I’m going to try to be as honest about this as I can, which is going to be hard because it doesn’t cast me in a very good light. I know the things I’m going to say will make me seem selfish and petty. And the truth is there are great parts to being a step-mother, lots and lots of wonderful parts. But so far there are no easy parts to being an infertile step-mother.
First, a little background. I met the girl who would become my step-daughter (A) after her dad and I had been dating for 6 months. She was 4 1/2 then, and she’ll turn 8 this May. I truly do love her. She’s a good kid – bright, sweet, energetic and funny. Her mother is a train wreck (and not in the “that’s my husbands ex and I am obligated to hate her” way). She is bipolar (and she refuses to take her meds and then self medicates with drugs and alcohol) and has histrionic personality disorder. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histrionic_personality_disorder) She is very disruptive in our lives on a daily basis. I’ll save the sordid details of the difficulties with her for another day. We discovered that I have DOR in April, and as of Dec my AMH has fallen to the point where it’s unlikely I’ll ever have children of my own.
Anyway, we have my stepdaughter every weekend (she’s either with us or her paternal grandparents), as well as every holiday and all summer. Her mother lives 500 miles away so she flies on Southwest, or we drive her back and forth. Here are the problems -
- I know that she isn’t mine. Implicit in that is the fact that she could be removed from my life at any time, and I would have no recourse. To make matters worse her mother tells her things like “You don’t have to listen to W (me), she’s not your real family.”
- She hasn’t been raised the way I would raise a child. She is sweet by nature and that’s her saving grace, because she has been spoiled and babied by everyone in her life. A few examples…She is almost 8 and won’t dress herself. She has no table manners and eats all meals with her hands. She demands gifts every day (not in the normal kid way, in the Veruca Salt way). You get the idea. When she is with us over the summer we have structure, routine and rules – eat dinner as a family, in bed by 8:30, if it’s on the floor when you go to bed you lose it for the next day, put dirty dishes in the sink, practice reading for 30 minutes, put dirty clothes in the hamper, feed the cat. But rules are very difficult to keep when we only have her part-time, when her father is overwhelmed with guilt because of the divorce and thus caves to every demand, when her mother tells her she “is a precious angel who never should have to lift a finger for her evil step-mother”.
- She is a constant reminder of all I want and can’t have, as well as a reminder that another woman (and a very difficult woman) was able to give my husband something that I never will be able to give him. She wins. I didn’t expect this part to be so hard.
The first two points I can deal with. We’re working on her behavior (which is not her fault, she’s a child. It’s the fault of the adults in her life) and I’m working hard to build a relationship with her that will endure regardless. But I can’t get past point 3.
Some days are fine. And there are some days when I’m really low and feeling beaten down by the whole infertility process and I just can’t be around her. I see her and I’m angry and jealous and envious and sad. I’m angry because my husband doesn’t fully understand how hard it is for me because, as he says when he’s trying to comfort me, “He already has A”. I’m jealous that this hateful, mean, spiteful woman was able to have a child and I can’t. And she doesn’t nurture her, or protect her or set a good example for her. She makes her into a friend and confides shockingly adult issues about her love life. She exposes her to potentially dangerous people. She uses her as a bargaining chip – self proclaimed “leverage” both with us and with all other involved parties (grandparents, aunts, etc). And I’m angry at myself, because here is a child in my life (and all I want is a child) and I can’t just be grateful. I want her to be enough, and she’s not. And that makes me feel like a terrible person. A hateful, mean, bitter person.
I do my best to never, by word or deed, let her know how I feel. I try to be understanding about my husbands guilt, her mother’s mental illness, the difficult situation we are all in. I try to be a good example, a good influence, a positive force in her life. I try to be gentle with myself – to allow myself the bad feelings for a time and then put them aside. And it wears me out. The honest to god truth, and perhaps the moral of this story, is that it is very difficult to care for someone else’s child when you’re mourning the loss of your own.