During the time of the hemorrhaging, my boyfriend (the Wonderful Man) and I were trying to do all the things that two people getting married do.
That is, two people who have three kids between them from their first marriages.
We had already started talking about remodeling his house before we knew I was, ahem, in a family way. We wanted everybody to fit into the house, have a space of their own, feel like it was their home.
We started seeing a counselor so we could get advice on how to blend our families without traumatizing the kids too much. I didn’t have much sick leave left, but this was a priority.
She asked us if we really wanted to do this.
She questioned our choice to get married.
She questioned our choice to remodel the house.
She told us cautionary tales about other couples who got married because one of them (presumably, the woman) was pregnant and how they were too stressed out and got divorced.
We assured her we loved each other, and that we were going into this with our eyes wide open.
She advised us to take it as slowly as possible and to do lots of fun activities with the kids so it would be a positive transition for them.
She advised us to take the kids away for a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge.
That spring and summer, we spent most of the time-formerly-known-as-dating either:
a) meeting with the contractor, or
b) providing positive, quality activities for the kids to get to know each other (and their future step-parents).
And yes, we spent a tiny, little bit of time looking at rings. Planning a wedding was out of the question. We thought we would hold a first anniversary celebration. We could throw a big party. I could wear a pretty white dress, a dress that wasn’t from the maternity section.
We threw most of our energy into helping the kids make the adjustment.
And picking paint colors, flooring, tile, fixtures… we became quite adept at making decisions together. That, and planning complicated logistical maneuvers involving transportation, schedules, and fragile childhood psyches.
Our kids’ parenting schedules lined up just a couple nights a week and every other Saturday. Most Saturdays, the boys had baseball games.
One of those evenings we had all of our kids, we met at a restaurant in my neighborhood that my daughter and I could walk to. It turned out that it was only open for breakfast and lunch.
We had to find another place to go.
The kids were hungry.
I was hungry.
It was hot.
The closest place we could go was a good 20 blocks away, too far to walk.
My boyfriend’s car only fit four people. This had been complicating our outings. I had no car, and his only fit four, and we were a party of five. it was very difficult to find things to do that we could all get to and that the kids would enjoy.
We made a decision.
The boys could sit in the “way back.”
Do you remember the “way back?” That’s the cargo area of the car, behind the back seats. We sat there regularly as kids, with no seat belts on. Heck, it was the South. It was the eighties. Parents don’t do that anymore, but we decided to break the rules for once. It was just such a short way to drive. Nothing would happen. They’d be fine.
And they were.
They had a blast. Sitting on the floor of the car. No seat belts. Breaking the rules.
When we walked into the restaurant, I felt that now-familiar surge and went straight to the bathroom. Blood again.
Meanwhile, my daughter went straight up the stairs to the balcony, a forbidden zone. The boys, giddy on their vehicular rebellion, had high-tailed it after her. The balcony is not a dining area. The restaurant owners have their offices up there, and it’s where their kids do their homework. For once, I was grateful for my naughty child and the distraction she had caused.
While the kids were monkeying around upstairs, I told my boyfriend what was happening. I had to go next door to the grocery store to buy pads.
I made up some excuse about having to get band-aids and told the kids I’d be right back.
When I got back to the restaurant, they were all seated at the table and the food was already there. My daughter wanted to see what was in the bag, and I told her I had gotten them treats for later.
I sat there, smiling at the kids, trying to eat, trying to act the friendly new step-mother. Trying not to think about whether I was losing the baby. Again.
A few days later, I found out the boys had told their mom about sitting in the way back. She was irate, just as I would have been. She was furious about how careless and irresponsible we had been, just as I would have felt.
It’s so hard to know what is going on in another person’s life, why they make the choices they make. It is so easy to judge. It is so easy to misunderstand, and think we know the whole picture when we don’t.