By Jennifer Kelly
When I was 23 I found out I was expecting a little girl. Unprepared, and scared, the father-to-be left me in an untimely manner. He has never met his daughter, and Lily is now 9 years old. Lily struggles daily with the fact that her father has no interest in meeting her. Especially because he has another family.
When I was 26, I found out I was pregnant with yet again, another little girl. Ava’s father was abusive both mentally and physically. During the first year of Ava’s life I was in and out of the hospital with her. She was a failure-to-thrive baby from the moment she arrived into the world. She baffled doctors, and was consistently failing. After a year of this torture, we finally found the proper medication for her and she began to stabilize. She is now 6 and the size of a normal 3-year-old. She may never meet the growth chart, but she is steadily growing at her own pace.
The stress of having a sick baby, all while I was trying to complete my first college degree, finally took its toll on me. I had a minor nervous breakdown and Ava’s father just made things worse. I went into a very dark place, and had a very hard time recovering.
Then, during this horrific relationship, I met the man of my dreams a month after I turned the big 3-0. At this time, I was starting to maintain sanity again. I had started working on my second degree. I had an end goal in sight — to put up with the abuse because he did provide a roof over our heads, finish my second degree, attain a great job, and take the kids and leave. This plan was just put into the works, and I was barely a year into my second degree.
This man of my dreams lived right down the street from me. He was also going through horrible times with his baby’s mother. His situation almost mirrored mine. At first we just confided in each other. Our two older kids were born the same day, and our younger two were a year apart. None of our kids at that time had the same mother and father. We had a very difficult situation. Neither of us had anywhere to go if we had left our current relationships, and we knew how difficult it would be for all the kids. But after countless nights, staying up all night talking about the “what ifs”, we decided it would be better to take the leap for love, than to stay miserable and unhappy as we were.
We eventually left the relationships we were in, and had some rough times, but we made it work because we were in love. A few months into our love affair we discovered we were pregnant, and, yes, it was another girl! We were scared, no, we were terrified! We were living with my mother, which was not the most pleasant of situations. We had no money. And we were in the middle of custody battles with all of our children except for Lily. After a few months, we managed to get our custody situations straightened out. We were also able to save enough money for a deposit on our first apartment in a town we fell in love with instantly.
We have now been married for 2 years, and the daughter we share is now 2. My husband has taken on the role of daddy to my oldest, and the other 3 children we share between 4 different households. We continue to struggle every day to keep our blended family well. It is our mission to never make any of the children feel segregated, or feel like anyone is any less important because they aren’t with us full time. We strive for equality in our family. We want our children to know that they are all important, they all matter, their opinions are valued, and they all have a voice that we want to hear.
But to make matters more interesting, we are in a messy legal battle with one of the children’s mothers and my mother-in-law (who is a preacher). My step-son’s (Brady) mother and my mother-in-law were both enraged when this little boy grew very attached to me. My mother-in-law was upset because she could no longer control her son. And even though I included her in everything, that just made her more mad. I didn’t realize that by offering her to always be with us, that that was taking control away.
Brady’s mom was angry because I did things with him that she never did — like take him to the dentist. After all, he was 7 at the time, and had never been before. I taught him how to read. And I taught him to write more effectively. I spent quality time with him, and I encouraged that special time with him and his father. This did the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish, and ultimately got my step-son taken away from us.
My mother-in-law and Brady’s mom went to the court and told lies about me and my husband. Because a preacher was sitting on the stand telling these lies, the court said they had no reason but to believe her. Sadly, a year later, we are still in the midst of these monthly court battles. All of their allegations have proven to be false, so I am hopeful that we will be coming to a resolution sooner than later.
Being a mom in a blended family has taught me so much about balance. Every day is a balancing act for everyone. I think the most important part to establish in a blended family is everyone needs to have a role right off the bat. Once that is concrete, you have room to establish guidelines, expectations, rules, and also fun. For the most, part our blended family ran smoothly before the court battle we are in.
It will never be my intention to have a child love me more than their own birth mother, all I want is for them to know they have a friend in me and so much more. I will never give up on them, and I will always love them. They may not have been born from my body, but they are very much a part of my heart.
Jennifer Kelly is a wife to the love of her life, and a mother to 3 biological children and 2 step-children. Her days are consumed with trying to finish her degree in order to become a co-parent therapist. As well as chasing after her wonderful babies. Jennifer also writes her own blog athttp://www.amotherofalltrades.com.