I met the man of my dreams. Tall, dark, too handsome, kind; he was the guy that glows warmth and honesty. His voice calmed me. I sound like a ditz – seriously, I had never met anybody like him in my life, and I was smitten. A few days later, after just a couple of short conversations thick with intrigue, I was falling in love, hard, like never before. He casually invited me to tour his workspace. When I first saw the photos taped up above his desk in a forward-deployed office in Iraq, I remember saying, “What cute kids. Are they relatives of yours?” “Those are my children,” he replied calmly, watching my face closely. At age 29, I must have been a good actress as I jibber-jabbered right through that detail chatting about his three beautiful children – their names, ages, and personalities. My head was spinning and my heart was pounding in panic. All I remember is miniature flashes of light as I stood there, panicked. This man was a divorced father of three with full custody and he was 100% confident that I needed to meet them.
We met for coffee late that night on a couple of tired armchairs (no sleep in Baghdad) and that’s when I dove in the deep end, emotionally. For the next couple of months during any time we had together in that crazy combat zone, we held each other close and talked about all the deep stuff – marriage, his full custody of his children, why that was and how that worked, his divorce, my dating trials and tribulations, his life, his dreams, my life, and our future “back home.” I literally decided during the next two months that I’d be happy to be a stepmom and that we should have three more together! We were connected at the hip until he returned to the States. I stayed behind in Iraq for three more months. He called me almost every day, sent me gifts, videos of the kids, and made me part of their family. He booked my flight to meet them when I returned home.
Sounds like a fairytale. However, I was struggling on levels I didn’t know I could struggle. I was completely in love and completely consumed with fear. The fear of being in love was the least troubling. I deeply feared being a step-mom. All I knew of stepmoms was that awful Cinderella story. Coming from a lifetime of too much hurt and betrayal, all of my childhood issues became my “front and center” as I thought about the kids. I had fear of rejection, abandonment, betrayal. Fear of physical abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse. Fear of having to be criticized by a biological mom who would automatically hate me. Evil Stepmother Guilt Syndrome hit me like bricks and I hadn’t even met them.
Then, I met them. There began the chapters in my book about motherhood.
(To be continued…)