I don’t hate you.
But there’s some stuff you need to know.
The first time I heard your name was over wine and calamari at a little bar in New York City. I was on a first date with the man who would become my son’s father — your ex-boyfriend at the time — and we were going through all those first date details: Exes, favorite food; career goals. You never really came up after that.
He took me on thoughtful dates. One I will always remember was a trip to the famous Books of Wonder in New York City. We milled around rows of children’s books, sat with our backs against the wall; had pie and coffee in the cafe.
It was a whirlwind. He invited me to his work holiday party. We rode the subway to the Upper East Side, mingled with his coworkers at the intimate gathering — and drank a lot of champagne. That night we conceived our son.
When we found out I was pregnant, we talked about our options. We were shocked, happy, confused, and scared. I was all of this with a side of serious hormone fluctuations common in the first trimester and throughout pregnancy. Still, I took a deep breath and we talked about baby names: He liked William, Dylan, and Chloe. I liked Jack and Mia. I liked Dylan for a girl. Then we chose Jack William. And he told me Mia sounded like a soccer player’s name. Those sweet moments were far and few between. Communication broke down on both ends. We argued about where we would live and how we would pay for daycare. At one point he flew home “for work” and I always wondered if it was to see you.
In those early weeks of my pregnancy, I’m sure he was overwhelmed by decisions he, as a man and soon-to-be-father, needed to make. I felt so out of control. A few weeks prior to peeing on that stick, I was thrilled with life, living in NYC with a cute boyfriend — but all that had changed now. And I imagine when you learned I was pregnant — things for you changed too. I know he was and is your great love. You never wanted me around. How many times did you wish you guys never broke up? That he never moved to New York City? Sometimes I wonder similar things: What if I didn’t go to that bar that night with my girlfriends? He and I never would have met. But I’m glad we met. I have the most perfect son.
You know the rest of the story. Everything fell apart and he left New York City and drove back to you. The best way to explain what happened next is just … tunnel vision. I couldn’t run away, now. I was 12-weeks-pregnant and had a sonogram photo on my dresser. Mother to mother: I know you know how amazing it is to see that grainy image and flickering light that is a baby’s beating, real-life heartbeat.
A month or so after he left New York City I saw a photo of you guys online at some dinner or event. I couldn’t believe how fast you guys got back together — arms around each other. I had a little bump and was planning my move back to New Jersey. You reminded me of Brittany Snow. Then I stopped snooping on the Internet. It was too hard. A few months after our son was born, I spoke to your husband on the phone. The baby was lying next to me, as we talked … I can’t remember about what. He asked me if I was OK. I was OK. I had to be OK. I had a newborn to raise. He told me he joined a running group. So I was alone in NJ taking care of our baby and he was enjoying his hobby, dating, working; volunteering. Sometimes I washed dishes with our son strapped to my chest. Do you at least get how I felt about that? His freedom.
I looked him up online again before our son turned one and read your proposal story. Your engagement photos were artsy and gorgeous (a writer and someone who went to art college — I did admire the work). And as I looked at the photo of him dipping you in the street, I wondered if you and him talked about my son at all — how did he fit into your life now, was he your stepson? Everything else was on the Internet. I saw the wedding photos and the European honeymoon page where guests could buy you a bottle of champagne, or send you on a romantic boat ride. Two weeks in Europe! Again, do you realize I was in NJ raising our baby alone, unable to pee in privacy — he was jetting off on his honeymoon. A honeymoon — you certainly deserved. I get it.
Then I noticed something on your wedding website: You were getting married the day before our son’s birthday and that just struck me as odd —was this a way to redefine that month? I’m prob over-thinking this (I’m that person). But, then I noticed there was a sweetly-written reminder that no kids were invited to your wedding (totally cool — kids at weddings can be annoying). But you were marrying a man who has a kid — and obviously our kid was not invited (his father refused to meet him anyhow) — which would have ruined your day. A day you dreamed about and deserved. That didn’t include my baby or me. Because my baby is me.
The maternity and newborn sessions came next. (I mean, it was all online and I was curious. If you didn’t want me to see them — then you shouldn’t have posted them — everything, but I get the urge to share — hell look at me!). The timeline of your husband’s seamless adult life was beautifully unfolding with no kinks or hiccups before me. He had moved on so swiftly and easily — it’s like he pressed a reset button. I resented him for that. And I wondered how you felt about marrying the man who left his son, and well me, woman to woman. Did it freak you out? Did he promise you a million times over he would never leave you?
My son is seven now and your husband has never met him – FaceTimed with him, or talked to him on the phone, by his choice. He pays court-ordered child support. He should. It’s strange he pays and still doesn’t want to meet him — odd.
Do you want him to have a relationship with his son? Do you want to meet him? Do you want the kids to meet — and play? Kids are so easy. It’s him, you and me that will either have to drink A LOT of wine or just cringe and sit in silence. I’d prefer the wine, honestly. It’s been too long.
Have you seen the movie People Like Us? I related so much to it. Sam and Frankie are brother and sister — but Frankie came from a different mom. When Sam finds out about Frankie — his estranged half-sister, he’s stunned. “Mom, YOU KNEW. She grew up without a father.” And mom responds: It was his choice. His responsibility was to this family!”
My son asks about his father and knows about him. I tell my little brown-eyed boy he’s a fast runner like his father. He has long legs like his father. He has little folds of skin near his eyes like his father. He loves Mexican food like his father (I told him about the Mexican restaurants we went to and I took him to one: Dos Caminos in NYC). He knows about you, the nice lady his father married — his half-brother and sister. Sometimes he’s satisfied with our quick conversations. Other times, he asks if we can fly over and have pizza. “Does my dad like pizza?” I said yes, only because we ate pizza in New York City together. Do you ever think about my son or talk about him with your husband? What it will mean to your children when they find out they have a half-sibling — that their father wasn’t around for? Because I wonder about this.
What will their meeting will be like? Will it be kismet? Will the boys find themselves at the same college? Will he Facebook friend his half-sibs? Will my spitfire kiddo turn into an 18-year-old who just hops on a plane and knocks on your door? Will there be a time when he’s at your dinner table? Or drinking a beer with your husband? Will you and I ever have an awkward hug hello? It’s been seven years. Will it be a decade and still no meeting?
You didn’t do anything to me. I don’t even feel like your husband did anything, at this point. But, you are part of this triangle too. One thing I do remember telling your husband once on the phone: I don’t get to forget you or move states away. I see your face in our beautiful, thoughtful, silly child everyday. Then I asked him how he would feel if he never got to forget me … But he couldn’t answer that question.
I took my son to Books of Wonder in New York City. It was something I had to do. We milled around the bookshelves, his little feet in the same spaces his father had stood — with me — a wrinkle in time. We sat at a table near the window and had pie. Because you never can escape reality — you might as well embrace it.