“Why are you doing this to us?!” (part 1)

I don’t usually engage in conversation with my ex. Most of our communication is limited to text messages. Why? Because he is selling crazy and I am not buying.

In recent weeks his level of crazy has increased by alarming proportions. First there was the domestic violence arrest. He received felony charges, was jailed for 30 hours and then bemoaned the abuse he was suffering at the hands of his wife. He claimed that the charges were dismissed, that the judge had said he had done nothing wrong. He played the victim and blamed everything on his wife.

Sound familiar?

This is the game played by emotionally abusive men — and women. They destroy the self -confidence of those around them. They torment, degrade, and intimidate … and then they play the victim. In situations of divorce with children they manipulate the court system, deny any wrong doing, depict the other parent as crazy, neglectful and abusive … and they win.

Those of us who have experienced this recognize the common thread. We feel betrayed and are unfairly judged by others. When I meet people I know that they assume horrible things about me. I try to not let it bother me, but it does. Sometimes I can see in their eyes the thought, “What is she hiding? She must have done something horrible to lose her children.” Yes, I did. I chose a narcissistic bully to be their father.

Immediately following their father’s arrest … did I mention that his arrest was hidden from me? My oldest son was told not to tell me by his grandmother. As soon as I found out I packed my toddler into the van and we drove to their city to pick them all up from school. I was stunned by the reaction of my older daughter.

She loved her step mom. She even would write her step mom’s last name on her school papers — that stung a little. When I told the younger kids that their dad and his wife had been arrested for domestic violence my daughter responded with, “Well, she started it.” Whoa! I started to wonder what her father had been saying about his wife to cause such a drastic change of heart. Quite frankly, it made me sad. This was their second step mom in just 4 years and I had hoped that things would work out so they could feel secure.

Their father was charged with felony assault. I heard from my 8 year old son that this wasn’t the first time there had been a physical fight. He had seen them slap each other and he saw his dad stand on his step mom’s chest. I decided that there was no way I was sending them back. I hoped that their father would be detained in jail and sentenced to several months.

Beyond all comprehension, he was released.

This began a series of texts and phone calls wherein I insisted that my boys would stay with me because they didn’t feel safe. All the excuses and the displacement of blame were staggering. I called b.s. on so much of it. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of his claims, his distortion of facts and his declarations of enlightenment.

In the meantime, my kids had returned to his home. My older son and I talked about moving forward with the parenting plan modification.

(I cannot complete this right now. Too much to process.)


Faith through the tough times

At church this past weekend, our pastor talked about crisis. How we get through it, how God works change within us, and our reactions to it. He quoted several verses about Jacob from Genesis.

One of the things he mentioned was that we each need to admit that we are the “problem.” Reality check? Yes, something like that. The talk was interspersed with scenes from the movie Fireproof. Dreadful acting aside, it’s a movie with a message worth noticing. Which reminded me, I have The Love Dare as an ebook from the library on my phone. And I hadn’t looked at it.

Hmm … Day 1 — say nothing negative to your spouse. I tried it. I almost made it through the whole day. I am trying again today. Our toddler woke up crying with a leaky diaper. While I was changing her on our bed my husband made grouchy, sarcastic remarks. I hissed, “Callate!” at him. Whoops! Let’s just put that one behind us and continue on …

I know that making God the central focus of my life makes my life better. Always. It is during the tough times when I get too introspective, too discouraged, and overly cynical that I struggle to stay close to Him. I don’t make time to read the Bible. I don’t focus on prayer. I get very caught up in the drama that is my life.

At this time I have an ex who is contentious and argumentative. My oldest stepdaughter isn’t talking to me because of something my younger stepdaughter told her. I have no idea what it is, but she unfriended me on facebook because of it. Trust me, this is a BIG deal. Before the end of her visit my younger stepdaughter got angry with me and told me that I am “just a stepmom!” Ouch. I sure cried over that one.

My husband is disappointed and angry with both of his older daughters. He carries a grudge against my older daughter. Blended family drama stinks! I honestly think we need to be in ongoing therapy with our children in order to navigate this life peacefully. (sigh)

These ARE tough times. I need to be more active in my pursuit of God. I need to replenish my faith, fill my glass. I don’t want to just muddle through life, I want to live it beautifully and joyfully.

 

Who’s with me?


Confusion Sets In

Summertime visitations are at an end. We’re down to just three of us here at home. I have time to write again and what I have to share isn’t very uplifting.

My ex refuses to let my children visit me this weekend. It is more convenient for him to switch our weekend to Labor Day. Nope, sorry, not going to do it. Well, I didn’t apologize to him. I flat out told him no, I would not switch my weekend. He didn’t ask. He told me that my two weeks with the kids changed our schedule. Nope. It didn’t. He later texted me that I’m mean and an abusive bully and that he is my target now.

Those of you who know me should be laughing.

So, now I won’t see my kids for three weeks. Just because I refuse to be manipulated and pushed around … because I am no longer his doormat … I’m a bully?

The other situation that has me frustrated and puzzled involves … well, I suppose that may be best left off of my blog. I am truly confused and saddened. It’s the main reason I started writing tonight. (sigh)


Finding the way to Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a process. I find myself in a constant struggle to forgive the same people for the same thing. Over and over again. I doubt that this is unique to parenting, divorce, and remarriage. However, it is an integral part of blended family health as well as my Christian faith.

I wrote that more than two weeks ago. I have been struggling with writing about this topic. I feel like I should add some citations from psychology experts or scripture quotes. With my current commitments I don’t want to devote the time that that requires. Summer vacation is upon us. Our visit from my older bonus daughter and her infant son is over. Our visit from my younger bonus daughter has just begun. Our baby girl is turning one tomorrow. So, you see, I’m busy with family and activities.

Please forgive me. I will revisit this topic because it is important. As important as it is challenging.

 


Birth story of our youngest daughter

Woman over 40 gives birth at home — with no pain medication!

I am a remarried, blended family mom. I am over 40. I have an 11month old daughter who was born at home on a warm night late last Spring.

When I met my current husband I had three children and he had two. We weren’t planning an addition to our blended family, but … well, you know. My husband’s grandmother was a midwife, but he had never been witness to a homebirth or a vaginal birth, for that matter. He knew that my third child had been born at home and one of his first concerns was that I would give birth to our baby at home — with all the noise and mess and “gross stuff.” Silly man.

He never challenged my choice, but warned me that he didn’t think he could watch, for fear that he would get nauseated and vomit. I laughed about it and told him he could just look at my face.

At 41 weeks I requested that my midwife sweep my membranes. She predicted that labor would commence the following evening. She was correct. On a sunny Friday evening my contractions began. We went for a walk on the beach of my beloved Puget Sound, but labor stalled because I felt too exposed so we returned home. My labor was fairly typical, but longer than I had expected. I walked around our apartment, stopping to lean on walls and sway my hips. We eventually called our midwife. I don’t remember the phone call or her arrival.

Through transition I was being very loud. My youngest son, 6 at the time, was our only child at home and my loud low moans woke him. I told him that I was ok, it just takes a lot of noise to get a baby out. He asked if I did that with him. When I responded “yes” he said, “It worked!” I remember laughing and smiling at that.

My labor was 12 hours long and I spent the last few hours (I think) on my knees leaning on my birthing ball. When my midwife could see that I was getting close to feeling the urge to push, she asked if I wanted to move to the bed. She and her assistant set up the chux pads and my ball and helped me to relocate.

My son was still awake and asking my husband how I was doing. I shouted that he could come into my room if he wanted to. So there I was, on my mattress upon the floor, with my husband on my left and my homebirthed son on my right. I felt so blessed.

I heard my midwife say, “I see her head!” and my husband, who was holding my hand and looking into my eyes suddenly perked up saying, “You can?!” and darted his head around to stare at my bottom. My son did the same. They were both transfixed as A**y slid out, with me grunting, “Damn! The shoulders!”

I immediately asked if I could move to sit down so I could see her. My midwife’s reply was a very calm, “After I get the cord off her neck.” I was not the least bit worried about this and was just so relieved that she would be in my arms in a few moments. My beautiful little blessing, the uniter of our blended family.


At Long Last …

a breakthrough with my kids

This past weekend was amazing. My children came to visit and the most incredible turn of events unfolded.

When we met our kids in the parking lot my oldest son was visibly upset. It looked like he had been crying. I immediately asked him what was wrong. He fought back tears while saying that he would tell me later. We all got into the van with him in the front passenger seat and he immediately burst into tears. I could only imagine that this must have something to do with his father harassing him about his conversion to Judaism. He didn’t tell me right away, but that was part of it.

This is not the good part of my story. It turned out that their father had raged at them during their 30 minute drive to our exchange point. He did his usual song and dance: my wife does nothing, my kids do nothing, I didn’t watch tv as a kid, I rode my bike everywhere, blah, blah, blah. He growled and yelled, accused and ridiculed. This was the very reason why I left with the kids 5 years ago. My son was on the verge of tears, my daughter did cry. Remarkably, my youngest son said it didn’t bother him. My two oldest have those memories of being emotionally and verbally abused. Their father’s unleashed anger triggered their emotional memories. My youngest son was only 2.5 years old when we left. He didn’t retain the emotional memory.

After arriving home, when my son spilled all of this ugliness he confessed as well. He told me that his sister had mentioned something about my husband and a belt, that he had countered with, “that didn’t happen!” only to have his father turn on him. My son cried. I told him that I forgive him and that I understand. It was an incredible, tearful moment.

I soon went to check on my 10 year old daughter. She was moody and angry about not being allowed to play video games. I turned her towards me and hugged her. I told her I love her and I miss her. I apologized for anything I had done to hurt her, told her that it hurt me to see her so sad. It took awhile for her to raise her arms to embrace me, but when she did she collapsed into me, sobbing. She told me that everything was a mess, that there was too much fighting and she just wanted it to stop. We stood for a good 10 minutes in the kitchen, holding each other and talking.

She finally dropped her facade. We finally connected on a deep level.

The sad thing in all of this is that the events we had predicted would occur happened faster than we had thought. My ex is emotionally and verbally abusing my children again. They are living in fear, walking on eggshells. Their stepmom has distanced herself from them. She is not involved in their lives. They are not happy. They are barely getting through each day.

I am sending an email to the guardian ad litem in our case. She needs to know what her lack of concern has done to my children. For her they were a paycheck. For me, they are my heart and my life.


Adult Children of Remarried Parents

It occurred to me this morning that I have been a member of a blended family for nearly than 16 years. I am dense, I know.

My father remarried in 1995, exactly one week before my first wedding. Sadly, I have never met my three bonus siblings. It wasn’t until we all connected on FaceBook that I had any regular communication with them. Proximity is the issue — and money for travel. He was married out of state and wound up relocating to the state in which they were married. I have only seen my father once in the past 10 years for this very reason. Travel is too costly.

I have heard of adult children having issues when their parents remarry, but this wasn’t the case for me. I was happy that my dad had found a new partner. I was sad when they moved away, but as adults that is their choice.

The thought that I am pondering now is how adult children of blended families can try to hold their parents hostage. I saw my ex do this when his father remarried. Not only did he badmouth his future stepmom, but he also felt very put-out that his dad would have a teenage stepdaughter — as if she was usurping his place with his father. It boggled my mind. How selfish can one get? Parents have the right to find love, security, and companionship.

Can it be that even adult children of divorce still hold out hope for their parents’ reconciliation?

Maybe it boils down to insecurity… jealousy… competitiveness. My ex certainly has those qualities — in abundance. Or perhaps it is the belief that the parent is choosing the wrong person. How is it though, that children will presume that they know better than their parents? That is simply presumptuous and arrogant.

I didn’t make those judgments when my dad remarried. I am genuinely happy for him.


Pursuing dreams

When my first marriage fell apart I had to let go of two dreams: having an intact family and becoming a midwife.

I think that is one of the most difficult parts of divorcing. Letting dreams die. Dreams of a happily ever after. Dreams of raising children and growing old together. Dreams of home ownership, developing new interests and changing careers while leaning on one’s spouse for support. And sometimes, it also means letting go of dreams that the other person will change “if only…”

In my quest to be self sufficient I tried out a new dream — being a teacher. It didn’t seem far-fetched. I love working with children. I believe that I have a calling to facilitate the building of healthy families and relationships. Teachers may touch those areas of people’s lives. I enjoy teaching. I don’t love it. It is stressful, exhausting, restrictive, and just downright hard. While it is an excellent career choice … well, maybe it isn’t. The pay is low. The job security no longer exists. One of my motivators in becoming a teacher was to have summers off to spend with my children. Our visitation schedule is still every other weekend all summer …

The truth is, I have a passion for working with moms and babies. Pregnant moms. Breastfeeding moms. Newborn infants. Laboring moms. I am drawn to them like a magnet. They fill me with bewildered awe. I want to assist during the transition of becoming a mother. To be a witness to the birth of a new family.

I need to be a midwife.


Finding My Parenting Niche ~ part two

The internet became central to my growth as a parent. I am most comfortable interacting with people via the printed word. When I was young my family moved a few times and I always had pen pals. That experience led naturally to my involvement in message boards. As soon as I discovered message boards I was inspired to start my own board for Stay at Home Moms. Discussing mothering with women online became my social outlet.

Following the birth of my second child, four years after my first, it soon became apparent to me that I needed to spend time with other like-minded moms. In real life. My insecurity has hindered my ability to socialize throughout my life. However, I mustered up my courage and attended my first La Leche League meeting. Going to the meeting was like stepping into a warm bath. So comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable. I had found my “peeps.”

Not everyone will feel comfortable hanging out with “granola” types. Not all mothers who are involved with LLL are of the crunchy variety. But all are breastfeeding moms. As a wise woman wrote, a breastfeeding mom is a breastfeeding mom. Aside from that, our parenting styles may be vastly different. To be a breastfeeding mom, there is no other requirement than having breasts that lactate and a child to latch onto them.

So there you have it. I am a crunchy, gentle, sleep sharing mom. I am one of “those women” who breastfeeds her children well beyond infancy. It is what I am comfortable with. It has worked well for my children. They are confident, healthy, bright individuals. The had years of cuddling and snuggling with me, both day and night.

Have the fathers of my children been onboard? Not always.

With my first three children, I argued frequently with their father about my parenting choices. I believe he was jealous of the attention I gave our children. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t let them cry. He would be angry when I put their needs before his. He did not like sleep sharing. He did not like co-sleeping. I insisted despite his protests.

Thankfully, my current husband is different. He does not like it when our daughter fusses, allowing her to cry is out of the question. He had not shared sleep with an infant in the past. He had reservations at first, but after our daughter was born he found that he felt better with her safely tucked into our bed beside me. It may turn out that he becomes uncomfortable with extended breastfeeding. If that hurdle appears, we will jump it.

Nearly 14 years elapsed between the birth of my first child and my fourth. Yes, my parenting style has changed a bit over the years. Mostly due to age. I simply do not have the stamina to carry my daughter in a sling all day. I was able to do that with two of her older siblings. I am over 40 and it has made a difference. I also no longer use cloth diapers, which I did with my first three children. One thing that has not changed is my philosophy of mothering.

I am an attachment parenting mom. Always have been. Always will be.


Putting it Back Together Again

My relationship with two of my children was fractured. After they refused to return from their visit with their father we didn’t see each other at all for more than three months. When visitation was enforced and I did finally see them, things did not go well. I felt like I barely knew them. They were sullen, argumentative, and withdrawn. I understood why they were behaving differently, but I still reacted poorly to it. I was hurt by their betrayal. I could have kept that to myself, but I didn’t.

It was so unbelievable to me that these children whom I was with every day of their lives – caring for them, nurturing them – could turn on me. I cried every day because I missed them. I was furious with them for lying about our lives, for accusing us of abuse, for leaving me. They were rebelling like crazy … they even rebelled against our faith.

Of course, our initial reunion was wonderful. They ran to me across the parking lot, hugged me and told me they missed me. I was so happy to see them that I cried. The remainder of the first day went well, but by the following afternoon things deteriorated and we all looked forward to them going home.

We alternated weekends with all three kids. This was my proposal. I thought that since the children weren’t all living together they should all be together every weekend. As a result, every weekend I drove 45 minutes each way to our exchange point. Twice. First and third weekends my youngest son left to see his dad. Second and fourth weekends all the kids were with me. I missed my youngest when he was gone. I dreaded the weekends when we brought my older two children home.

It has been a year and a half since these events shook up our lives. Our relationships have, for the most part, been healed. Someone told me that when children have a strong bond with one parent, but not with the other, they often run to the other parent out of desperation to feel loved.

My children didn’t have much of a relationship with their father. He was busy hanging out in bars or at the baseball field while we were all living together. After we split he often cancelled his visitation or had his mother look after them. It does seem logical to me that my kids craved a relationship with their dad. The idea that my loving care and the stability I created in their lives made them feel safe enough to leave my home does give me comfort.

They know that I will always be available for them. They are confident that I love them. I truly believe that they do love me, in spite of everything. We have had many enjoyable visits this past year. Sure, there are rough spots, just as there would be if we lived together full time. We are light years from where we were. The days of me worrying that my children would fabricate more allegations are behind me. I can finally relax and enjoy being a mom again.


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