Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

A very close friend of mine who was also a very close friend of my husband's first wife wrote to me, "You will never have what (she) had; you have something different that is unique and privileged and wonderful, too. You must see what you have as complete in its way, regardless of how much seems to be missing."

This is profound. It has fundamentally changed my vision of my role and place. It never occured to me to think of our family that way, that it is complete and exactly the way it should be. I have never doubted that I am supposed to be here, that our meeting and marriage were meant to be. I just kind of thought that my role was sort of secondary, that I was just filling in, in a way. I never thought of this as complete. But it is.

I was talking to the older kids a week or so ago and told them that when I came along we didn't just add me to the mix. We actually formed a new family. I think it's an idea we're all adapting to. It really doesn't matter what the structure was before. This is what exists now. The amazing thing is, I am free to be the mother that I am, without second guessing everything I do, without being afraid I'm not doing it the way she would have done it, because my way is just fine. They'll have the benefit of two mothers, because when all is said and done, I really, truly do get to be that for them. I really do get to be their mom.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday, 18 February 2007

I remember at the beginning of our marriage being genuinely and gratefully able to say that I didn't feel any jealousy or negative feelings about my husband's first wife. I'd read a book written by a woman who married a widower and found that I was uncomfortable with some of the feelings she expressed. I couldn't imagine having similar feelings.

It has been a year and I have been naive. It's not an unusual thing for me, as anyone who knows me well will testify. I tend to approach things with a sunny outlook and an optimistic lean and am oblivious to the hard realities of most situations. I am generally caught completely off guard if things do not unfold as I expect them to. Then I go through the upheaval of a total reality reassessment as I try to put words to the unexpected sensations I'm feeling and tie them to the random thoughts that I'm thinking so I can figure it all out, understand if I'm being rational and connect the dots back to sanity, usually with the help of some close, intuitive friends.

I am jealous of my husband's first wife. I had a hint it might be lurking somewhere inside me when my husband showed me the oldest three children's baby books last year (because you know that the first three are the only ones that get anything written in them) and I started crying. I had strange feelings in my gut that threw me and I couldn't figure out what I was feeling for sure. I knew that it had something to do with the fact that she got to have them as babies and I didn't, but I sort of let it drop.

Today Tim was sorting through a bunch of old papers and I saw a family home evening program Hannah had written at a much younger age. She had all the members of the family written on it starting with Mum and Dad and the thought ran through my head that I'm not Mum and this is not my family. It's hers. She married my husband first and they bought this house together and had six babies together and they taught them to eat and walk and talk and they went on vacations and made friends and had church callings and wrote goals together and had rules and ways of doing things and they laughed together and got mad at each other and had plans drawn up for remodeling the house and formed this family and I didn't get to do any of that. I don't know what they were like with her but I see pictures of them all together and of her holding them as babies and the love she had for them and I feel a hollow place inside.

I am jealous of her. I am jealous that she knew these children as tiny babies and cuddly toddlers and precocious children. I am jealous that when they think of their mother, it isn't me they think of. I am jealous of the fact that I don't know them as well as I want to and that I may never know them that well. I am jealous that I may never feel completely secure in our bonds because there's no biology that connects us, that tells them that they have to like me at some level because we're tied genetically. I may never know how they really feel about me, if they're just tolerating me because I married their dad.

I'm also sad for her. I'm sad for her and for them that all the things they planned to do together and all the milestones they thought they'd celebrate together will not be with her, but will be with me and I'm sad for me that there will never be a milestone the children experience when they will not be wishing that she was with them instead of me.

That's a hard truth to swallow. It doesn't mean they won't love me or care for me or that we won't have good relationships, it just means that the things we celebrate or go through together will never be clean. They will never be unfettered by mixed and sad feelings. I'm not sure I'm prepared for that reality, but I think it's probably a good thing I didn't understand how daunting this would be at the onset.

I'm realizing that I'm far too simple in my understanding of the world and my relationships. I don't have very much experience dealing with death and separation and grief and parenting and bonding so I think I'm having to just feel my way through this, fumbling and stumbling but somehow managing to keep my footing through it all. I think I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and reveling in the good things that happen.

From what I hear, that's pretty common for most parents. And regardless of how I got here, I am finally admitting that I am a parent. I am now the mother of this house. In the coming years we'll just have to figure out together what that means.