What is an ours baby?
This comes from the situation in a blended family where one or both adults may have children from previous relationships. There will be your kids, my kids and then together our kids. The ours baby shares both parents where the earlier siblings may only have one or the other biological parent.
Is that clear? It seems confusing when I write it out.
There is a lot of emphasis on when or if to add an ours baby to a family. I honestly think that’s the wrong focus.
The transition for me was from stepmom to stepmom and mom. My transition to mom included already being a stepmom. I think that this is the transition that deserves attention.
Before I got married my partner and I discussed and agreed on whether or not to have children together. It was planned and negotiated. This is not always the case.
Identity transition is challenging.
This is something that is well researched and yet also doesn’t actually seem to get the attention that it really deserves. Life changes that impact our identities are really hard moments in time. Sometimes we have the benefit of having a structure around us to support us through these moments. For example, going from high school student to high school graduate has a lot of support and ritual around it. Still, if you think back I bet you can remember that it’s a big shift and a big deal.
A wedding is a big ritual that supports the change from a single person to part of a married couple.
There is tons of ritual and support around the transition from childfree to first time parent. Books, podcasts, magazines, new clothes, parties, college savings accounts. It doesn’t always seem to fit with a blended family. For example, my husband had been through 2 deliveries but I had been through zero and we had different expectations for things like labor and delivery classes and what he would do in the delivery room.
The transition to stepmom or stepdad has almost zero support or ritual.
Becoming a stepparent is an unofficial designation. Does this happen when you get married or can you just decide?
There are no rules, there is no training and there are very few books. What’s super weird about this is that there are a giant number of people who go through this every year. This has existed since … forever and it seems totally bizarre to me when I think about it how unsupported this transition is in reality.
If there’s little support for that the transition from childfree part-time stepparent to stepparent AND mom or dad has even less.
One of the small things I want to point out is that this is an AND. I didn’t shift from stepparent to mom I shifted to stepparent AND parent. Two identities at the same time.
When a stepparent becomes a parent the experience doesn’t match what is offered with traditional support
I talk to women about adding ours babies to their family every week. Many weeks I also hear men who are stepdads and soon-to-be dads, This is a place where stepparents yearn for support that In my experience, doesn’t exist in traditional places.
When I think about this is makes me angry because it doesn’t make sense. Too many people are navigating this situation for there to not be lots and lots of support.
When you are pregnant there are all kinds of books and magazines and blogs and things that step you through the process. In my experience they are mostly written for the first pregnancy in the first relationship and they ignore all other possibilities. Which is messed up because it’s not just stepparents who don’t fit this mold.
The day before I delivered my first baby I was in the driveway playing basketball with my stepson and his dad. My stepkids transitioned to their mom’s house and around midnight my water broke. My daughter was very accommodating to be delivered when the big kids were in our house. It wouldn’t have been an issue either way. My husband and his first wife have a strong relationship as co-parents.
One of my husbands first thoughts was when could we introduce our new baby to their half-siblings. It is likely that the first call was to his oldest daughter. How to tell the stepkids, the ex-wife, the extended blended family wasn’t in any book or magazine that I read. To be fair we didn’t have any issues with this in my family. My husband’s first wife and the stepkids were very supportive.
Practical tips – this was something my husband coordinated with his first wife but she was expecting it and everybody was happy about the new baby. Some stepparents experience a sensation of loss that they did not get to have a first baby with their spouse. I did not experience that sensation.
I was alone in the hospital while my husband did a fair bit of driving back and forth with kids to meet the baby. I don’t remember that bothering me.The nurses and the pediatrician taught the big kids how to wash their hands before holding the baby. The pediatrician urged me to be aware that the germs would come to us because we had bigger kids in the house. My first child was my husbands third child. When my daughter was born she was my stepkids fourth sibling because their mom also had two babies.
What was challenging for me was balancing the existing busy lives of the teenage stepkids with newborn life.
The common narrative is that when the baby arrives the house begins to revolve around the baby. Except thats really only accurate for the first baby. When your first baby is also the third child you don’t really get that experience.
When my baby was a few days old we went trick-or-treating with her brother and sister. If I just had the newborn I would have stayed home.
My stepkids had music shows and baseball games. Sometimes we went and other times my husband went and the baby and I stayed home.
Surrounded by family and also all alone with the baby
As a new mom I was surprised at how it changed rapidly from a weekend with all the kids and tons of stuff to a very quiet week with just me and the baby all day long. It was sometimes a dramatic shift and this is a sneaky thing that builds for a little bit. In the first few weeks the newborn just goes everywhere without opinion. Crawling and walking babies are tougher to accommodate.
Often I found myself juggling the needs of the older kids and the babies. There is no formula for this. Each family will do this their own way. For me what worked out eventually was simply that everybody was important and so we made each decision on it’s own. For high school graduation we all went. For a nighttime baseball game that was after bedtime the baby might not go. Sometimes the big kids went out to eat with dad while I chose to feed the baby and put her to bed. Other times that choice felt like I was left out and so my husband and I would talk about it.
Then we did it again with the next kid. The thing I want to share that I think is hopefully helpful is that we did it. Each addition of a kid was an exponential increase in details to manage. We had growing pains both times.
It was when the fourth kid was born that the scheduling issues pushed us to a breaking point and I have a joke that I ended up in marital counseling over the family calendar. It’s funny … but it’s also a true story.
A shift in who makes the decisions
After my daughter was born I was more involved in family decisions and there were a few issues that came up that needed to be resolved.
Before my baby was born…our baby…I followed the guidance to let the parents make the parenting decisions. Sounds nice, right. Except after my baby was born my husband continued to make the parenting decisions the same way. A few times that meant he made decisions with his first wife about me and our daughter.
Wait … what?
Let me clarify that this was never done with a bad intention. He was continuing to do things the way he had been doing them. None of these were over big things – schedules, food, travel dates and stuff like that. I don’t remember all of them but I do remember my husband telling me the plan for a weekend that he had discussed with his first wife and I was like… okay, no, we have other plans that you already committed to doing. When I pointed it out to him that he had made plans for me and his daughter with his first wife he immediately saw the problem. He just didn’t realize it in the moment because he was used to this as normal.
I also want to say that as I was asserting myself in my role as parent I could see how I had been a part of establishing this pattern that now needed changed. I had deferred to him for several years and just not been involved in these things because it was what I was advised to do to reduce conflict. Then it blew up in my face at this point. This is one of the reasons I don’t recommend not including the stepparent in discussions as a realistic long-term policy for a family.
As I began to assert myself in these situations what resulted was that we were creating the house rules and new culture and traditions for our blended family.
I encourage more blended families to share their stories of having more children
I think it’s really helpful to hear from others about their experiences expanding their families.