Things My Husband Wished I Knew
By Donna Dennis Munoz
(Editor's Note: This article was written for the February issue of Stepmom Magazine at www.stepmommag.com)
Sixteen years ago, my husband stood in surgical garb, deaf and blind to the world bustling around him, his arms encircling his most prized possession. Her first cry opened a dam of his tears, unnoticeable until one landed on her soft cheek. The mere vision of her planted a seed into the deep crevices and valleys of his heart that continues to grow with each passing second of every single day.
He eagerly accepted his entry pass to fatherhood, an emotional sash and certificate, making him a part of a resolute clan that would guard their babies with their very lives. From that moment on, he was sworn to her with everything within him.
As the nurses whisked her away to the neonatal intensive care unit, he suddenly felt a fear swell up inside him that had never existed before he saw her. It was so tumultuous, it felt like it would end his very life.
She was in terrible trouble. Swallowing amniotic fluid had caused a hole to burn into her tiny lung. It would be weeks before he could hold that magical gem again, but that first touch, that first sight of her, was enough to change his life forever.
Several years later, he still feels this way about his precious gem, and each of his gems who have come after that. They all have one thing in common. They are his children. The fact that they came from a different mother does not matter, they are all his precious ones to whom he has pledged a lifetime of protection, love and care.
My fellow stepmoms, our husbands have had the pleasure of this delivery room epiphany. Even though it didn’t occur at the hospital, when it did happen it was a moment so intimate and earthshaking. And while I’ve shared this beautiful moment with my husband three times, I wasn’t able to be there for one, and that’s because I didn’t give birth to my stepdaughter. When I consider how my husband loves our biological children, I cannot in any way discount his love for his daughter. How dare I?
This was, in fact, my epiphany. When I came into the picture and had a little tiny girl staring me down—both of us competing for what we each believed was our prince charming—I never took into consideration the burden my husband would have to carry, trying to carry a happiness plan for the two loves of his life. I wanted my happy ending. I wanted my big white wedding and a prince who came with a majestic white horse, not a package named Alexa. Boy did I need a wake-up call.
So, more than a decade in, I gladly share this story, one of many we all keep collecting in our stepmom storybooks. This one’s called “Things my husband wished I knew.”
I recently wrote an article for Stepmom Magazine in which I discussed how to blend your family when the “ours” baby comes along. That time in our life was not an easy ride. Despite our textbook attempts at pacifying my husband’s daughter about the arrival of her brother—a child from a “different” family, the one who was destined to “steal” her daddy—the task was not a pleasant one.
I watched the stress etch itself onto my husband’s face. I could see the apprehension in his eyes. I could sense the worry of trying to keep the confidence of his self-isolated daughter, while adjusting to the expansion in his heart for his new little one. In my lovely, hormonal and pregnant fashion, I did not make things any easier, I’m afraid. I’d like to blame it on pregnancy or the fact that I felt like I tried so hard to make my stepdaughter love me, but I was rudely rejected and it never felt like there was a clear answer in my new stepmothering role. And then one day, it all came to a head. And this is what my husband said, from the pages of my journal, the dearest friend I could have at the time.
“I love you till death do us part. You are my life, my everything. I’m blessed to be sharing a lifetime with you.”
He told me he was eager to meet our son and to add onto our family. And that’s just what we were doing—adding to our family. “I’m your husband, and I’m a lucky man. I’m also blessed to say that I’m a father. My love, I am a father.” He stressed that last part so intensely, how could I not get it?
I realize now that, yes, I did in fact need that reminder. His words were so fresh, I was so upset, I had to run and write them down as they stammered in my ears.
My husband told me, “I am bound to you with every part of me. Don’t ever doubt that.” But as he reminded me, he also had an obligation as a daddy. Not only to his daughter, but to our son, and those he said he hoped to come. “You’ve got to let me do my job. Please.”
I tried to fight. “But why is it so hard? Why do I feel like I’m always the alienated one? Why am I always the enemy trying to break through into the sacred circle around you and your daughter? Why does she hate me?”
My husband didn’t lie. “She does hate you.” Ouch. “But you already know that. And right now, she hates me, too.” Really? I was shocked to hear my husband confess that. He truly believed his little gem hated him. I could see the hurt as he spoke this. But he held steadfast. He told me that one day, with my persistence, and my genuine desire to love her, he promised me that her hate for me would stop. He promised me that as my husband, he would ensure that he would protect me, even when it felt like he wasn’t, and as her daddy, he would instill in her his love for me. He also promised me that she was going to fall in love our babies. And he was confident that she was going to love him again. How did he know all this? How could he believe every word of what he was saying?
“We’re all lost right now,” he reminded me. “Even me. I’m lost, but it’s my job to take care of everyone. We’re a family. We’re going to get through this.”
And we sure did.
I’ll never forget those precious things my husband wanted me to know.
1. We are a family. Not 100 percent by blood, but fully by love.
2. He is my husband. Till death do us part.
3. He is not perfect. But he is intent on giving each one of us his very best, and even when he fails his love never ends.
4. He could really use my help. While hurt tends to fester, I had to take into account the nature and the highs and lows of a stepfamily. He wanted me to take confidence and shelter in the fact that we are a team and that I am loved.
5. He is a daddy. He wants to be the best he can be for all his children, in whatever situation they find themselves. If they need rescuing or security, as a daddy he’ll give it to them. I needed to respect that he is a daddy, swept away by the love for his child, and I needed to take confidence that he’ll be the same anchor for our children, too. And when I feel like he is losing his way, giving preference or blinded, he wants me to say so.
Husbands are by far not perfect, especially when navigating the ties and bonds of a past life. Entrust that the woman he married, beautiful and brilliant you, is the woman he finally let into his heart, one he knew could navigate these waters, maybe not easily, but fervently, willingly and bravely.
And if you and your husband are feeling pressed by all that can occur in a stepfamily, outside and in, don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling. Your family and your marriage are worth it. And if you need to, you can go on an individual basis, too.
As I end this article, and my stepdaughter walks into my bedroom cradling one of my sleeping twins in her arms, I can’t help but smile. Well, well. Look who knew what he was talking about.
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