On Wholeness: A Child of Divorce Begins Her Family
Jake and I found out last Monday, a week and a half ago, that we’re having a little girl -- or, well, the doctor is 90 percent sure of this. Even though I was so happy just to be having a baby, somehow knowing the gender has intensified this feeling even more. Maybe it’s that it feels more real -- being able to say “she” and “her,” to be able to picture a little girl rather than a blur of a child that could be either.
While those who know me well were perhaps aware of this a long time ago, it’s only in the last few years, really, that I think I became aware of my own obsession with family. Pretty much every story I have ever written has had something to do with family…the loss of a family, the gain of a family, friends who become like one’s family. But I think the theme, really, has always had to do with loyalty, with ties that can’t be broken, and most of all, with wholeness.
Maybe a longing for wholeness is always present in children of divorce. In my case, the split happened when I was very young, only a year or so old. My mother got remarried when I was two-and-a-half, so I grew up in a home with two parents. I was very lucky in that respect, but also -- and even more as I got older, I think -- confused. Because I had another parent and another sibling (all of my siblings are technically half, my sisters and I sharing the same mother, my brother and I the same father) who weren’t part of my household, and I loved them too -- and being with one family, I always missed the other and then felt somehow guilty for missing and for loving, and there was not one single other person in the world to share that with, not one other person who belonged in both places, with both families.
I have one, maybe two photographs of my biological parents together, and one of the three of us as a family. Even now, I keep these hidden. The only other remnant of their marriage -- besides me -- is my mom’s wedding ring, which her mother, my grandmother, saved for me. I think it was the summer after graduating from high school, when I was staying at my grandparents’ house for a few days, that Grandma told me she had it and would give it to me someday. Finally, a couple of years ago, I remembered to ask her for it, and she seemed relieved to unburden it onto me. “It’s not good luck, you understand,” she cautioned. I knew what she meant -- obviously, they hadn’t stayed married -- but still, I came out of the marriage, didn’t I? It just depended on what you meant by luck.
I guess having a child is always a little about the continuation of your bloodline, however subconsciously. You know that it probably shouldn’t matter…but on some level, it does. For me, it’s not just about blood, because I had three parents and six grandparents. There’s my brother’s mother, too, my ex-stepmother, who I haven’t seen in years but who also played a part in shaping me. For example, I still fold shirts the way she taught me, and for five or so years, every other holiday was spent at her parents’ house. I think that, among the many, many, many reasons I am happy about having a baby, and specifically Jake’s baby, it helps to fill that longing for wholeness a little to know that I am having a child who I can pass all of that on to. A child who, like me, will belong in both places, with both families. A child who I can someday give my mother’s first wedding ring to…because it will be part of her, too.
Our daughter is going to have a surplus of grandparents, in fact -- because Jake also comes from a divided family. In fact, his story is strangely similar to mine -- parents divorced when he was a baby, one parent remarried not long after (in his case, his father) so that he grew up with three parents and has two sisters from that second union (who are coincidentally almost the exact same ages as my sisters). He also has one brother, but he and his brother do share both the same biological parents. As I see it, though -- this will only mean that our daughter will have more people to love her. Really, the same way I did, but I’m hoping that it will be less confusing for her, a generation removed. Mostly, she will know that she belongs with us -- with Jake and me. And also with the other children I hope we will have.
For our firstborn and for her siblings, I hope that we will always be able to provide that foundation of wholeness, in which love does not equal guilt, and loyalties never have to be questioned.
Photo Credit: realestatezebra.