The day I said “I do” I not only gained a husband, but two step-children.
Since they were tiny things long before my now husband and I tied the knot I did everything in my power to make sure they felt loved and supported. I’ve changed their diapers. I’ve cleaned up after them.
I’ve been awoken by tiny voices quivering from bad dreams or middle of the night sickness. I’ve played with them. I’ve fed them, clothed them, and bathed them. In our home I have done my best to step up and play the mom role for them, knowing that I will never be (and am not looking to be) their mom.
One night two pink lines came up so fast and dark it made my head spin.
I was overjoyed, terrified, and honestly felt a little sick (surely morning sickness couldn’t set it that quickly, right?!). Those lines had been prayed for and I was so thankful to be seeing them. Over the next nine months, those lines began to take over my life. I watched as they turned from those two beautiful lines to a blip on a screen, to “oh look there are hands and feet and fingers and toes!” to kicks and flips and wiggles in my womb.
I also thought about the two little faces I saw every other weekend, on special occasions, and sometimes an extra day for no reason at all.
I worried so much about those two little people that I didn’t create, but loved so very much. They were ecstatic about the news that they would be getting a baby brother. They loved to feel him, talk about him, and asked incessantly about his impending arrival.
I was just as enthused as they were, but I was oh so nervous. Nervous for how my life and marriage would change, nervous about what kind of mother I would be, and nervous because the love I felt for this little one who was a part of me was already so different than the love I felt for the two little ones that aren’t.
Finally, on an unsuspecting March morning I was told that I was going to meet my baby. From the moment I heard his first cry my heart knew that no love I had felt before could ever rival this love. I barely slept from just staring at him. I was absolutely smitten like I never had been before.
The two children that I first took on the role of mama for were amazed by their brother.
They cooed over his little hands and beautiful eyes. They went on and on about how adorable he was and how much they loved him. I knew the day that they met him I would fall short of the expectations laid before me.
You see, I’ve always been told that in order to be a decent step-parent you must love the children who came before you in exactly the same capacity that you love your own. Now I play both the role of mama and step-mama; I just don’t see how I could possibly do it.
I still do everything in my power to make sure all of my children feel loved and supported. I do everything for those babies who came before me that I do for the babies who came from me.
Still, the love I have for my step-children is different.
Loving a child who you have to have boundaries with, as to not upset their biological parent, is not easy. Loving a child who you have to watch every move you make, every word you say, and everything in between is not for the faint of heart.
The worry of putting their hearts in the middle of a war between families never ceases. The constant reminder that you do everything for these children that a mama does, but will never be appreciated as a mama to them, can sometimes be a letdown.
You do it anyways, because they deserve it, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t make the love you have for them different than the love you have for your own child.
I may be doing this wrong, but I am getting up every day and doing it nonetheless.
I pour all of the love that I can muster into the four tiny cups of my children, biological and step. I do everything I can to make sure the minute differences in that love go undetected. There are differences, though, and that’s okay.
It’s okay that the love I have for my own flesh and blood isn’t exactly the same as the love I have for my step-children.
It’s okay that the children who call me mommy, depend on me every day, and are a very literal part of me, hold a different place in my heart than the children who do not.
I still hurt when they hurt. My heart still soars at any accomplishment they make. I still love them, nurture them, and support them.
I love my step-children differently than I love my biological children, and I am finally realizing that it is okay.