Before my husband and I were married, he was married before. From that union he had a daughter, S. When we were first together we had regular visitations with her in our home. Things quickly deteriorated due to the tension between the adults. My husband’s daughter had been encouraged to call another man, Daddy, from an early age. It was confusing for her that we wanted her to call my husband, Daddy. After much turmoil and heartache and tears and counseling and prayers and more tears, we decided that forcing her to come visit our house, that she did not feel was her home, was too damaging. My lack of relationship with her and inability to make our family feel like her family, is my biggest failure as a mother. Yes, her mother left no room for us, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have guilt 10 years later. In our family, we do not distinguish between step-children or half-siblings. We love our children unconditionally, as our children. Similar to the story in the bible of the women fighting over one child, and the child’s real mother gave him up, we decided to let her go and have a chance at a conflict-free life without battles between houses. No visits that left her crying, begging to go home. Fights between her brother, my son, and her. Criticism from her grandparents who got mad at her for calling her Dad by his legal name.
There were no good options. It was a matter of choosing the least bad option. Of course, when you are making a life changing decision you can consider the pros and cons but you never know what the outcome will be. My husband let her step-father adopt her. Promises were made by her mother and my husband as to how the years between age 5 and 18 would be. We knew we had no control over what her mother would say about us. If we’d ever have contact with her. It was worth the risk. The risk that we may not have her in our lives but for her to have the chance to be free from the tug of war. An atheist household vs Christian home. A woman who cheated vs the man she betrayed. I could go on and on. We knew that her mother could tell her horrible, untrue things about why he was willing to relinquish his rights. False things about him not loving her or that it was about money or her evil stepmother hated her.
After 10 years, my husband heard from his daughter this week. She was looking for answers that her mother refused to provide her. Thankfully, her mother said very little about her father. Essentially that he was a man that just got her pregnant. It was a lie, but an easy one to undo. There are wedding pictures and other “proof” that it was much more complicated and they were much more intertwined than that. I remember how poorly my own “reunion” with my biological father went. It was horrible. He vilified my mother and was very dramatic about how he thought it would have been better if his mother had raised me and we’d be together as siblings. Thank you, Jesus that never happened. Despite his vehemence and criticism of my first mom, he made no effort to get to know the adult me. To have a relationship at all. I would have wanted to hear that he loved me and he considered me his daughter. I encouraged my husband in his email reply, to be certain to say those things. That he as always loved her and has never considered her himself an ex anything. He used his own words, of course. The emails that they’ve written to each other are so sweet and beautiful.
His daughter, our daughter, is interested in getting to know us. In meeting her brothers. In being his daughter again, although in our hearts and minds, she never wasn’t. Building a relationship will not be easy with her mother in the way. Once she is aware she went behind her back (my husband made his suggestion clear that she tell her asap), we may not have anymore contact until she is of legal age. We can wait. We waited this long. Loving a child is timeless. We accept her, her beliefs and who she wants to grow up to be.
My sister posted on Face Book, beneath our daughter’s picture, a reminder this is God’s timing. So many times I feel impatient and unimportant while I wait on God. This time, I am humbled by this gift he has given our family. I am aware that this is the honeymoon period of reunion. Many hard things are hard in reunion. Many wonderful things are part of reunion as well. It gets hard when you can see the life you missed by the decisions made by the adults. I hope that my own reunion experience will be valuable for all of us involved. I do not know how she feels but I do know she will have a wide variety of feelings that will likely resemble a roller coaster. As do her two brothers.
Ever since I got pregnant at 19, I made a commitment to be the best mother I could be. Sometimes I’m just a barely good enough mom and fall short of the goal. However, the children that live with me know I love them and would do anything for them. I look forward to the opportunity to support my husband in this journey and one day show S that I love her as much as the boys and would do anything for her as well.
My nugget of wisdom today is “Tell and Show your people you love them!”