I met my husband just over three years ago. Before we started dating, I knew he had children, but I was so fascinated by him, that didn't matter.
As our relationship grew more serious, I met the kids when they were 1.5 years old and spent time with them on the weekends.
Once I graduated from college we had some loose plans, all of which involved our hope that someday the kids would live with us full time. They had something like a shared parenting agreement prior to that. (Their arrangements were a disaster, but that is really inconsequential.)
Two years ago today, I left work early to head to the eye doctor, and I had my phone turned off. Afterward, I got to my car and checked my voice mail. At the time I didn't realize, exactly what that message meant, but it changed my life forever.
In my voice mail was a panicked message from my now husband, who was driving to the hospital where his, now our, children were in the emergency room after having fallen out of their bedroom window on the third floor of their mothers apartment at the time.
Yes, you read that correctly, they fell 21 feet to the grass below.
There was some time that passed then before I could get a hold of him again because of the chaos that it caused. I went straight to my best friend at the time's home to be with her and her family. I spent the better part of the evening crying, worrying, and waiting to hear something, anything.
Later that night, I got confirmation that they were doing alright, but were being transferred to the children's hospital in our area. As they were being transported in the ambulance, I drove there to meet them.
I don't remember too much about what happened when I got there that evening. I know I sat in the room with one who's injuries were less severe so he could go be with the other.
I know it was one of many late nights that week, and we/I got amazing support from our families, friends, co-workers. We were both very blessed to have people in our lives who were flexible and supportive through the whole ordeal.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, we continued to discover the reality of the conditions that our children were living in. The police and children services were quickly involved after their mother had driven them to the hospital after their fall. Some time during that evening her apartment was inspected.
Their bedroom was found to be in terrible conditions. Their walls and floors were covered in old, dried feces. There was a very large pile of dirty and poopy laundry that had never been washed; there was broken and splintered furniture. There was a lock on the outside of their door. And it was clear that they were being neglected. Just thinking about my children, any children, living in such living conditions breaks my heart and bring tears to my eyes.
With these discoveries, began lots of involvement from Children Services. All three boys were placed in my no husband's temporary full custody. (Yes, I said there, there will be another post explaining child number 3.)
For some time, their mother was permitted no contact with them.
Then for a period of time, we were required to take the kids to their mother's required rehabilitation parenting class. I am not one to judge, but after dropping those kids off their the first time, I cried, not only for my children, but for all the other children that were there regardless of their situation. Some were sad, some cried to leave their parents, and it was all heart-breaking.
After months of court hearings and paperwork, my now husband was finally given full custody of the twins. Their mother is responsible for child support and has limited visitation rights. She is permitted to see them for 2 hours every two weeks, supervised by us. And often times, those are the hardest two hours of my week.
She has shown little to no remorse for her actions, and her actions towards her children often shock me. I understand and appreciate different personalities and different styles of parenting, but at the same time, I cannot comprehend her actions as a mother. I may not be the biological mother to any living children, but as a loving step-mother, I still cannot understand it.
We still struggle with the challenges that come with a blended family and the unique situation that is ours, but we are learning, we are adapting, and we are a strong family of four.
I hope my boys grow up to have an understanding of what happened so early in their life. To appreciate the blessings they were given, and be loving, honest, and respectful men. But while I have great hopes for them, I know there will be challenges ahead. I know they will have questions, and I know they may not understand everything, and the thought of these tough conversations to come scares me to no end, but my boys will know the truth about what's happened, and we will find a way through as a family. I believe we will be stronger because of it.