Challenges: A different story of us
What you are about to read is up for your judgment. I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But I do owe it to myself to continue to practice what I preach about how your personal story can help someone — whether to make a decision, feel affirmed in a decision already made, feel a connection to someone who may be going through the same thing or to inspire. That said, I’m going to talk about 2018 now that the year is over.
Everyone tells you all these things about blended families. They send you links to Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk.” You add yourself to online groups. You seek advice. What people don’t always tell you is that it’s STILL your story. Not anyone else’s. That’s the part you need to realize right away if you choose to be in one.
Brief backstory here...
When I reconnected with my husband David in 2013, it was after quite a long time from our first meeting as teenagers in the 90s when we became friends. The last time was sometime around 2008 when he hired me to shoot his cousin’s wedding. At that time I knew his two kiddos as tiny beings and he was married. Me? I was very, very single. Real talk here—I’ve always had a thing for David.I can’t tell you how many times I wished I didn’t! I will admit it was a little hard to see him settled even though I was happy if he was happy.
We didn’t talk much after that. And even though I’m probably more transparent than I should be, I will NOT be disclosing my husband’s personal stuff. I will chalk it up to how people kind of fade away from each other due to circumstances and just life.
We corresponded again some years down the road. He had divorced and I was still gallivanting. We decided to connect in person when I moved back to Texas from South Dakota in 2013 and here is where folks may say, “The rest is history” but it was quite a ride...
Even though there’s about 20 plus years of us knowing each other, David and I never dated. He asked me out at the brink of 2013 coming to a close. My first kiss of 2014. I was headed to Arizona that February but I stayed. I reasoned that it was because I didn’t get into a MFA program but I stayed for him. I knew he was a package deal with his children who were about 9 and 12 at the time. It was a complete whirlwind. All the moving. The court dates to get full custody. And getting married.
I. Wasn’t. Ready.
Everything moved so fast and I didn’t know what I was doing as a bonus/step/mom. There were many challenges. And I will never forget the triumphs, too. But I think my husband will admit to the fact that our ideas of raising the kids differed a lot from the simple fact we didn’t raise them together from the beginning. People will tell you over and over, they are YOUR kids now. No matter the blood relation. You’ve made the commitment. This is true. I will never discount this. But being that parent from the beginning really makes a huge difference, especially if you are parenting them as preteens. You have time to discuss how you want to parent together instead of there being a barrage of other issues that you had nothing to do with from the beginning. While also parenting, you work with that and it’s much harder if you’ve been a person who never even had siblings. Yes, this DOES make a difference.
I credit both of my bonus kids for fueling the spark in me to have a child of my own. David and I discussed this at length. We discussed that if we were to have a child of our own, the co-raising would have to look different. And after three years of unexplained infertility, our miracle came naturally in 2017. Miah is the best thing that’s ever happened between us. And going through that pain of infertility is the worst feeling. I’ve discussed it here and other blogs. I’m open to making that topic shame-free. One thing infertility does, however, is make you even more protective about your child.
It’s like Jenga but with people…
Somewhere in all this, the oldest was doing/going through a lot of stuff along the way that is always deemed normal teenage behavior. Again, this post is not about disclosing details. It is to offer a moment to say, you are human if this is hard.
Things piled up and it took just one more piece to stack on the pile for me to stop everything. In 2018 I was an exhausted new mom navigating all that entails. Not sleeping. Fretting/doting/loving over a tiny human. I quit my job of nearly eight years. Shut down my studio. To me, everyone seemed to just see all of this as just another day, “It’s Monday and Jenice gave up some stuff.” Just when I thought I was done with the eruptions of so many shifts, one afternoon brought a “normal” teenage indiscretion in our home. Our house flipped upside down. And after a few months I realized I not only needed help with Miah, who was pretty precocious from day one, I needed air. I needed to decide if I could do this anymore. This marriage…This life.
I know now that my already sensitive and emotional nature made a perfect storm with postpartum depression and anxiety. I moved in with my parents who have been amazing with our girl. I started work for a small retail business and picked up a contract writing for a therapies company. I was set on moving on with my life as an amicably divorced couple. We were friends after all. I was planning to be a single mother. But as time has shown over and over, David and I can’t quit each other.
Right now we see each other once or twice a week and have worked on our marriage the best we can. It’s been very hard on all of us. The baby is old enough now to know this. In fact when we are together, she pushes my face towards his and insists we kiss. Then when we do, she does it again. It’s adorable and very empathic of her.
We move back together in a few months with the baby and 14-year-old. The oldest is 17, graduated, and working. She insists she can live on her own with a friend but I don’t know what this year will bring. So far we have all managed well together and hoping more growth will continue that.
New year, “new” me…?
My shifting life has reflected in all my evolving and ending relationships. My brain really did change when I had Miah. I don’t feel like the same person. But I’m not playing the “new year, new me” jazz. I changed the moment we left the hospital with our daughter in 2017. Not everyone will come with you and that’s ok. Not everyone will agree with you, also ok. What is different in me this year over the last one is that I’m letting go of resentments. I’m letting go of what I can’t “fix.” I want to move forward because I don’t have a Tardis. The past is written. I know that I deserve to have my own convictions and instill that idea into my daughter who will hold on to hers. I want her to never be afraid to speak her mind (be careful what I wish for, I know) and be aware when she feels uneasy.
I am letting anyone reading this right now know that I wouldn’t change a damn thing I did in this situation. I honored my feelings. Some call it selfish. Some call it survival. My daughter deserves a mother who knows when she needs help so she can know it’s ok to ASK FOR HELP. There is no shame in knowing you can’t handle something. You aren’t alone. And your story is your own.