When I first left my husband, only a few months after he told me, "I love you but I'm not in love with you anymore," I truly believed we would get back together. I thought that it was a road block, well more like a boulder blocking an interstate highway, but movable, albeit with a lot of work. I knew he was having an affair and still, I would have done my part and worked to repair the marriage in order to keep our family intact.
I left on September 1st. The last opportunity I gave him to fix our relationship and forgive him his indiscretions (which he was still denying), was the last weekend in October of the next month. After that, when he said he was happier without me, in my mind I decided it was over and it was time to begin mourning the death of my marriage.
Over the course of the next few months, the woman with whom he had been intimate and who he claimed still only as a "friend" who was helping him "through this" became more of a permanent fixture in his life. Eventually, in April, only 8 months after we split, he informed me he was introducing the girls to her. There was little argument I could give as I was boarding a plane to Mexico. The last thing I wanted to ruin my vacation was thoughts of my daughters and this woman, who, quite honestly I hated passionately, playing a mothering role to them. It was at this point that without admitting he was in a relationship with her, he was admitting he was in a relationship with her.
There were many things that went through my mind as I sat on that plane ride. My heart was full of anger and bitterness. My chest ached and my heart, again, was hurting intensely. I called them both names. I wished terrible things on him. Then her. They were mostly awful things that involves some kind of accidental poisoning or beheading. Then, when I couldn't think of anything more to wish that was terrible on either of them, I began to fantasize about the worst things that could happen to them in 'real' life. I decided the worst thing I could think up was what I believe propelled my marriage into its demise: the birth of my children.
The awful ugly truth is, I never wanted to become a mother, nor a wife. I grew up steadfast in that, and I asserted that claim often. I rarely dated in high school, believing guys were extremely immature and just not at my level. Despite this, the culture in which women are groomed has pushed us (me) into the belief that a happy woman has a place, and that place is beside (or more often behind) a man, with her children in tow and a washcloth and spatula handy at all times. When I met my ex-husband I indeed fell head over heels in the way only a 20 year old girl can, naively, without thinking about the consequences, just utter abandon. I rushed headfirst into a commitment he made to me, having not pushed him into it. I still remember the first time he said, "I love you" at the end of a phone conversation, and I said it back, out of reflex, then hung up immediately. I did not love him yet, but I did care about him.
My dreams of being a journalist and writing about third world countries while working for the Peace Corp after college were as easily washed away as food stains on a counter top. I began to believe that maybe all that time thinking I didn't want a husband or family was just my misguided youth. Maybe I did want the house, the dog, the white picket fence. Maybe I could carry a baby on a hip and whip up a great dinner (meat, potatoes and vegetable of course), then put the baby down for the night and scrub the dishes, floor and toilets. Maybe....
As much as I love my daughters, and they give me a joy so pure and a pride so immeasurable, when they entered the world, I began to expect things from my husband. I wanted him to carry some of the burden of this responsibility. And yet, the more I tried to engage him in that, it seemed the more he pushed away.
There was one night that stays forefront in my mind when I was up for Madeline's 2 am (maybe 4 am) feeding. While she was nursing at my breast, I looked down at her, the child who had emerged from me, who I knew I should adore because she came from love, and all I felt was an overwhelming feeling that I had done something from which I could not escape. The thought I remember going through my mind was, "What the f*ck did I do?" Months later, I did fall in love with Madeline, as she grew and smiled and laughed her first real laugh (at our lap dog, Max, when he was jumping high up to my hand to get a treat).
And so my ex husband and I had another child. I wanted the babies to be close in age. Having a second was even more work for me. The rift which had begun with Madeline (before Madeline actually, but that's another story) began to widen. Soon we would fall into it...
And so, when I was sitting on that plane, after hearing that my daughters, Ella not quite 2, and Madeline having just turned 3 in August, were meeting the woman who destroyed my family, the worst thing I could imagine happening to the two of them was having their own family, and experiencing the sadness, despair, and painful, painstaking work that raising a child is... in our society which is still very set in the gender role of woman as caretaker. I wished that heartache on them.
A little less than a month ago, as my ex husband picked up the girls, as usual, around 4 o'clock, he let them head out onto the porch first, then he turned to me and said, "D------ and I are getting married. And let's hope it's a boy."
I never expected to hear those words from him. She being older than I, with a daughter who is a senior and one in college, I never expected she would want to create a new family.
Inside I was hollow. I quickly searched to feel something, anything, but there was nothing. My mind wandered. And then I took over. The new me. I stood up and touched his shoulder and genuinely said, "Congratulations, I'm so happy for you." He laughed and turned, saying, "I will be telling the girls tonight." (He only told the girls about the marriage, not the baby. They have since married. If you know my daughters, please do not say anything to them).
I shut the door and sat back down and waited. In the quiet of the house, I listened to the ticking of the clock on the wall. 10 minutes went by and I felt nothing. What's going to come? I kept thinking. Am I going to be sad? Bitter? Angry? Wish ill on them?
None of those happened. The only feeling that came was a reaction to how this was going to change the world for my daughters. How would they react? How will their "family' change? A hundred worries crossed my mind. And then I also began to realize that I had feelings, too, and none of them were envy. I was happy it was not me. I did not want to be her, having a family at this age, at this stage in my life. I have worked so hard to get healthy and get back in shape; I was glad it was not me, watching my body change again. Although I loved being pregnant, any woman who has gone through it knows it is not easy to "bounce back" when it comes to weight. And our bodies are never the same. And emotionally...well... it's not easy.
I truly was and am happy for him. And her. And my daughters and her daughters.
And also, just a little, very little, sad, that I would not ever be able to give my daughters a sister or a brother... but she will. And they will have a baby brother or sister that will give them so much joy, that they will talk about and laugh about and want me to understand, and I will have to be the best mom I can be and laugh along... And I will give them that... but at this juncture, I can't give them a baby.... and I probably never will.
But what I am giving my daughters is more than that.
I am giving them purpose, every day, that they can become what they want, follow their hearts and dreams. That they do not need a man to be satisfied, but that if a good, considerate man comes into their lives as a friend, and that is a part of their happiness, then they should follow that, too. I am teaching them that they are only limited by the walls they build, and that falling down is a part of climbing a mountain... And I am teaching them that commitment is not something you say, nor is it a piece of paper you sign, but it's something you do, every day, ugly days and sunshine days, because you said you would.
And best of all, I am teaching them to believe in themselves and be their own best cheerleader... because the only person you need to make your dreams happen is you...
As Ella says, "Dream big, Mom, and make it happen."
And I respond, "Think like a champion, my baby girl."