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How I Became a Mother :: Becoming a (Step) Mother

how I became a motherColumbia SC Moms Blog is bringing you its latest series titled “How I Became a Mother” in honor of Mother’s Day. Each of us has experienced a unique journey into motherhood. Some of us have struggled with infertility while others have relied on faith and science. Some started their families early, while others didn’t begin until “advanced maternal age.” Some joined motherhood through stepchildren and others have dealt with adoption. Bringing a child into this world is miraculous regardless of how it’s done. Over the next several days, we want to share with you the stories of how we became mothers, to let you know that no two families are born the same. Join us on this journey as we celebrate moms!

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How I Became a Mother ::

Becoming a (Step) Mother

When I sat down to write about how I became a mother, I didn’t think I would have much to offer. I thought I felt this way because I was one of the lucky ones who had easy pregnancies and fast deliveries with all three of my sons … but then I realized those times weren’t when I became a mom.

I became a mom many years before I gave birth to my first son.

Most of my South Carolina friends probably don’t know that I was married before my current husband. When I met X (that is what I will call my ex-husband, because that is literally all he is to me now), he did not have custody of his son. The BM (birth mama or baby mama, whichever you prefer) had actually taken off with their son in the middle of the night. At the time, X felt like he had no options since he wasn’t listed on the birth certificate and didn’t have much money to his name.

We had dated about a year (3 months longer than the relationship should have lasted) when X got the call from the BM that she could no longer take care of their son, Ben. I was so nervous and excited while X took the trip from Tennessee to California to pick him up. I met them at the airport with balloon in hand and took Ben to his new home with us. There, not only did he have his own mattress (which to my knowledge he’d never had before), but he also had his very own room and furniture.

Ben was 2 1/2 when he came to us, and he was not in the greatest shape. His biggest challenge in the beginning was that he couldn’t communicate. And I don’t mean he couldn’t talk. He couldn’t communicate in any way. If he wanted a drink, he would lie on the floor and scream. It broke our hearts.

One day, Ben was having a difficult time. He was screaming and crying, and no one knew what the problem was. I sat there on the floor with him and hugged him until he calmed down.

THAT is the day I became a mother.

From that day forward, I loved that little boy.

It didn’t take long before he showed great improvement. He learned to talk and was super easy to potty train. All he needed was stability, attention and love from the people closest to him.

After a few years, the BM started calling; but she was never reliable and never trustworthy in her communication (or anything else for that matter). During one of her spurts of calling, she was married to a man who supposedly had money, and she was threatening to take us to court to get her son back. We were already a family and knew that it would look better in the court’s eyes if we were married, so that weekend we became husband and wife.

While we were saying our I do’s, in my head I was saying “I don’t.” I had stopped trusting X before he even got custody of Ben, but I just didn’t have enough confidence to leave. I didn’t think anyone else would love me. I knew that day our marriage would end in divorce, but I loved that little boy and I wanted to do what I thought was right for him.

The Monday after we got married, the BM called again and said she was going to focus on her new family and wouldn’t be bothering us anymore.

A year and half later, Ben was 5 1/2 and we had sold our house and were living with my mother to save money. After a long time of being unhappy in my marriage, I was just done. I couldn’t take being married to someone that I couldn’t trust, who didn’t treat me right and who just didn’t have any ambition in his life. I told him I wanted a divorce and my mind was made up. I let him stay in my mother’s house in the beginning, because Ben was going to school right down the road and I didn’t want to disrupt his entire life all at once.

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Christmas 2006. Ben was 5.

I told X I still wanted to be in Ben’s life regardless of us parting ways. But after a year of the pain he’d put us through, of having beer bottles thrown at me and having to stop him from continuing to drink and drive, I knew it was probably best I step away completely. I would never have any legal right to Ben, and X would always hold that over my head. The fighting and the stress wasn’t good for any of us, especially for Ben.

Soon there after, I took Ben to a local park. I think I was planning on telling him goodbye, but I never did. When leaving the parking lot, I got pulled over for not wearing a seat belt. As the cop came to the window, I was bawling my eyes out because what I knew what was coming for Ben and me. I felt really stupid, thinking how I looked to this officer. Poor Ben was so confused. That was the last time I saw Ben for a long time.

I never had a chance to talk to Ben about it or say goodbye … probably because I didn’t know how to say it, and I didn’t think he would understand, but mostly because I was too much of a coward. That is my biggest regret. It isn’t being with someone who wasn’t right for me, or even marrying him; it’s not saying goodbye to that poor little boy.

I made sure my sister and her daughter, Leanne, stayed in Ben’s life, because Leanne and Ben had grown up together over the years, and I didn’t want everything in his life to change. My mom and sister knew of everything that was going on but never really understood why I felt the need to let Ben go, or get a divorce for that matter. I met my current husband near the end of my period of trying to stay in Ben’s life, and I don’t think he has ever understood how much I loved love Ben.

Now that I have children of my own, people always ask for advice for “first-time moms.” I always felt weird about that question; I never understood why, but my reaction was to say “I never considered myself a first-time mom”. I just assumed being a mom came naturally, but now I realize that it’s because Ben made me a mom. I was thrown into the mothering role; I never got a chance to feel like a “first-time mom,” and I am okay with that.

I did get to see Ben occasionally a few years later. I have always been kept in the loop with how he is doing. The past couple of years have been very hard on him. There have been a few women in and out of his life as mothering figures; there have been behavior issues at school, lack of father participation and a big problem with stealing money (which has been assumed is a cry for attention).

I made some big mistakes with Ben, and I hope he forgives me and understands while he grows up. I hope he makes it to adulthood all right, because that boy has such a BIG, caring heart. And I really hope he remembers how much I love him.

4 Responses to How I Became a Mother :: Becoming a (Step) Mother

  1. Ashleigh May 13, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    Sarah, this is heartbreaking and beautifully written. Ben was lucky to have you in his life.

  2. Megan May 13, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    *soooooob*

    *wipes eyes*

    *wipes eyes again*

    How amazing. How hard. It definitely adds another facet to who Sarah is. You were definitely cut out for ‘all those boys’. Thank you for sharing with us Sarah. <3

  3. Stephanie Fuller
    Stephanie Fuller May 13, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Sarah that was awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Malorie May 13, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Very touching! I have heard you tell me about this briefly before, but this was written in such a way that it was very candid and personal.

    I truly enjoy reading your blogs.

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