I don’t know really know you, yet we have a connection now. I just learned that you are pregnant, and of course you and Craig are delighted at this news. I’ve heard that “babies are always blessings” or some such cliché, and I keep repeating that to myself. I should be happy for you, but it’s a bit hard right now. Let me explain.
While this new baby is a wonderful new beginning for you and Craig, I am still raising the three kids that he and I brought into the world. Yes, they are almost fully grown, but motherhood is a lifetime job. Frankly, their dad wasn’t there for them. He was drunk most of their childhood and probably doesn’t remember much. I raised our daughter and two sons largely by myself, and it was hard, lonely work. I’m sure you’ve heard some of the stories from Craig. I know he has regrets, especially now that he’s sober and can fully realize the extent of the damage he’s done to these relationships.
I’m not angry at Craig anymore. I’ve worked hard to understand that alcoholism is a disease, one that deprived my kids of a father. I try to “hate the sin, not the sinner.” It works most of the time. But hearing that Craig is starting the whole parenting journey over again with you did give me pause. I can’t help but feel that our marriage and our three kids are the proverbial “first pancake” that gets thrown out. Craig failed us, but he gets a chance to get it right with you. Ouch.
And another thing—your timing couldn’t be worse for me. While your young healthy body is making a baby, my body is careening toward menopause. I can practically feel my ovaries shriveling and my estrogen plummeting. I imagine myself running into you at the grocery store. You are pushing a stroller with a beautiful baby sitting in it—a baby that looks very much like my own three babies did. You are shopping for formula and bath toys, cooing into the stroller and glowing with happiness.
Meanwhile, I am buying fiber to try to stay regular and extra-strength hair dye to try to cover my abundant grays, all the time hoping you don’t catch sight of me. I realize it’s not your fault that you are younger than I am and that I couldn’t be pregnant right now if I wanted to (and I really don’t, if I’m being honest). Still, it doesn’t seem fair that as my nest is about to be empty, yours is growing.
The kids aren’t sure how to deal with the idea of a new sibling-to-be. My oldest two children, now 20 and 18, don’t like to think about their dad. There is too much pain there, so they didn’t really have much of a reaction to the news. My 17-year-old is curious and also confused. He appreciates that the new baby will be his half-brother or half-sister, so he feels the draw of family. But he also realizes that this little person will get something he never had but always wanted: a father who is present in his life. There seems to be a bit of jealousy, although I think he knows it isn’t rational. As usual, most of the hard lessons in my kids’ lives have come from their father’s choices.
I will end this letter wishing you luck, and I am not being sarcastic. I do wish you both the best. For all Craig has done, he still deserves a second chance. Perhaps this new baby can heal the devastating wounds that alcoholism has inflicted on his life. At the very least, I think that raising this new child will show Craig all that he missed with his older kids. I just ask you, mother to mother, to try to understand that this isn’t easy for us. Unlike Craig, we don’t get a do-over. We are just trying to figure out where to go from here.
Heather (AKA “The First Pancake”)