Lost in Translation (Stepmother)

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.

Grace

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?

737748_10200351290409877_2134060193_o
And so we read and we read and we read.

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.

Advertisements

About Melissa Bird

Melissa Bird is a passionate feminist who has turned her education in social work into a career advocating for children, women and their families. She is a fierce believer in preparing women for leadership roles in politics and has a wealth of experience working with policy makers, community leaders, and other stakeholders to improve access to reproductive health care for women, men and teens. In 2006, Melissa became the Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Utah where she quickly took a struggling political organization from mediocre to powerhouse in just a few years. Melissa has written and passed into law six pieces of legislation that aim to help disadvantaged homeless youth find shelter and women and their families obtain unfettered access to reproductive health care. A spirited public speaker, Melissa derives great joy from speaking to groups of all sizes about social justice advocacy, reproductive health, women’s empowerment, and fundraising. Melissa has presented workshops at many conferences throughout the country such as: Planned Parenthood Federation of America-State Public Affairs Network: New Public Affairs Staff Orientation—Washington D.C. Planned Parenthood Federation of America-Innovations & Generations Conference—Seattle, Washington Troubled Youth Conference—Snowbird, Utah Child Welfare League of America National Conference—Washington D.C. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center of Mental Health Services Conference-Collaborative Approaches to Successful Transition for Children, Youth, and Families within System of Care—Dallas, Texas Melissa has played many roles throughout her life including preschool teacher, professional lobbyist, university professor, non-profit executive, wife and mother. Throughout her life and her career, Melissa has always held a deep conviction that she is here to empower others in order to improve the lives of women and children throughout the world.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Lost in Translation (Stepmother)

  1. Don Grafton says:

    Having a niece who has mirrored your experience with very similar issues makes me admire your advocacy and her accomplishments! My niece has had an additional challenge in her quest to become the stepmother you advocate. She conceived their planned “our” child on their honeymoon only to suffer a miscarriage in the first trimester. I admire her strength, resilience, intelligence, support of a loving husband and family to persevere and achieve the role of stepmother with grace and humility

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s