I am so proud to introduce Gini to you all today. Her post is so powerful today about how different motherhood is for her. Today she tackles custody battles, step-parenting, & most of all the love she has for her two girls & her husband. Enjoy & please leave her some comment love. Or better yet, stop by her place and say hello!
Hi! I’m Gini and I tell tales of all things life over at The McGlothin Family Nest: love and marriage, our faith in the Lord and how it sustains us, babies and parenthood, balancing work and family and tons of pictures of our adorable girls. I emailed Kate a week or so ago and told her I really needed some inspiration. I was drawing a blank on what to write about. My blog is about my life, but what do I write about on someone else’s blog?
Well, Kate said I could still blog about my life, even though I’m in her house. So thanks, Kate for the hospitality. But where do I begin? Probably on the day I married my husband and best friend, Luke. He completes me in places I didn’t even know I was lacking. He is the most amazing partner to me and father to our girls that I could ever ask for. And speaking of our girls, one of them is not technically mine.
So yes, right from the beginning, my version of Mommyhood detours from white picket fences. When I married Luke, I also became a step-mother to the most beautiful angel, Bella. Only three years old at the time, Bella held my heart in the palm of her hand, and I learned that you really can love another person more than words can describe. And I also learned that the thought of losing that person can tear that heart in half. Bella’s mother got married six weeks after Bella was born and has moved her all over the country trying to keep Luke away from his sweet daughter. They’ve been in Jacksonville, Chicago, San Diego and are now in Hawaii. (While Luke and Bella’s mother were never married, he has been in her life since she was born.)
Then, as I learned that I was meant to be a mother, even if it was a step-mother, Bella’s step-father filed a motion in Probate Court to adopt her. Yes, the same place that handles the estates of dead people can decide if the father of a now four-year old girl will ever see her again. Luke and I don’t have lawyers. Long story short- his first lawyer agreed to something in court that Luke was whole-heartedly against- and from then on, Luke vowed to never let anyone else speak for him when it came to Bella.
So the two of us, with the support and prayers of our amazing families, went to court to fight for her (and I know you may think fight is a strong word not to be used when speaking about another human being, but it’s definitely what it felt like… the fight of our lives.) I testified, Luke cross-examined, her mother and step-father said Bella would be better off without us in her life, but the judge decided that Bella’s step-father could not adopt her. Bella had a father that was more than willing to provide for her and desired to be a prominent fixture in her life. Score. We thought we were done.
Nope, they appealed the decision to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, so we spent the next summer filing briefs and motions and never even allowing ourselves to think the verdict may be reversed. Again, the appellate court ruled in our favor. Bella had a father and she could not be adopted by another man. So, now we’re done, right? Now I can focus on our family and possibly even adding to it? Now I can stop having nightmares that we will never see Bella again?
Wrong again. They again appealed the decision, this time to the Supreme Court of Alabama citing the Probate Court exercised judicial misconduct when it ruled Bella’s father should not be eliminated from her life. I know it sounds ridiculous, but they maintained the argument that if we truly loved Bella, we would let her go. And they did all of this knowing that there was no way that was ever going to happen. Luke and I were never going to give up. Never.
And if this wasn’t enough, they told us they were moving to Hawaii. Bella’s step-father is in the Navy and his orders required they be stationed at Pearl Harbor. (We would later learn in court that they had requested to move there.) So if the courts wouldn’t take Bella away from Luke, they were determined to put 5,000 miles between father and daughter. We filed a motion to prevent this move, but the court actually had other advice for us. The judge was infuriated to learn that her step-father had attempted to circumvent the family court’s order by trying to adopt Bella in Probate Court and now they were taking her half-way around the world. He told Luke to file for custody of Bella.
What? Fathers almost never get custody of a child when the mother isn’t dead or in prison. But we thought if the judge told us to file for custody of Bella, then we might actually have a chance. And while we would love to have Bella with us full-time, our motion for custody was joint. We didn’t want to take Bella away from her mother like she had taken her away from us. We just wanted to see her more than a few weeks a year and to stop spending about that much time travelling back and forth to bring her here and then home again.
But we also decided this would no longer prevent us from growing our family. The two of us lived more than ten months a year without children, and we knew we wanted more. It’s not that Bella wasn’t enough, but we always knew we would have more children and we shouldn’t wait any longer. So we ditched the pill (or as my friends say- “removed the goalie”) and the next month we were expecting.
I got lucky that the morning sickness was gone by the time Bella arrived for her Summer 2009 visit. I had also recently been laid off, so while no one was hiring (and especially hiring pregnant ladies) I spent the six weeks at home with my angel. Bella rubbed my belly constantly, talking to the baby and tell her all of things she would teach her one day. It was a great bonding experience and an awesome way to involve Bella in our growing family.
After three delays by Bella’s mother, we finally headed into our custody trial just one week before Claire was to be born. But the judge seemed to forget how angry he was ten months earlier at their outrageous attempts to take Bella away from us. He seemed to think we couldn’t work together well enough to sustain joint custody. And he denied the very thing he told us to file for. It was heartbreaking, but we have full faith in God’s plan for us and for Bella.
On the brighter side, the Supreme Court of Alabama didn’t even agree to hear the adoption case, much less reverse the decision. But now Bella will know that her mother and step-father spent over two and half years trying to eliminate us from her life, and that makes me sad. We want to think the best of our parents, and I don’t look forward to the day she learns this. And I can guarantee it won’t be from us. It’s too hard, it hurts too bad and it wouldn’t do anybody any good.
We have accepted the time we get to share as a family of four, and Bella is adjusting to Claire very well. She loves taking a bath with her, reading to her and playing peek-a-boo. While my version of mommyhood is nothing like I pictured it would be, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
You can find out more about us over at The McGlothin Family Nest, and we hope you’ll fly by! Thanks again for your hospitality Kate. The tea and scones were delightful.