Raising another woman's child isn't always easy.
Just as I expected, the other lady is younger and cuter than I am. Surprisingly enough, she, like me, has thick thighs and a round booty. However, unlike my ever expansive 40-something lower half, she's still at an age when thigh chunk and butt dimples are freakin' adorable.
I've done the research. Many women who discover another "woman" in their husband's lives remain silent, tolerating his affection for someone else while dying a slow, painful death within.
I am not one of these women. Never good at hiding my emotions — try as I might — I confront the issue head on. In front of "The Other Woman" no less. After catching them together. On a Sunday afternoon. Formerly known as Sexy Sundays, B.C. (Before Child.)
I've just come home from brunch with my sister, one of the few solo outings I've enjoyed in the past month. As I enter the house that Sunday afternoon, savoring the final moments of solitude before being thrust back into the deep end of the parenting pool, I hear giggles from my bedroom. And not just girlie giggles. Grown man giggles I've never heard before.
My heart races. My skin tingles. I've never inspired my husband to laugh like that. WTF?
I realize that I'm holding my breath and I force myself to exhale as I tiptoe through the house. I don't know what the two of them are doing to elicit such pure joy. But whatever it is, I want to catch them in the act.
Finally, I reach the door, nudging it open as I peer into the bedroom and see...
My husband and "The Wee One" on my bed. She's just had a bath and The Hubs is towel drying her while she sits facing him, giggling and looking into his eyes with pure adoration.
It's the look on my husband's face that kills me. I know this look. It's the same look he gave me the first time he told me he loved me. And now he's giving that look to someone new. Someone younger. Someone more adorable. Someone I can't compete with. B*TCH.
"Ouie!" she squeals with delight. He once again giggles in that absolutely tickled way I've never heard before now. What did she just call him? Ouie. This is her 14-month-old version of the pet name I call my husband. To the world, he may be Luis. But to me, he's always been my Louie. Ironically, the only other person to call him that is his sister. The tiny other woman's mother. She affectionately nicknamed him Louie as a tween. I loved the sound of it and adopted it as my own.
And now "The Other Woman" has found an even more adorable way to say it.
"That's right!" Louie says joyfully. "I'm Ouie!"
"Hi," I say, announcing my unnoticed arrival.
The Hubs looks up, sees me, and smiles. It's not as big a smile as the one he's been giving The Other Woman. Jealously pulses through my veins.
"Hey, baby. How was brunch?"
"Good," I say, approaching the bed. I plant a big wet kiss on him in hopes of eliciting a different male response from him. I may not be able to compete in the adorable category anymore in my own house. But I can certainly make up for it in the adult category.
Instead, nothing. His eyes and attention are already back on her.
"I want to give her back," I hear myself blurt out. Even as the words escape my mouth, I know how preposterous they sound.
"What?" my husband replies. I can't tell if he didn't hear me or he can't believe what I just said.
"I. Want. To. Give. Her. Back." I enunciate more clearly as I raise my voice. I realize I'm now crying. Tears stream down my cheeks as I mourn the loss of being #1 in my husband's heart.
"Absolutely not," he responds, looking at me as if I've just gone mad, which I'm starting to feel like I have.
"Why?" I hear myself ask, which only makes me feel like a bigger baby than the actual baby in the house — and like a giant as*hole. Of course I know why we can't give this child back. First, who exactly would we give her back to? Foster care? Out of the question. My mother-in-law? Even more unacceptable.
I don't know who I think we can give this child to. All I know is in this moment, I want her gone. More specifically, I want my old life back. I want my marriage back, sex life included. I want to be the only girl my husband looks at with such love and adoration. I want to be the one who makes him giggle like that. The one he focuses all of his amazing love, compassion, and generosity on. I want all of that and more ... but it's too late. That version of my life is officially over.
Here I thought I was doing the right thing for my family. I'd intuitively known since finding out my sister-in-law was pregnant at 18 that we'd be raising this child in some capacity. I just assumed I'd really be raising her and she'd be raising her baby.
Suddenly it hits me. The DINK (Dual Income No Kids) lifestyle Louie and I had purposely designed over the last 8 years together was slowly but surely being revised to DINKs with Diapers. And while I'd thought this label was a disposable one, my husband made it clear that Sunday — like the good man he is — that he was in it for the long haul, with or without me.
"Baby, I promised my sister I'd take care of her daughter. I can't go back on that promise. Now, if you don't want to be in this with me, I accept that. But I can't give the kid back. I hope you won't leave. Stay with us. I'll raise the kid myself. You can just live with us."
It's always humbling when you realize you married a man who's a far better human being than you. But having that fact hit you upside your head in an already humbling state can bring a grown a*s woman to her knees. It certainly brought me to mine.
The truth is, my husband would have been perfectly happy raising this child alone and loving me while he did it. He would have made the most out of being a pseudo single parent while married to (and sleeping next to) a woman who didn't lift a finger to help raise his sister's baby. That's the kind of man he is. And I'm thankful every day that this is who I married.
I'm also thankful that in this moment, one of my many rock bottoms to come, as an Imposter Mom, this amazing man held the space for me to find a better version of myself. To suck it up, ego-wise, and show up better — for myself, for our marriage, and for this child who needed a mother figure as well as a father figure.
As an Imposter Mom, I still wanted to put me first. And I still wanted my husband to put me first. But the truth was, bringing another lady into our lives had changed things beyond the superficiality of re-organizing our daily schedules. We couldn't call ourselves DINKs with Diapers because that DINK part of ourselves was slowly fading away. Baby didn't just make three. She made a family. Temporary or not, that Sunday marked the beginning of our New Normal, a.k.a. Becoming A Family. And things would never be the same again.
This article was originally published at Lisa Steadman. Reprinted with permission from the author.