To the stepmom bringing home her first baby…

I see you holed up in the dark nursery with your tiny newborn and sore nipples, learning how to breastfeed. You don’t have the option to sit and let it all hang out on your comfy couch in front of the TV like other new moms because you have a teenage stepson and that’s just weird.

I see you biting your tongue and clenching your fists every time your step kids want to hold your tiny, fragile bundle of joy. Did they wash their hands? Why do they need to hold him at all? Don’t breathe in his face! Don’t touch his face! Only touch his feet!

I see you guzzling down the diet soda as you figure out dinner not just for you and your husband, but for your growing stepchildren too. You wonder what it would be like to only have the stress that comes with a new baby instead of also feeling the weight of managing a household of six—the meals, the basketball games, the laundry.

Postpartum hormones alone are enough to make a woman feel overwhelmed, but throw in the complicated feelings of a blended family, and that is MORE than enough to make a woman feel completely CRAZY.

I am here to tell you that you are not crazy. You are going to feel a lot of different emotions when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Some of these feelings may even come as a surprise to you because you have a positive relationship with your stepchildren. You may feel like you walked into the hospital to give birth feeling one way about them and walked out hours (or days!!) later feeling a completely different way toward them.

You may not feel like sharing your baby. That’s okay. You may also be mourning the life you thought you would have – you know, the one where you get married and experience parenthood for the first time with your partner. It’s okay to be sad that he’s already done this before.

But mama, it will get easier. Your hormones will gradually level out. Your baby will become sturdier, and when you’re ready, you’ll let others hold him so that you can do things like brush your teeth and wash your hair. Now that’s a benefit most new mamas don’t have! Oh, and remember how you were sad that your husband has done this before? Now you are thankful that you have a partner who already knows what to do and is comfortable with a teensy tiny baby.

Not only will you start to find a groove, but you’ll also find sweet moments of joy. When your stepson makes your baby giggle like no one else can. When you find your 11-year-old stepdaughter is more nurturing than you ever knew. When your 14-year-old stepdaughter steps up and shows leadership. When they fight over whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper or help with his bath. When you’re all on the floor, cheering him on as he takes his first steps. When they come home from their bio-mom’s house and can’t wait to see their baby brother.

I won’t lie to you. Blended families are no joke. It can be a lot to juggle, especially when bringing a tiny human into the mix. But I am finding that in between the moments of chaos, they can also be wonderful. The bond between siblings transcends DNA and in our case, a several year age gap, and it really is something special to witness.

So hang in there, Mama Bear. You’ve got this.

 

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Lice Happens: Part Trois

We didn’t make it home from the lake until nearly 2:00 in the morning, following the infamous bat incident of 2013.  We were exhausted.  We were cranky.  We felt defeated.  Thus began a week-long event of daily 6-8 hour head checks/shampoos/mousses/nit combs and round-the-clock laundry.  The only saving grace during all of this chaos was when RM’s youngest randomly blurted out, “I love you” as I was treating her hair.  It wasn’t the first time she had said it to me, but it might have been the sweetest.  Here I was, stressed beyond belief, just praying to make it through the week, and she looked up at me with her big innocent blue eyes and said “I love you.”  That made it all worth it.

During the next several days, I continued to conduct several, and by several I mean at least 200, internet searches about lice shampoos, lice life cycles, natural remedies, cleaning your home, etc.  Obsess much, Christina?  You betcha.  When we started spotting newly-hatched lice nearly a week later, even after the second round of lice shampoo, we were at a loss.  Why couldn’t we kick this??

That’s when I found www.girlsgonechild.net’s post on her family’s experience fighting lice and finding Ladibugs Elimination Kit.  One word:  miraculous.  We haven’t seen any eggs or lice since treating.  We’ve done several more rounds of the mousse just to be sure we’re in the clear, but we’ve basically declared victory at this point.

While we’ve been in the clear for almost a whole week now (that is cause for celebration!), I’ve left out the culmination of the story.  There’s more?, you ask.  Oh yes, my friend.  You will be glad you’ve made it this far in my lengthy blog posts.  After our week from H-E-double hockey sticks, it was time to take the kids back to their mom (who from here on out I will refer to as EW for “Ex-Wife”) and her boyfriend.  Our biggest fear?  That EW would have lice and pass it back to the kiddies, therefore making all of our countless hours and hundreds of dollars spent for naught.  For this reason, I offered to check her head while we were there.  She said she had done three lice shampoos “just in case,” but that no one had actually checked her head.

EW graciously agreed and as she sat down under the light said, “Well, this is humbling.”  I assured her that we had all been in her position over the past two weeks, and therefore understood how she was feeling.  However, I suspected that her embarrassment was less about having lice and more to do with her ex-husband’s girlfriend picking the lice out of her head.  (What is it they say about Karma?)  I soon found that she was INFESTED with eggs, but thankfully, no live lice.  RM and I spent the next two and a half hours picking nits out of her hair, with me taking the lead and spending more QT with EW than I ever thought I would.  Next we were checking her boyfriend’s hair.  Let me just say, finding WHITE eggs on WHITE hair is equivalent to a needle in a haystack.  Thankfully, everyone was a good sport, and we all laughed about the awkward situation in which we found ourselves.  Although I can think of many things I’d rather do than shampoo my boyfriend’s ex-wife’s hair, I honestly think it was probably good for the kids to see all of us laughing together and helping each other.  Sure, the set-up isn’t your average, traditional family, but this will be our normal, and right now it’s working just fine.

Lice Happens: Part Un

Warning:  This post may cause completely unwarranted, unfounded itching on the scalp, which may spread to other areas on the body.  Do not be alarmed.  You do not have lice.  Err… you probably don’t.

“Sweetie, don’t freak out about what I’m about to say…” said my boyfriend from the half-cracked open door of the ladies restroom.  I stood as still as statue, anxiously awaiting his next words in the grimy, dock showers wearing nothing but my very unflattering hiking sandals and lice shampoo on my wet head.

“… but there is a BAT directly above your head.”

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One week earlier, my boyfriend (here on out referred to as “RM,” for “Renaissance Man”) and I decided that we would spend the following weekend camping for a few nights on a lake he had been going to with his family for as long as he could remember.  We planned to take his three little ones, their cousin, and his mom.  Although I had only been camping one night before in my entire life (unless we’re counting camping out in my fenced-in backyard in a Chicago suburb… No?  Okay fine, only one night then.), the fact that this locale promised a bathroom at the campsite, a lake I could jump into anytime for a “shower,” plus actual showers at the boat docks, seemed totally do-able to me.   What could go wrong?

Oh, silly Christina.  What couldn’t go wrong?

The drama began to unfold the morning we were set to leave for the lake.  We managed to get all three kids ready to leave by 7 am, which is no small feat, let me tell you.  RM’s mom was a little late, so we had some extra time—phew!  As we were fixing the youngest’s hair into a ponytail, that’s when it happened.  We spotted it.  A live LOUSE crawling on her beautiful, light blonde head of hair.

I kicked it into high gear, found a box of lice shampoo stuffed away in my closet that I had bought a month prior, when RM’s oldest had a case of those little suckers.  At the time, I feared they would jump from her head at their grandparents’ house an hour away and find their way all the way up the interstate to my house and onto my head.  (Hey, you never know how resilient those buggers can be, right?)  We immediately treated the youngest, but a cursory look (in hindsight probably too cursory) at the others yielded no lice.  Except for me.  I had eggs.  Fan-flippin-tastic.  RM treated my head as well.  We threw the sheets into the laundry room, vacuumed quickly, and hit the road, in hopes that a few days away from the house would be plenty of time for any lice that may have found their way off of heads and onto furniture to die.

As the day went on, I tried with all of my might to forget about the lice, but something in me knew that it was only the beginning.  Two hours into the drive, we stopped for gas.  As I was standing behind RM’s son waiting for the bathroom, that’s when it happened.  I spotted it.  TWO live lice crawling on his beautiful, light blonde head of hair.  RM kicked it into high gear and treated his son’s hair with lice shampoo in the gas station bathroom, while I stood with the girls in the gas station parking lot eating jambon on a baguette listening to RM’s mom tell me how it was perfectly normal in Europe to pull over on the side of the road to eat jambon on a baguette.  Somehow, I pictured it being a bit more glamorous in her native France, than our rendition of scarfing down our baguettes in between our spraying each other with lice repellant spray (which we would later find out did absolutely nothing to help our lice situation).

Check back for the next post in the “Lice Happens” series to find out how we fared once we arrived at the lake, which turned out to be a bit more complicated than we anticipated.