When I explained my wish to have a boy after losing Nash, many people started giving me advice. They told me about their close relationships with their daughters. How having a daughter is like having a mini me or a best friend to take shopping. They talked about their close relationship with their mothers. I wasn’t being completely honest when I said I want a boy because I lost one. That is truly the main reason, but I have other fears about having a daughter as well. My parents divorced when I was five. My mom was originally from Texas, so she left us and went back when she left my dad. Visitations were for eight weeks every summer. Obviously she had to work when we visited, so I mainly saw her on the weekends. When I was 15, I wanted to stay in Michigan during the summer to be with my friends and get a job. She never visited Michigan unless it was for one of our weddings or high school graduations. I never understood that. I always felt that if I was someone’s mother, not only would I never be that far away, but also I would do everything in my power to see then as much as possible. We talked on the phone once a week. It was always awkward; in a way she was a stranger to me. I felt like I didn’t even truly know this person with whom I should have had some sort of bond. I never said anything to her about how I felt. I just tried to have whatever relationship I could with her. I would talk about it with my brother and sister, but never to her. My siblings had children, and my brother told me that I wouldn’t be as forgiving when I had a child of my own because I won’t get how she could ever leave. But like me, they never said anything to her. We just ignored the past and had the best relationship with her that we could. When Nash was born, I realized that my brother was right. I didn’t hate my mom, but I no longer lie to myself or make excuses for her decisions. I could never leave Nash. He was my world.
Fortunately I have a stepmother, Peggy. The best way to describe Peggy is a hard woman with soft edges. She is not a lovey dovey kind of gal. However, underneath that tough exterior, she is all mush. When I was a child and teenager, my relationship with Peggy was not a good one. My dad brought three kids to the marriage and she did the same. To say that having a blended family is hard is an understatement. The love is not just automatically there like it is with the family you are born into. It’s built over time. With a blended family, it takes work. People have to earn your trust, your love. It takes time and effort. I have had arguments with my stepmom, big ones actually. Her side of the family has yelled at me, saying, “How dare you say anything bad to her after all she has done for you. She did a lot more then your mom ever did.” Like I’m a stray she took in, and I should be nothing but thankful. This comment hurts for a number of reasons. What they don’t understand is that to me she is my mom, so we fight just like every other mother and daughter. When they say I’m not entitled to do that, it bothers me. It’s like they are saying she can leave anytime she wants, so you better just be nice. That my own mom wasn’t there, so I should be thankful I had anybody. Luckily, Peggy doesn’t see it that way. She has never quit talking to me or threatened to leave when we fight. Even though I did not have the relationship with my stepmother that I wanted, she was there. Every ball game, every sickness, proms, homecomings, breakups. school shopping. I always had a mother figure in my life. However, I didn’t have the bond with her that she has with her own daughter Melissa, who I call Sis. I was never angry about that. I get it. She has a bond with her daughter that is completely different than even the one she has with her own sons. It’s not a stepchild thing. It’s that special bond I’ve heard other girls talk about that they have with their mothers. If anything I was envious, I wanted that.
As I became an adult, Peggy and I became a lot closer. Our relationship is in the best place it has ever been. My dad died of cancer ten years ago. She could have left like my mom did. She had every right to, after all we were not hers. I was almost prepared for it in some ways, but she didn’t. She was the one woman in my life who stuck. I couldn’t chase that woman away if I tried. We may not have the bond she has with Sis, but she loves me and she loved Nash. I haven’t always shown my affection for her like I have wanted to in the past, because for some reason I have always been afraid to hurt my own mother’s feelings. Seeing Peggy with Nash the day he was born (which happened to be my dad’s birthday) made something turn in my heart. I watched her as she held him and smiled at him. She had that bond with Nash just like she had with my sister. He 100% was her grandchild and she loved him. When I was in labor, she looked like she was going to die. She almost killed doctors that would not give me pain meds the very minute I asked for them. She paced the hallways for hours. She was playing the role of both parents for me. She was filling the role of my dad. I could always see the pain in her eyes at these big events in my life. Pain that my dad was not there. My wedding was the same. She always tells me with tears in her eyes, “Your dad would have loved to have been here for this.” On my first Mother’s Day as a mom, I felt this need to recognize all that my stepmother had done. I posted to her Facebook page how much I loved her and thanked her for being there for me even though she didn’t have to be. I made sure to post it to her page so my mom wouldn’t see it. I didn’t want to risk it hurting her feelings, even though I said nothing bad about her. I hated that I had to do that. I wanted to be able to love them both openly.
Somehow though, my mom saw this. She claimed I tagged her, which anyone who knows me knows that I would never do. I’m not a cruel person. I got a text from my mom that she saw what I wrote and how hurt she was and goodbye, VIA TEXT my mom was breaking up with me! I was angry. I have never held this woman accountable for anything. I called my sister to vent and she told me that mom called her upset. She started demanding answers from my sister. Then it happened…30 years in the making. She asked my sister if she felt that she wasn’t there for us. Melissa said she paused, and for some reason she felt the need to be honest for the first time. She answered, “No, you weren’t.” My sister is a lot like me and didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so she immediately followed that blow with, “None of us are mad at you, but you have to accept the relationship Shelly has with Peggy. She can still love you and love Peggy.” That is when I received the goodbye text. I couldn’t hold back. Nash was in my arms sleeping, and I became enraged with feelings I had held back for 30 years. I was harsh and blunt. I told her that saying goodbye when things got hard is something I had come to expect from her. I felt defensive of Peggy, I felt defensive of my feelings. My brother followed suit. I did not intend for it to go where it did, but at the same time I felt relief that I finally told her how I felt. I was not going to be told I couldn’t love the one woman who never left me. I’m sure all of this shocked my mom, because never, and I mean never, in thirty years did we ever give off any impressions that we were even a little bit upset. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I needed to. I assumed she knew we had feelings about it. My mom’s family started blowing up my phone and my Facebook telling me how cruel I was. How much my mother had been through. I was in shock. All she had been though? At first I argued, and let myself get angry and mean. Todd looked at me and said, “Why are you letting this get to you? Why do you even care?” My stepmother’s family and my dad’s side of the family have said the same thing to me. They have seen what she has put us through and don’t understand why we put up with it. This is my mom! It’s not like writing off an old friend. It’s frustrating because what people don’t understand is that I have always wanted that bond with a mother. I wanted her to admit she was wrong and try harder. I wanted to be understood. No matter what, she is my mother, and I clung to that small fraction of hope that we could have that bond that I now know we cannot.
My mom quit talking to all of us that day. She came to Nash’s funeral, probably because she was told she should, but since that day, I have not seen or heard from her. I don’t understand this behavior as a mother myself. I don’t care what differences Nash and I may have had as he got older. If he lost a child, I would be there, period. To be honest, I’m not sure I would even answer if she called, but it would say a lot more about her character if she did. I cannot describe how it feels to be constantly fighting for the affection of someone who should just naturally love you. I have always had better relationships with men. I find them just plain easier and less complicated. I know a lot of that is because of the relationship I had with my dad and have with my brother. I have had strong and loving men in my life since I was born. They are the one constant and unwavering thing in my life. Women, in my experience, come and go. So when I had Nash, I was somewhat relieved. A boy, I could do boys. A girl, I would have had no real road map on how to be a mother to her. My mother’s mom left her as a child too, so as you can see, I come from a long line of mothers who leave. Peggy taught me how to be there, and because of that I knew I would always fight for my daughter. Fight to have that relationship I always longed for. As scared as I am to have a little girl, the fighter in me wants to be the one to break that cycle. Now on the complete opposite end of things, there is Todd who has been surrounded by women his whole life. He is the only boy to two sisters and has only nieces on his side of the family. He has girls down. I know for a fact that no matter how hard I try, if we have a girl she will be all daddy’s. I love that though. That’s what I had. I also know that he won’t let me be anything but the mother I long to be to a daughter. He gives me strength and encouragement that I am not my mom. That yes, I will make mistakes, but my daughter will always know that I love her. Once Nash died, I wanted a boy even more I feel more terrified to have a girl now than I ever did before. My fears of not connecting with a girl have always been there because of my past. With my circumstances now, I’m even more afraid of my ability to be the mother I always wanted to be to her.