. As I said, I joined the Air Force after high school to get as far away from home as possible…

But the military experience was wonderful, in fact, one of the best experiences ever! I got to travel the world and see everything. I experienced life on a different level, and it made me more appreciative. From my first marriage I have Madison and Kayla … and now with Dennis I have little Matthew, as you know.

Q: How did you meet Dennis?

We are one of those Match.com success stories. It’s funny too, because I reached out to him first. After I divorced, I waited a year before I considered dating again. I had two daughters, Kayla and Madison, from my first marriage. At around a year, I created a Match.com profile. One day I was scrolling through all the profiles, specifically looking for matches who were interested in someone with kids. I came to Dennis’ profile, and his just happened to say “no”. 

But I was looking at pictures and I thought, “He’s a good-looking dude, you know what, screw it. I’m just going to send the message.” I’m very straightforward, and I believe you don’t need to sugar coat things or hide things from folks.

If you change your mind, message me. If not, have a nice life.”

So, I sent him a message saying, “Hey, you seem like a good-looking, nice guy. I have two daughters, I know you said you’re not interested in someone with kids, but if you change your mind, message me. If not, have a nice life.” And it took a couple of weeks, but he responded, and we went on our first date to Starbucks. Starbucks seemed like a safe bet in case things didn’t work out. Surprisingly, our first date was nine hours long. We met for coffee and stayed there for a few hours. Then we went to a restaurant, and we closed the restaurant down. After that, we drove home and continued to talk on the phone for like, 2 hours. We had a lot in common—he was in the Army, I was in the Air Force, and we connected and teased each other about which branch was better. The Air Force, of course! 

Q: What made you decide to marry Dennis?

He makes me want to be a better person for me and for everybody else. I couldn’t believe people when they said they met their true love or that they were in love with their best friend. It just didn’t seem real to me. I suppose I was a bit jaded from my divorce. Then I met Dennis. He makes me laugh, he’s someone who appreciates me, loves me and makes me feel good, and I realized, this is how it’s supposed to feel. I’m very much in love with him. He’s my best friend.

“I couldn’t believe people when they said they met their true love… It just didn’t seem real to me.”

Q: Did you have any concerns about starting over or creating a blended family?

Yes, I was very much against starting over and starting another family. My husband was also married before, but he didn’t have children with his ex.  It took me dating him for 4 months before I introduced him to the girls. I didn’t want them to meet this random person, and I didn’t know how dating would be for me. 

When we first started dating, and the first few months after being married, I wasn’t sure if I wanted more children. He was okay with that. He loves them very much, and he is very much their parent. People find it hard to believe that they aren’t his biological girls. He’s a natural with them.

Though, I could see how happy he was with being a father to the girls I knew he wanted to have a baby of his own. And that’s when I realized that when you love someone, their wants and needs become your wants and needs. I wrapped my head around that and am very much in love with him. I realized I wanted to have that connection with him forever, so that’s when we started trying to have a baby.

“When you love someone, their wants and needs become your wants and needs.”

I had a Mirena and decided, “it’s time we took this bad boy out.” When I told him that I was ready to start a family with him, the look on his face was just love and excitement and joy. And then when we were pregnant the first time it was, oh my gosh, it was the most amazing feeling in the world to have created a life with him. But the last two pregnancies (and miscarriages) were just horrible to go through.

But they made us stronger as a couple, and we also appreciate every moment that we have with Matthew. 

I want my husband to experience every little moment with his son and have all the input he wants on what we do day-to-day. I have already experienced caring for the girls, making a big deal about decorating their rooms, etc. So, every chance I get, I’ve put my husband’s wants and input into things. My husband is a huge Star Wars fan. To the point that we even had a Star Wars themed wedding. So, Matthew’s room is a Star Wars theme. We even had infant pictures taken with a little Yoda hat.  

Q: How are things with a newborn?

Things are great. Exhausting, but great. We’re supposed to take it easy for the first six week, but after Matthew’s birth, I just couldn’t. I’m a real estate agent and the market is insane right now. I was out going on appointments and showing houses with Matthew in tow. I think by the third week I had shown around 75 houses. Since we couldn’t take him to daycare because he was still so young, it has been quite the struggle. 

But my husband is very supportive and helps out any way he can. He works nights with the City of Woodstock Police, so our schedule has been challenging to say the least. Juggling a newborn, a 10y/o & 6y/o with both of our careers and life has its stresses, but it’s very rewarding at the same time. I am just thankful I have a really good support group surrounding me. 

Q: How was your pregnancy this go around?

This pregnancy was very good. I have practically been pregnant for two years. We had two previous miscarriages, so Matthew is our rainbow baby. During this pregnancy I took a lot of things very slow and very easy because the two times before were very hard, gut-wrenching and emotional. I didn’t want to go through that again. Each time we made it to the end of the first trimester then lost our babies. It was just a very, very sad experience. So, for this pregnancy it was tough in the beginning. You want to fall in love once you see that you’re pregnant with the positive pregnancy test, but you’re scared to let your emotions go. It’s hard to believe that it’s actually happening; that the baby is gonna stay. 

We had two previous miscarriages…you’re scared to let your emotions go.”

After the first trimester it was starting to feel real. I was able to wrap my head around the fact that this pregnancy was going to be successful. I was very fortunate to only have mild aches and mild nausea. The third trimester was great. I felt huge and as you can tell I had a big’ole moon belly! 

Q: How are the girls reacting to the new baby?

They love him. They absolutely adore him, and even fight over him. They want to hold him constantly. Since he is being breastfed I started pumping to give them an opportunity to help feed him with a bottle. They’re so wonderful with him. Kayla, the youngest, she calls him Moo-Moo. He eats a lot of milk and the “M” is for Matthew, so, yeah—Moo-Moo.

Yeah, the girls love to play with him and show him off. They love being big sisters. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your new relationship and family?

I’m looking forward to creating memories and just taking it all in. It’s weird, when I had the girls I was in a different place mentally and emotionally, and I don’t think I quite took in as much as I should have. I would say just being more in the moment and appreciating the moment.

Q: If you could give advice to other women based on your experiences, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that life is too short to not be happy. If your gut tells you you’re not happy, if something inside of you says, “There might be something else for me,” then there is something else for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. There will always be someone to love you. There will always be someone who will have their heart open, and if you have kids from a previous marriage, there will always be somebody out there for you who will welcome you and your family in and love them just like their own. Don’t settle; never settle. You are stronger than you realize.

“If your gut tells you you’re not happy…never settle!”

Q: What life lessons would you hope to instill in your children?

Always respect yourself and respect the person that you’re with. Also, never settle. Know your self-worth and know that you’re capable of… and this is going to sound so cliché… so much, and I know that if they were to apply themselves, they can do anything that they set their minds to. It’s a mental game, and they’re really strong. They can do whatever they want to do.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add to the interview?

I also want to say that Dr Gandhi and Jordan and both offices and all the women at Cherokee Women’s: I freaking love them. They’re awesome. You know, I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with everything. The emotional part; just being there for us and being silly with us, meant so much. Even when we were delivering via c-section, Dr. Gandhi was amazing and funny! I wasn’t excited about having to have a c-section, I really wanted a VBAC, but Dr. Gandhi is a doctor for a reason… She knows best!

My husband and I always feel comfortable enough to be able to joke around with her and with Jordan – they made our experience better. I’d would jokingly say, “I’m going to have a VBAC.” And Dr. Gandhi would reply, “Sooo, when we’re having the c- section…”. 

We did asked for a “gentle c-section”. It’s where we were able to have the blue tarp removed and replaced with a clear one to see pretty much everything. I’m weird like that. When we were taking pictures at the end, Dr. Gandhi was being silly and fun, and it made the entire experience very lighthearted and not so stressful or scary.

Dr. Gandhi is so funny and so amazing. I love that I can joke with her, then turn around and ask serious questions. Jordan is also hilarious, and easy to talk to.

So definitely, yes, it’s been a blessing to be with this practice and I’m just so thankful that I was able to use my VA benefits here.

Lots of medical practices do not like working with the VA as their payments can take a while to be sent. After researching doctors and practices, Cherokee Women’s was up on the list. I talked to the billing department and they were able to accept the VA’s payment. I was able to get great care and fell in love with Dr. Gandhi and nurse Jordan. They’re both great women, and I couldn’t have been happier with all of this.

“Everything happens for a reason!”

– We’re so happy that you ended up here and that you had an amazing experience with Dr. Gandhi.

I’m so blessed. I am beyond blessed. I must have done something right in another life because I don’t know what I did to deserve a wonderful husband and healthy daughters, a healthy son and great doctors to look after me. I truly am, and I believe it from inside my soul that I am very blessed with everyone that in my life right now.

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