I remember the moment I found out he had children. It was night, I had been drinking and fucking around on Facebook. I thought I had found his Facebook page. His profile picture was of kelp so I wasn’t sure if it was him or not. It said he was married. I clicked on her page and there was a little boy maybe 6 months old on the beach wearing an Army hat. The next photo was of him with her at a wedding. I completely freaked out. I wasn’t freaked out that he was married. I wasn’t freaked out that he had kids. I freaked out that he would never leave those kids because he was too good of a person. This meant one of two things, either we were done forever or I was going to become a stepmother.
A stepmother. A stepmother.
Ewwww. I don’t want to be a stepmother. I want to be a real mother. I want his vasectomy to fail. I want to not be infertile and I want to create a human inside of my belly. I want to give birth to his baby. I don’t want to take care of another person’s baby. Ewwww.
Me: “Do you have kids?” Him: “Yes.” Me: “How many do you have?” He gulps, takes a deep breath, “Three.” Me: “Wow. How old are they?” Him: “Well, Katelynn is 9, Gwendelynn is 3, and Sean is 1.” Me: “Wow, they are little.” Him: “So are we over?” Me: “I don’t think so, are we?”
That was the moment I became lost in translation.
It was the moment I fell into the rabbit hole and watched myself spin down to the bottom of a cavernous pit in the name of love.
I became lost in wanting to perfect my new identity.
I was going to be the best stepmother in the history of all stepmothers.
I would wash and sew and cook and clean. I would do laundry and do yard work and read and play. I would never say bad words about their mother. I would always be kind and gracious towards her because after all, without her I would never be able to help the man I love raise his children.
I would be the greatest “stepmother” the children would ever know. I wouldn’t cringe when they called me “Missy” even though that was my name and to expect them to call me mom was just silly. I wouldn’t cry each time they left with her, the woman who would stand on my front lawn screaming and swearing, calling me names as the children walked outside.
I wouldn’t get angry at the legal fees, the court hearings that I was not allowed to attend because it would look bad. I wouldn’t hold resentments toward his attorney for taking so long to end this, toward the judge who was clearly blind and incapable of seeing what is standing right in front of him, to the state of California that does not allow free attorneys for the children like they do in other states. I wouldn’t lose my shit all over because I know too damn much because I am a social worker.
Nope not me, I am going to be MAGNIFICENT. A pillar of grace. I am gonna be so fucking graceful I am going to print out pretty words that say grace and grateful and hang them all over the fucking house.
Thank you Pinterest, you have saved this stepmothers ass.
I remember the moment I realized I didn’t recognize myself. It was 2012. I was sitting on the back porch chain smoking cigarettes reading stepmother chat boards ramping myself into hysteria because every single story was the same.
We had all been lost in translation.
We had all been rendered voiceless by the court system. We had all been forced into a strange land that had new words in a language we didn’t understand. We had all found a common language as stepmothers but didn’t know how to talk or act or be in our new roles. We all sat by and watched as our husbands fought tooth and nail to keep their children from women who were on drugs, drunk, and homeless but whom the courts considered paragons of perfection because their uteri are fit for incubation.
When I became a stepmother I not only lost my identity, I lost my voice. All of a sudden I couldn’t speak. I was paralyzed by fear that I would say or do something that would get these children taken away from the man I love.
I became frozen in an insane wasteland or torment as a partner and a caretaker and a housewife and a…gasp…mother.
While I was simultaneously making my dream come true by turning into a “mother” an insidious transformation was taking place that was entirely out of my control.
I completely lost my identity for about 2 years.
I was entirely unreadable.
I looked like some jacked up mishmash of language written simultaneously in Greek, Russian, French, and Hebrew. Advocating with the stepmothers felt inadequate, I wanted to go bigger. I wanted to change the entire court system in California. I started doing research. I started calling county workers and administrative office of the courts bureaucrats in Sacramento. I started developing a plan.
And then one day it all stopped.
One day Gwen came into the living room and said, “Mommy, will you read me a story?”
I am pretty certain I started crying right then and there. Did I just hear that? Did she just call me mommy?
And then Sean woke up from his nap and came and curled up with us on the couch and we laughed and we giggled and we tickled. And then Katie came home and she needed help with her homework and I needed to make dinner and then Jim came home from work and needed kisses and hugs.
And then I wasn’t so lost anymore. I had been transformed.