In an excerpt from Rebecca Eckler’s new book, Blissfully Blended Bullsh*t, she writes, “I think it would be a kind gesture – an olive branch if you will – to invite her over to the house.”
The only people Boyfriend and I have told about the baby is our children and our parents (and now Rowan’s dad.) We want to keep it a secret until we’re out of the first trimester. I’m superstitious like many women. We’ve asked the kids to keep our secret, though when we are all together, we spend hours, deliriously discussing potential baby names, wondering if it will be a girl or boy, talking about whether we want a boy or girl, and how we should decorate the baby’s room.
Boyfriend and I, it turns out, are fucking living in a delusional world, one where young girls can actually keep secrets.
Since I’ve already made one uncomfortable phone call, I figured why not make ‘em all?! I had asked Boyfriend for his ex-wife’s phone number, explaining that I don’t just want to tell her about the pregnancy. I also think it would be a kind gesture – an olive branch if you will – to invite her over to the house, where her two children will be living half of the time. I figure that would be the respectful thing to do. She should hear that I’m pregnant from me first. It’s better than coming from Boyfriend, who can barely remain civil when talking to her these days.
It doesn’t occur to me that news of me being knocked up by her ex might not land well. Unlike my daughter’s father and me, who managed to work out a separation agreement via our lawyers over lunch, Boyfriend is still in an ugly battle with his soon-to-be-ex-wife. My pitbull divorce lawyer is the one who first suggested that I call his ex, with the hopes it will move their divorce along quicker. She thinks if I call Boyfriend’s ex, it may make things better, if she and I could at least be civil to each other, and on the same page raising her children. I should have remembered that the advice came from a lawyer, not a therapist. Ugh.
I want Boyfriend’s ex to know that if she ever has a problem, she can always call me to discuss. And, if she’s ever worried about her children, when they are with us, she is welcome to reach out. Boyfriend is impressed that I’m being so mature – I had a pop tart for dinner last night – and gives me her number. Now that I got telling my ex out of the way, you’d think I’d be well practised and more confident making this call. I’m not. When she picks up, I say my name, knowing I sound like a bumbling idiot. She knows exactly who I am.
“First, I just want to let you know that I’m pregnant,” I start. Seems like a reasonable way to begin the conversation, no? Radio silence follows.
“Yes, I know,” she responds. Then, another pregnant pause. I hate pregnant pauses! So I continue with my speech.
“Also, I wanted to know if you’d like to come over to the house to see where and how your girls are living when they aren’t with you?” I continue.
My voice wobbles. I’m as nervous as fuck, my heart is beating a mile a minute. This is the same feeling I get when a when a police officer pulls me over for speeding, or because of my outdated sticker on my licence plate. Like any dealings with the police, I feel the need to immediately say I’m sorry, agree with everything they say, and cry. I just know the rest of this call is gonna suck. This woman, after all, has the power to make our lives hell. Why do I feel like apologizing? I didn’t steal Boyfriend away from her. I just hooked up with him and am starting a new life with her old husband. But she sounds, I’m not sure…pissed? Annoyed? Aggravated?
Boy, I was naive to think that Boyfriend’s children would respect our wishes to keep the news of my pregnancy to themselves. It’s made pretty fucking clear in this back and forth that the girls’ loyalties are with their mother. At this moment, I see where I stand in this hierarchy; at the bottom. Warmth definitely does not ooze from her tone. I can hear the clenched jaw and feel her cut eyes. My hand holding the phone is freezing – such is the chill I feel over the line.
I don’t hold my breath waiting for a hearty congratulations. She seems as interested in seeing the house, and hearing that I’m pregnant, as a child in the back seat of the car on the twentieth hour of a road trip. Disapproval seeps through the phone. Or maybe it’s not disapproval. Maybe it’s just a total lack of fucks. Either way, after I make the call, I’m not expecting her to show up with a bottle of wine for us to share any time soon. There will be no future scenes of us leaning over my kitchen counter, laughing about Boyfriend’s quirks.
I find it slightly bizarre she seems to have no intention or inclination to take me up on my invitation to see where her girls will be living part-time. I kind of admire her for not seeming to care. But I’m equally baffled and dumbfounded. If she’s looking to hurt me, her weapon is indifference.
If my ex invited me to meet a serious girlfriend, one that is going to move in with him, and who would be a big part of my daughter’s life, there’s no way I’d turn down the invitation. I’m way too curious. Why wouldn’t Boyfriend’s ex-wife want to visit so she could have the opportunity to size me up and judge me? Doesn’t she have any feelings about the changes that her children are going through? If she does, she doesn’t share them with me.
“When we first blended,’ a friend tells me, “we constantly argued about the amount of phone calls his ex made to him daily.” I hear this a lot. So maybe I should be relieved, if anything, about her indifference. I give her what she wants most; an out.
“Well, the invitation is always open,” I say when it’s clear the call is going nowhere and, like that, the call is over. I’m pretty sure she pressed ‘end’ before I said ‘bye.’ Whatever. I did the best I could. I followed my lawyer’s advice. I was attempting to be the Bigger Person.
“The truest thing about blended families is that saying, “You’re marrying the ex,’’ my girlfriend tells me over the phone after I relay the mostly one-sided conversation I had with Boyfriend’s ex. “I realized very early on that if I was going to have a happy, easy family life I was going to have to find a way to get her to trust me. I wouldn’t say we’re best friends now, but we are friendly and respectful. It’s been hugely helpful in opening up lines of communication after what was a very painful divorce for both my husband and his ex.”
At least I can say I tried, right? Maybe she’ll like me someday. Today, though, is not that day. If nothing else came out of that call, one very valuable lesson did. Do not tell Boyfriend’s children anything that I don’t want their mother to know.
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