We got full custody of my step-daughter 3 years ago this month. She went from spending 4-6 days a months with us to full-time 24/7/365. She came to visit for Thanksgiving and just never left. The timing was hard – we found out we got custody of her the same week I found out that I was pregnant with the twins and 5 months before I defended my PhD.
I was overwhelmed and hormonal. I was miserable. I felt like a terrible person. I knew taking custody of her was the right thing to do, of course. She was in terrible danger with her mom. But I was finally, FINALLY pregnant and I wanted my little family – the family I had imagined in my head. That family picture didn’t include an emotionally damaged, spoiled, full-time step-kid. I know, it makes me sound awful. It was awful – I was awful. (I obviously never let her know that I felt like that.) I spent days locked in my closet crying. It’s a big deal to go from not having a kid to always having a kid. And I love my husband but he’s not a hands on father – all of the parenting and child care fell to me. I was overwhelmed. And the guilt was overwhelming. Here was this 8-year-old kid who had just been through hell and then been taken away from her mom and she was fine. I was 37 and was losing my shit. What kind of parent was I? Did this mean I was a crappy mother and that’s why I was infertile?
Fast forward to today. I just got a text from her – “Hey mama W, can we watch a scary movie tonight after daddy and the boys go to bed? I’ll make popcorn! I love you”. Last night we spent an hour on the couch together and she learned to french braid using my hair and YouTube. She’s my go to now for good road trip music. We make dinner together almost every night, and when she had an assignment at school about what makes her happy one of the things she said was “cooking dinner with W”. I help her with her math homework and we have long involved discussions about which house we would be sorted into if we went to Hogwarts. I miss her when she goes to see her mom. I can’t imagine life with out her. And I don’t want to.
I bring this up because after getting her text I googled “good relationship with step-mom”. All I got was how-to articles and articles about why step-mothers and daughters have such terrible relationships. Every google search I could think of turned up only negative results. “Why step-daughters and step-monsters can never get along”; “How to make the best of your step relationship.” – all bad news. But you know what? It’s not bad. We have a great relationship now. I love her. She’s my kid. She’s an integral part of my family. It was hard work to get here – there was a lot of intentional parenting, lots of fits and starts and good and bad choices, and we both worked really hard at it. And it was worth it.
I took her to her middle school orientation a few months ago. She introduced me to her science teach and said “This is my parent, W,” and he said “Don’t you mean your mom?” and she said “No. A mom loves you and gives birth to you but a parent is the person who takes care of you.” And there you have it.
**I need to amend this post based on a thoughtful comment from a fellow infertile step-mom. Not every step-family is harmonious, even after a lot of work and effort and love, and there can be lots of different reasons for that. Some things can be fixed and some things can’t. Do the best you can, love as hard as you can and realize that you can only do so much. As step-parents the deck is stacked against us and sometimes there’s no recovering from that. All you can do is your best. Much love to you, fellow step-parents.
I’ve been following your blog for a long time but have never commented. I googled “infertile stepmom” about 3 years ago and found you. I’ve had unexplained infertility since age 18 (that’s when it was discovered). I’m now 38 and have an 8 month old baby via IVF with donor eggs. She looks nothing like me but that’s ok, lol! I’m also a step mom to 3 kids, age 16, 15, and 12. I’ve been a SM for 4 years. The oldest, a girl, has never wanted anything to do with me. At 16 (almost 17), she now no longer comes over because I’m here. It’s pretty much the worst outcome I could’ve anticipated coming into this, as I nervously and anxiously hoped his kids would like me. Anyway, sorry for the long comment, but I just wanted to finally write and say how much I appreciate your blog, and I’m so glad you’ve had a successful step relationship, as well as having your sons. 🙂
Oh no. I hate to hear that! I’m so sorry that the relationship with her has been so difficult. I can’t imagine how painful that must be, or how much strain that must put on your relationship with your husband. How is it with your other step-kids?
And you bring up a good point. Every blended family is unique and has it’s own trials and issues and those aren’t always fixable. And maybe they’ll get better with time and maybe they won’t. It’s certainly not the outcome that anyone was hoping for. I hope that the relationship with her will improve – for many reasons, obviously, but also because it would be terrible for her to miss out on a relationship with her new sister. Speaking of that – Congratulations on your baby! That’s a wonderful success after what I’m sure has been a long and painful struggle.
Thanks for sharing your story. xo
Thank you! Interestingly, she adores my daughter (she was incredibly resistant to us having a baby for a long time), but yes she’s giving up a relationship there and also with her dad. It has been hard for us for years, and very stressful, but we’ve come to a place of just recognizing that this is her issue, and we have not caused this, and we will not expend any more energy on it. My relationship with the other two is good, thankfully. It’s just kind of a friendship, no parental connection – which is fine. I think that’s easier with younger kids, and it’s great that your step daughter has that in you and obviously appreciates it.
That is sooooo interesting – and promising. And I’m so glad that the relationship with the other kids is good. I hope she comes around but it sounds like you’re in a good place with the situation. Again, thank you for sharing your perspective. I amended my original post to help reflect what you said. Good luck with everything and congrats again on your baby girl!!
Maran! I would LOVE to connect with you; your story seems to parallel mine in so many ways! 🙂 Thank you for sharing so much!
Kelly Musselman said:
Thank you for this. While I am also a mom to donor conceived children and thus why I started following your blog originally, I am also a full-time stepmom and am having so much trouble with it. We went from seeing him a couple of weekends a month and long summers, to having him with us ALL. THE. TIME. Bio Mom decided she needed to live on the coast and “do her own thing” for a while. She was supposed to take him on 3 day weekends, but she hasn’t been doing it. While living with his father and me is best for my stepson, I hate it. And I hate that I hate it, but I can’t seem to change it. I don’t know how our situation will evolve over time, but thank you for posting this as I needed to know that someone else has struggled with their emotions as I have. Your sentence… I wanted MY little family. That so resonated with me. And I too, feel like a horrible human being because it is so hard for me to love this person who has already been essentially abandoned by his mother.
Thank you so much for this comment. It’s always nice to know that others have the same “not so PC” feelings sometimes! We’ve got to cut ourselves some slack. It’s HARD to have children. Much less step-children. It’s hard to go through infertility treatment. It’s hard to make the choices we’ve had to make to create our families. I think it’s normal and ok for us to feel the things we feel. Like I’ve said before, we are big enough, and strong enough and complex enough to hold contradictory feelings – we can love our step-kids and not want to raise them without help from their bio parents (BOTH bio parents); we can know it’s best for them to be with us but want a break from them; we can love them but also be resentful sometimes. I’m sorry that you’re in the position that you’re in, but I’m glad that your step-son has you. How long have you had him full time? It took me at least 2 years to feel mostly ok about having my step-daughter all the time. I still have days where I just want a break, but it’s soooo much better than it was.
And I would love to hear about your donor conception journey! I only know one other couple with a donor conceived children so I’m always interested in talking to other DE moms and dads.
Anyway, thank you for your comment and I hope that things get better. It’s hard, mama. It really really is. And you’re not alone.
Thank you! After this post, my husband and I had a very frank discussion about some of my frustrations and feelings. I had been holding back from him in and effort not to hurt his feelings, but I felt so much better after having unburdened myself to him. I found that he is struggling with a lot of the same issues… going from the “fun” dad to the primary parent has been hard for him too. We are working our way through it.
As for our story… I would love to share it! We have twin boys as well, and you have said so many things in your posts, both before and after you had your two, that have resonated so much with me.
I have a biological son who is now 19; I had him when I was 22 with my first husband. I developed secondary infertility, possibly due to endometriosis or due to the severe thyroid problems I developed with my first son, or some combination thereof. The end result is that I was never able to get pregnant again.
My first husband and I eventually split, and my current husband and I eventually got married. We got engaged knowing that I had infertility issues, and stopped using any protection during the year of our engagement so that we could go into medical treatment right after our wedding (but always hoping for that happy OOPS! – clearly that never materialized). We started off with 3 months of Clomid – nothing. Then 3 rounds of Clomid assisted IUI’s – nothing. Then 4 rounds of OE IVF – nothing.
When we first started, I had initially said that I wouldn’t consider using donor eggs, that if we got through our OE IVF, we would call it good and move on. Except… I couldn’t. I knew I wasn’t ready to give up, and my husband, bless his heart, got right on board with it (the gut wrenching grief-from-the bottom-of my soul crying when we got the last negative call from the clinic may have made it an easy decision for him). We looked at both donor embryos (our clinic has an amazing embryo program with a money back guarantee if you don’t get pregnant in 3 attempts and has an 80% success rate) and donor eggs. However, my hubby really wanted that genetic connection, especially since I would still be carrying them. So, we moved forward with the DE.
I chose a donor purely on her physical attributes. I wanted someone with dark hair and eyes like me, and I wanted her to be tall, because I am really tall. I didn’t care about anything else, I just wanted to babies to at least be able to pass as mine. My husband’s sole request was that she be a proven donor.
Our fresh round failed, and at that point, I became convinced the issue was my uterus and not the eggs. I fell into a pretty heavy despair. My RE did a endometrial scratch, we did our transfer, and then I went back to work and promptly let it all go because I knew, without a doubt, that it would not work. Imagine my surprise when I got pregnant on that frozen round with our twin boys. I knew the very next day that something was different, but I refused to get my hopes up. I took a digital pregnancy test 8 days after the transfer and it immediately came up positive. It was so fast I didn’t even have time to pull my pants up. I literally set the test on the counter, stood up, and there it was – “PREGNANT”. My beta was a couple of days after that, and the at 11dp5dt, my first beta was 997, and my 2nd beta was over 2000. We knew we were having twins from that first test.
Having had a bio child and now 2 donor children, I am in a position to stay that I don’t love my bio-son any more than I do my Twinks. They all came from me, and were all desperately wanted and loved.
As for looks…we got one who is my husband’s mini-me, from his looks to his temperament. And my husband and the donor both have dark hair, hubby has hazel-brown eyes, donor had brown eyes… and we got one baby who is blond and blue-eyed! We weren’t expecting that at all, lol. Everyone assumes he is a throwback to my dad’s side of the family as they are Danish and German and all fair and blue-eyed – people comment on it ALL THE TIME. To the point that I have given up reminding people that it can’t be possible, I just smile and nod my head and say thank you. However, I do like to think that my DNA turned those genes on and had some determination in their strong expression in him.
We registered on the donor sibling registry, and are in contact with the parent of one of our boy’s genetic half-sibling. It is only a couple of times a year, but it has been interesting. We are hoping to meet one day.
I don’t know how I feel about meeting the donor someday… conflicted, I suppose. I am so thankful for what she did… but I also have this fear of my boys wanting to get to know their donor. But, we decided before I even got pregnant that we would be honest with them from the get-go, and have books that we read to them (they are 17 months old) even now, and talk about it pretty openly in our house, with our family and friends. We have been very blessed that everyone in our lives was immediately open to and receptive of this idea, even people I thought were going to struggle with the idea. My family treats the boys just like they treated my older son.
It was a heart wrenching and long 3 year journey, but so worth it.
Thanks for letting me share my story with you, and please feel free to not publish it, as I know it is really long! I didn’t meant to take over your post, but I love sharing my story with over DE moms, so thank you for letting me do that. And thank you for allowing me to watch yours unfold through your blog. I believe you have my e-mail, so feel free to reach out if you want to stay in touch. I am also on FB, and connect with other IVF and DE moms that way as well.
I am sitting at my desk at work with tears streaming down my face. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you thank you. I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll start with what’s at the top of my heart – something in me dissolved when you said you don’t feel any different about your donor boys then your bio child. As a woman who has only birthed donor children I can never know if that’s true for me (100%) but I feel in my heart that it would be. It’s so so validating to hear you say that there’s no difference. So validating.
I love hearing your story – I wish we had known each other when we were going through this. It sounds like we were coming from very similar places. I’m so glad that it finally worked out for you and that you have your boys! Are yours as crazy as mine? I feel like I got two lulu’s bent on self destruction!! Maybe that’s just boys… 🙂
Two questions – 1) Would it be ok for me to email you? I’d love to chat more. 2) May I publish this as a guest post? I can include your name or not, depending on your preference. I felt so alone and isolated when I was research donor eggs. I think it could be helpful and comforting to people to hear from someone else who has been down that path. If not, I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND.
Thank you again for this post and I’ll talk to you soon!
We call our two “The Crazies!” They are insane, with no fear of anything and more energy than they know what to do with! They climb on everything and get into everything. We caught one trying to climb into his crib last night…he was halfway up the slats before he got stuck.
I would love to stay in touch. My email is Kelly@musselman.us. And I would be honored if you want to publish my story as a guest post, although it needs some editing. There are some glaring grammatical mistakes, lol.
I am so glad that I was able to provide you some comfort about how you feel about your boys. I really worried about whether it would be the same, so to discover the feelings were just as fierce and strong was comforting to me as well.
I look forward to hearing from you!
So sweet :).
Thank you for this post. I’m a stepmom to a 10 year old boy (married his dad when he was 5) and now have two bio children (both boys, 3&2). Because my stepson lives in a different country, we only have him during the summer and it’s hard. So, so hard. While he’s always going to have a special bond and history with his dad, I find it really tough to bond with him because we have so little time together. I love him and wish I had more of a relationship with him, but I find that between working full time and basically solo parenting the little ones (my husband isn’t very hands-on, either), I have next to no time left for anyone else. For some reason my husband always phones our 10 yo when I’m not around, so I almost never get to talk to him during the school year. As the years go by, I feel more and more awkward around him and more and more uncertain of my place in his life. I don’t know how to fix that, or even if I should. So, i guess because of the difficulties and heartaches with my own stepchild, it made me happy to read about the wonderful relationship you’ve built with yours. It gives one hope. 🙂
Hi Jenny, I’m so sorry to hear that your relationship with your stepson is so removed. I don’t have nay idea how you build you strong relationship when you hardly see the kid. Have you talked to your husband about it?
Gah. Tears in my eyes. At an airport (for work sadly). I wish wish wish so much I could have had that relationship with LP’s kids. But no. To see your and your daughter’s success story is amazing. And bittersweet. Thanks for sharing.
I’m sorry. I wish wish wish you could have had that too. Hugs to you, my friend.
We’re in the same boat ! My daughters mom has custody every other weekend if she picks her up . I spend most of the weekends picking up the pieces and rebuilding our sweet little girl . She’s getting older and she’s starting to understand what goes on . No matter what she can always count on me for consistency so I’ll always be there
She’s lucky to have you. It’s a hard job and they definitely deserve better. I hope bio mom gets it together for the sake of her kid. Kudos mama, for fighting the good fight!!
Thank you ! I agree ! They deserve the best , they didn’t ask to be here