Maternity Confessions: Love and Step-motherhood
Falling in love is a strange thing. The sensation of falling in love with my husband, Noah, felt like falling backwards- ungovernable and breathtaking yet curiously secure.
On the other hand- falling in love with my step-daughter, Ruthie, felt more like leaping forward and with each cautious jump, wondering when and where my feet would land. I have fallen in love with my step-daughter many times, in gradual stages- and with more ferocity than I expected. But it didn’t happen at once.
The first time I realized I could love her was the first day we met. Noah came to Chicago with Ruthie when she was 5 years old for their first father-daughter trip together. He invited me to come along to dinner and watch Mary Poppins the musical with them. I accepted and met Ruth, carrying her American Girl doll, in a pink and white polka dot dress, sitting shyly at the corner of RL Restaurant. She was reserved at first, but soon after we had our first tickling match in the cab ride over the theater and in the middle of the play, she climbed into my lap and fell asleep on my shoulder. At that moment, I thought “I could love this little darling.”
Then, once I moved to Philadelphia and became her step-mother, I knew I loved her already but to what extent and capacity I still haven’t realized. It felt more like a big sisterly love. I still didn’t have the parental instinct. I loved spending time with her certainly but there was always a sense of relief when we dropped her back off at her mom’s house- a sense of liberation from parental responsibility. Until one day, when she lost a tooth, she came to me with the little pearl in the palm of her hand, beaming, flung her arms around my neck and whispered in my ear, “I love you.” I knew then I was a goner.
It took us awhile to be comfortable saying “I love you” to each other. These moments were precious and far in between. We both knew we loved each other- it was obvious in the way we regarded each other but it was unspoken most of the time, only creeping out in surprising moments- tucking her in sleepily in bed with her cadre of stuffed animals and I’d let it out- unexpected even to me, “I love you,” and she’d moan it back as she sank into dreaming.
One of the concerns I had for quite awhile was if I’d ever feel that same parental instinct of needing to hug and kiss my step-daughter. Whenever we didn’t have Ruth, Noah would often whimper about missing her. I never did. I never had that same need. It was unsettling to think that I may never have that same feeling for Ruth, and that she and I will always somehow have that emotional division.
And then I got pregnant- and that changed everything. It was slow at first- Ruthie would cautiously place her hand on my growing belly, asking how life would change once the baby came into the world. Then, she would climb into my lap during a scary movie- something she often only did with her dad, and nestle her face in my neck. Or, she would crawl into my arms and twirl my hair between her fingers- talking about anything from the trivial- SpongeBob, farts, the Muppets, to the profound- love, death, God, and gratitude. I would ache when she wasn’t around, anxious for the time I can hold her hand again, and bury my nose in her hair and inhale her sweetness. I longed for mornings when I woke up to her giggles. I missed her. I needed her. That’s when I knew, I was madly in love with her. And its ungovernable and breathtaking yet curiously secure.
WINNER of the Monthly Giveaway is Clara W.!
To everyone else who participated in this month’s giveaway, thank you so much for your readership and support! Thank you for the sweet comments, the well wishes, the haiku(!!!) and if I could, I would send a scarf to each and everyone of you. I will have another amazing giveaway next month, so please stay tuned. Follow me on Facebook to get more updates and a heads-up on all future giveaways.
| Photos of Mrs. Flipper- a stuffed animal that Ruthie made from scratch for her future brother or sister |