Being Embraced as the Bonus Mom: The Other Side of Blending a Family

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A fellow Birmingham Moms Blog contributor recently penned a post that struck all the Bonus Mom chords in my heart. I connected to every word. By the end, I was celebrating her story like my favorite football team had scored the game-winning touchdown in the last seconds of a championship. I thought, “YES! This is what it’s all about! This is what we Bonus Moms yearn for.”

I was elated to read her vulnerable story about welcoming a stranger into her son’s life while learning to accept and form a relationship with a woman who eventually became Bonus Mom to her son. She shared a narrative that ironically mirrored mine as a Bonus Mom. It touched me and made me want to share my Bonus Mom experience.

The New Relationship Introduction

My husband and his ex-wife had a turbulent divorce. Lots of emotions still simmered just beneath the surface of their parenting relationship when I came into the picture. I was present for the phone call after his ex-wife learned that he had introduced me to their daughter, and it was extremely uncomfortable. I didn’t want to make any waves in an already agitated pool, but of course, I created a full-on tsunami.

This was one of those situations where I really had to put myself in another woman’s shoes to understand what she might be feeling. I tried not to take anything personally. It helped me when I realized that the emotions behind this situation were not about me. The emotions came from a relationship that unfortunately ended badly and where a little girl was left in the middle. Her safety, well-being, and happiness were of the utmost importance. The irony behind this was that both parents wanted this for their child.

A little time passed since that first phone call when we scheduled to meet for breakfast. Fortunately, my husband’s ex-wife planned to bring a man she had been dating. It was even ground, and selfishly, I was grateful that all the attention was not on me being the new woman. The meeting went well, and I felt as though the tensions about me were put aside after that meeting.

The Thank You That Brought Me to Tears

It wasn’t long after the meeting that my then-boyfriend’s daughter became cemented as my Bonus Daughter when her father and I married. I found out I was pregnant in the spring of 2015 and later experienced my first miscarriage. My heart was broken; then Mother’s Day approached . . . I buried the thoughts of a child that never was and tried to focus on the fact that I was fortunate to celebrate my own mother.

To my surprise, I received a flower delivery that day. I thought it was from my husband, but it was from his ex-wife. WHAT?! The card attached simply said, “Thank you for being a great mother to Isabella.”

I don’t know if she’ll ever know how that unexpected delivery positively affected me, but it was a gesture that changed how I perceived my circumstances. Without knowing it, she helped me realize I was already a mother. I was a Bonus Mother to her daughter.

She re-focused my perspective with a handful of words. Her gratitude helped me to feel grateful for what I had right in front of me.

Maintaining a Long-Distance Relationship

While we don’t spend much time together (we live about 11 hours away from each other), we do occasionally text. I’ll ask her what Isabella, now a teenager, is into these days. She’ll send us pictures from Isabella’s dance recitals, competitions, and other milestones. It’s limited, but at the same time, it’s just right for the distance between us. It’s child-focused. I’m on a team of parents wanting the best for a child that we all love.

I have made it my mission to not get involved in any issues that my husband and his ex-wife have. I will always support my husband but feel it’s in the best interest of my relationship with their daughter to remain a neutral party in any dispute. It’s my duty to raise her responsibly, and I never want her to think that I am anything other than supportive to both her biological parents.

I included this video in my very first blog post with Birmingham Moms Blog. It fits this post, too, so I’ve included it again. Grab a tissue, kiss your babies (bonus and biological), and remember that parenting is a gift!

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Raised outside of Orlando, Florida, redheaded Melissa is an avid sunscreen and shade enthusiast. She left Florida in 2007 to serve in the United States Air Force as a radio and television broadcaster. After basic and technical training she was stationed in Illinois, South Korea, Italy, and Alabama with two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan sprinkled in between. In 2013, she met her husband Gregg and in 2015, they were married. This gave Melissa the new title of Bonus Mom to Gregg's daughter, Isabella. That year also welcomed Melissa back into the civilian world as her eight years of service came to a close due to medical retirement. She has called Birmingham home for the past 3.5 years. Shortly after they were married, Melissa and Gregg found themselves wading through the confusing and emotional world of miscarriage and unexplained infertility. They excitedly welcomed a son in November of 2017 after two years of trying for a little miracle. Melissa dedicates her extra time to spoiling their three rescue dogs Ginger, Typsy, and Bruno. She also fosters dogs before they find their furever homes.