The Tide

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting in bed listening to the rain. The softest light filters through the blinds and my son is speaking quietly to his daddy in the other room.

In three hours, we will tell our children that we are splitting up and sharing custody of them. I didn’t think my heart could take anymore, but it has to withstand this next step. This heart of mine needs to shift focus to deal with this. My grief is nothing in the face of the loss my babies will feel.

How do you tell your children that grown up love is subject to failure?

My five and a half year old son has been courting this blond haired, blue eyed pixie of a girl who he’s known since daycare. A week or so ago, he asked me to buy a bouquet of flowers for her, which he presented on the busy morning playground at school. He heaves great, swooning sighs when he mentions her name, and there was even a marriage proposal (from her, so progressive). Last night, he told me that Elise has decided she wants to marry Joe instead.

We commiserated on how painful it is when someone you are in love with rejects you. I told him that this kind of sadness is the risk we take to feel the wonderful feelings that come from being in love. I promised him that someday he’d find someone to marry; someone who was just right for him, and who could love him for the amazing person that he is. As I said this, I willed it to be my own truth too.

It won’t be difficult to transfer this deep ocean of love to my children. If it’s no longer required in my romantic partnership, I know three incredible people who will thrive in these waters. This love for my children will keep me afloat.

We are keeping the house, and the kids will live here while the adults come and go to share time with them. I will get half the time, and N and S will share the other half of the time. The two of them parted as friends back in November.

I must not think of how the change in these adult relationships might shift the kids’ perception of me in a negative way. I must not imagine the difference they will feel as they move back and forth between life with two parents to life with just me. One full, happy home with a mom and a dad, to time with a single mom who wasn’t prepared for that reality. A single mom who isn’t the ‘chill’ parent. In the case of my teen and tween daughters, a single mom who isn’t even their mom in the eyes of the law.

If I lose my children in this, I will truly be lost. They are the greatest good of these last nine years of my life. The purest light in the darkest moments of fear and confusion.

Maybe some happiness will emerge through this shift. Perhaps the person who my dearest friends know and love (warm, loving, creative, calm) will take over now that the complexities of my adult relationships have changed. This could be my chance to be the mom I’ve always wanted to be.

But what if it isn’t?

Unraveling

crocus raindrops

This post has been in the works for six months.

Six long, painful months where I’ve watched my life unravel. A thread was pulled too hard, and it all came apart. No amount of skill could repair the damage.

I am alone. In love, anyway. I’m now facing the world as a single mother to three kids. Three kids who now have to move through life without the benefit of their family under one roof. We spoke to them on Saturday morning. My youngest was completely accepting, my middle girl very emotional and her older sister quietly resigned. They all asked incredible questions.

I have an army of support, and I haven’t been shy about rallying the troops. There are so many people who care for me, and without them, and the light they have shone into the darkest corners of my life, I don’t know where I would be right now. I’m not afraid to lean on them, and I will continue to reach out and draw strength from the people who know me and see me.

This is not a choice I ever wanted to make, and yet it became the only choice I could make. Anger continues to swirl through me, a noxious cloud of ‘why’ and ‘should’ and ‘how’, but I hold it gently and tell it to propel me forward rather than drag me through the past or shove me too far into a future that I cannot see.

One breath at a time.

I haven’t lost everything, but when my heart fills with the moments I have lost, it feels like part of my soul has been stripped away. Fifty percent of my time with my children. A partner I thought I would grow old and gray with. A co-parent I thought was a close friend. Had I closed my eyes to the truth that was right there before me? Should I have known better? Was I asking for this in trying to do something that few people before us have done? Is there any point to answering any of these questions now?

I am living in two places; our home where the children stay 100% of the time, and my parents home in Hamilton where I stay when it isn’t my turn on the custody calendar. This post will go live hours before I taste this new reality. This post will go live only because we’ve shared this news with our beautiful babies. I stopped praying a long time ago, but I whisper to the universe, begging that this won’t forever dim the light of those three radiant souls.

Nothing has ever hurt like this. Losing love and my sense of family is like dealing with death. I thought I’d become an expert in grieving. A pro at heartbreak. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

How do I wake up and get out of bed? I have to. I have to be a mother. I have to be an entrepreneur. I have to arrive each day and learn how I will reinvent myself. I have to understand who I am as I move through this world without my love. I moved mountains for that love. Now I have to move those mountains to survive.

This grief feels like I am fighting to breathe. Like my life is a nightmare I can’t wake up from. Like my worst fears in this relationship have been realized.

And sometimes it feels like a glimmer of possibility.

There has never been a shadow in my life so dark that I haven’t seen the light. These last six months have brought me close to yielding to darkness, but with the return of spring, I feel like I can find a balance again. Between sorrow and hope. Between loss and discovery.

I’m not okay, but I think at some distant point on this path, I will be again.

A Mother’s Day Letter to Myself

Dear Mama C,

This year, Mother’s Day marks the start of a new journey into motherhood. One you had never planned on taking, and one that is more than a little scary. I don’t need to tell you that you are not alone. Your own mother and father are in your corner, your brother is your greatest ally, and you have an army of superwomen (and the men who love them) who are there for anything you might need.

It’s going to be hard for a while. Your heart will need time to heal before you can feel your power again. You don’t have to be perfect. Those beautiful children seem to know how difficult this is, and they will understand your tears, and your exhaustion. They love you, and they will see your love for them shine through this (brief) period of darkness.

Mother's Day

You’ve brought so much beauty and fire to the lives of these three young souls. You haven’t been perfect, but they see how dedicated you are to growing, to learning how to be the very best parent you can be. If there’s a silver lining in any of this, it’s a chance to forge your own unique path with your children. Nobody else will be inserting themselves as you problem solve. Your kids will see you, and they will see you shine above all else.

I know you will handle this with grace. I know you’ll be the kind of mother that you wish to be. I know your kids will remark on how steady and capable you are. (Look how steady and capable you have been through all of this!) I know you’ll teach your daughters (and son) what it means to be a strong and truly independent woman who can take care of herself and still remain open to the possibilities the world has on offer.

Mother's Day

Remember how you used to fantasize about being a lone wolf, answering only to her pups? Well, the Universe works in funny ways. What will you do with this new reality? It’s time to trade in yoga pants for vintage slips and soft kimonos. This is your new stay-at-home-uniform. Don’t be tragic, be fabulous.

Sometimes brokenhearted lovers are left with nothing but memories and dreams that will never come into fruition. You get three glorious examples of how the love you’ve poured into the last nine years was absolutely worthwhile. Stay in that feeling, let the rest slide away.

You can do this. You were meant to do this, in exactly this way. It’s time to embrace this new path and move ahead in love and wisdom.

But don’t get out of bed until you absolutely have to today. You’ve earned it.