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Endless Worry

With April quickly approaching, the realization I will have another baby girl to love is hitting me hard. I’m not stressed about having three kids. I’m not worried about going from “man to man” defense to “zone” defense. Jake and I are a good team, and I am confident we will adjust to the new chaos. We thrive in chaos. I am slightly concerned about having a clumsy sixty five pound puppy and a newborn, but that too will work itself out. Our sweet Douglas, like the rest of the family, will adjust. My biggest fear about welcoming our second daughter, has little to do with precious Ember Jane, and everything to do with our first born daughter, Saylor Jade.

As some know, Saylor Jade is not biologically Jake’s child. I was twenty two and attending Florida State University when I found out I was pregnant. Her father and I were in a relationship at the time, but we both knew it was not a happily ever after situation. I was a thousand miles from home and I felt lost, confused, and frozen with fear. I was terrified to be a mother, and even more terrified to do it alone, so I came home to Maine. At the time my mother was going through some turmoil of her own. Over the next nine months my mother, me, and the unborn baby in my belly bonded in a way I cannot put into words. On August 5th, 2012 my mother stood by my side as I pushed my 9lb sweet Saylor Jade into this world. From that moment on I didn’t give a damn whether her father wanted to be involved, or not. I didn’t care she was unplanned. From that moment forward I knew I was going to be okay. WE would be okay.

Even while Saylor was in my womb I worried I was putting my daughter in the same situation I was in as a child. I knew her father and I would never be a couple, and I also knew I was not going to be alone forever. Some day I would meet someone who wanted a family with me, with us, and my sweet Saylor Jade would be a s stepchild. There is nothing wrong with blended families. I come from one, and I was surrounded by plenty of love growing up. However, they are hard. There is no other way to say it. There were times I felt as if I didn’t belong. Times I felt like an outcast in my own home. Times when a Christmas card would come in the mail addressed to “The Gilson Family” and I was the only Gonzales in the house. Nobody ever meant to make me feel like the black sheep, but it happened none the less. It was something my mother couldn’t protect me from. A fact of life I had to accept, grow from, and ultimately get over.

The thing is, I’m not sure I have ever gotten over it. Instead, the fear has morphed to fit my adult life. Five short months after Saylor was born I started dating Jake. I’m pretty sure Jake fell in love with Saylor first, and then realized he couldn’t have her without me, haha. In all seriousness, we became a little family quickly. His family welcomed Saylor and I into their lives with open arms. Saylor’s chubby cheeks, and sweet demeanor won over his parents instantly. Saylor grew as Jake and I grew closer. She started talking, and started to refer to Jake as “Daddy”. Nobody ever corrected her, and he has been her father in every sense of the word ever since. It takes a certain kind of man to be able to accept another man’s child as their own, and Jake does this with grace. I had a stepfather and a stepmother growing up. They loved me, but they both have children of their own, and those relationships have always been stronger than my relationship with them. As an adult with children of my own I get it. I really do. Blood is usually thicker than water. I say “usually” because this is not the case with Saylor and Jake.

When I was pregnant with our son my insecurities about Saylor and Jake’s relationship came to a head. A few comments were made by family and friends about Jake being a “new” father. I knew then, and I know now, those comments were meant to be harmless. Their intentions were good, but to a mother who is worried about protecting her first born child’s sense of security, they made my blood boil. “Jake has been a father for two years” I’d blurt out in a non forgiving tone. Comments like that make my inner stepchild insecurities come to the surface. It has never been Jake’s words or actions that have caused my anxiety to flare. From the day Hendrix was born Jake has never treated the two of them any different, and for that I am forever grateful.

Saylor is now six years old. Her biological father unexpectedly passed away when she was two. She never met him. She never talked to him. She will never know John. These hard to swallow facts of life are constantly swirling inside of me with little resolution. Saylor does not know Jake isn’t her father. People ask when I am going to tell her, and my response is always the same. I will tell Saylor when the time is right. She will let me know. Maybe that time will be when she is eight years old. Maybe it’ll be when she is ten. I do not have a definite age, time, or plan in mind. When I think she can emotionally handle, AND understand, the complicated relationship between John and I, as well as the circumstances surrounding his death, Jake and I will have that conversation with her. Right now the messy truth serves no purpose. Some do not agree with this plan, but that is okay. It is easy for someone to say what they would do in these circumstances, but until they are actually in this situation their opinion means nothing to me. I didn’t even tell Saylor her lizard died. I am in no way ready to explain the death of a man she never knew. Her sweet, innocent soul is not ready for that level of complicated emotions. As her mother it is my job to protect her innocence. And it should be known to all, I take that responsibility very seriously.

When Hendrix was born of course I was worried she would somehow feel different. However, she was two at the time, and Hendrix was a baby boy, so she was still Daddy’s only little girl. It didn’t matter that other people sometimes said stupid shit. She felt loved by her Dad and that was all that mattered.

Saylor isn’t two anymore. She is a very bright six year old. She is aware of her surroundings, and she is ALWAYS listening. Also, this time we are having a girl. The first female in the family with Girard blood. Saylor has the Girard name, but she has beautiful tan Malibu Barbie skin, which is a dead giveaway there is no French blood running through her veins. She is a mix of her Mexican mama, and her father’s Cuban blood. The little girl growing in my belly will have much lighter skin, like her brother. She will look like Jake. And even though I know people have the best of intentions, someone will say something that could very well blow up the family dynamic we have worked so hard to protect.

Hell, things have already been said. Comments like, “I can’t wait to see what a little girl Jake will look like! ”. Seems harmless, right? Wrong. Put yourself in my little girl’s shoes for a second. She worships Jake. She idolizes him, and for a good reason. In her mind she IS a little Jake. Imagine trying to figure out the meaning of that statement in her six year old mind? Seems troubling doesn’t it? She may not have Jake’s blood running through her veins, but she is Jake’s kid. Over the last six years he has nurtured our little girl. Her sweet mannerisms, patience, sense of humor, and sense of pride is a hundred percent all Jake. Their relationship would make a great case against the nature vs. nurture debate. Saylor Jade is a Girard through and through.

I know we have a strong family bond. I know Saylor feels nothing but love. I know her sense of belonging hasn’t been challenged by the cruelty of the outside world yet, but I also know the time is coming. I know how little it would take to rock the boat. Saylor will eventually put two and two together, and I will have to have the conversation I’ve been dreading for six years. I think about said conversation every day.

Every. Damn. Day.

With my due date quickly approaching the worrisome thoughts are taking over my brain. I realize each day how little control I have other the situation. I cannot shelter Saylor from the ignorance of others, and it is petrifying. The thought of our sweet Saylor Jade feeling any different than her siblings destroys me. The “what-ifs” and unknowns keep me awake at night. It is something I don’t speak about. I’ve of course voiced these fears to Jake, but I’m not sure he understands the gravity of my emotions. After all, his parents are still married. He’s never been a stepchild. He’s never questioned if he belonged. In Jake’s heart he knows he loves Saylor, and that is all that matters. I’m so jealous of his certainty.

I’m not worried about sleepless nights with a newborn. I’m not worried about Hendrix no longer being the baby of the family. I am not concerned about breastfeeding. I am not experiencing any of the fears most pregnant moms battle in their third trimester. Instead, I find myself squeezing my six year old and fighting back the tears. From the moment we found out we were having a girl my fears have multiplied. If we were having another boy than Saylor would always be Jake’s only little princess. Another boy would have kept things simple, but of course nothing about life, or parenting is ever simple. Now, Saylor Jade is his first princess, and Ember Jane his youngest girl. I am TERRIFIED someone will have a brain fart, and a comment that was meant no harm will consequently make Say question everything she’s ever known. I am scared to death a friend, or absent minded family member, will say something along the lines of “How does it feel to have a baby girl?”. Nothing prepares us for this part of parenting. There is no parenting book that could put these feelings to ease. Instead, I have to trust it will all be okay. I have to let go of the things I cannot control, and boy oh boy, that is a personal struggle!

One day Saylor will begin to question why her skin is a shade darker than her brother and sister’s skin, or why her eyes have a little more roundness to them. When that day comes I hope I am able to handle a tough conversation with grace. I know her dad, Jake, will be right by my side reassuring her she isn’t any less his daughter than Ember Jane. However, I pray to the universe that the arrival of a baby girl Girard doesn’t bring on this conversation before we are ready to tackle the complicated, and deeply layered topic.

I don’t feel like we have a “blended” family per say. Our situation is different than most. I do not have to share Saylor every other weekend. She does not have two Christmases, or two birthday parties. From the time she was 5 months old we have been a family. This is all she knows. However, in the big scheme of things we are a blended family, and we aren’t alone. Blended families are so common nowadays, so if you know a mama who is navigating these troublesome waters, give her a break. Don’t be so quick to judge. And for all things holy, watch your mouth. There may be a little six year old girl around the corner listening intensely to every word you say. Make sure the congratulations speech you are spewing isn’t making the mother cringe inside. Chances are good she will not say anything because she is trying to be polite, but please know words are not harmless.

If you are a mama in a similar situation, know you are not alone. We are all doing the best we can with the cards we have been dealt. There is no right way or wrong way to do this parenting thing. One day these little beings will be functioning adults, and in time they will be parents themselves. Chances are good they will forgive us for being less than perfect.

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