Things just aren't the same :((16 Posts)
I'm not sure if I should be posting in here or under mental health. I suppose I'm maybe just after some support and advice from other step mums who have had babies and how to deal with all the changes that come with it.
So to explain from the beginning: I met DP not that long after he had split with his ex, my DS was only a few months old (I'd split with his Dad whilst I was pregnant). DP has two children from his previous relationship and he treats my DS like his own.
I got to know his kids gradually and everything was great, they're lovely kids and we would always have lots of fun together. I would really look forward to the weekends they were coming to stay. I remember I would always tell my friends that I never knew it was possible to love someone else's children the way I love them.
But then things changed, I got pregnant. I really struggled through the pregnancy with the tiredness and I was just so poorly through pretty much all 9 months of it.
DP's ex started getting more difficult whilst I was pregnant too, we'd had problems with her when we first got together as she all of a sudden decided that she wanted him back and tried splitting us up and even told the children that it was my fault that their Mum and Dad weren't together (she left him, got her own house and I didn't know either of them at the time!)
So whilst I was pregnant she started being very demanding, would kick up a big fuss if he was 5 minutes late picking them up or couldn't get the days off work that she wanted him to have them in the holidays etc etc. He just couldn't do anything right and of course everything was all my fault!
Then I had baby and everything was OK-ish for the first few weeks and then I really started to struggle with everything and I ended up very poorly with postnatal depression and even ended up close to suicide. I just felt like I couldn't cope with everything and that I didn't want this life anymore.
I got help, I had mental health nurses coming out to me every day, I'm on medication and I've had counselling and I'm now pretty much on an even keel again. I have good days and bad days but I'd say I now have more good days than bad days.
The trouble now is, that since all this has happened I've lost interest in my DSC and I just don't feel the same, I don't look forward to seeing them. I know that sounds awful but it's not them who I have a problem with, it's the extra stress that surrounds them.
DP has been soooooooooo unbelievably understanding about it all and has done his best to help me out by taking them to his Mum's for most of the day or we've been going for days outs. I don't find it as stressful when we're all out somewhere, it's when we're at home n there's all the extra mess n cooking n the squabbles etc.
After baby was born n DP's X got awkward she had suddenly decided that she wasn't happy about the sleeping arrangements (we have 2 bedrooms and all 3 kids share 1 room and baby is still in our bedroom). So she decided that she didn't want the kids staying over anymore but now all of a sudden she's decided that actually it's oK for her kids to share a bedroom.
I know this may sound over dramatic but I get panicky at the thought of the kids staying over again. I know rationally that it's OK but I know that it's because the last time they were staying over I was in such a bad frame of mind and so it panics me that I might end up feeling like I did before. When I was explaining it to DP I compared it to a fear of the dentists. The dentist hurts you so you don't want to go back there in fear that the same will happen again.
But I know that I can't carry on like this forever, I need to sort this out for the sake of the kids and DP and I suppose for me as well.
I just want things to go back to how they used to be but I'm just not sure I can cope with everything that comes with it. I feel like I've got enough on my plate with my own two children, I can just about handle that at the moment but if I take on anything else at the moment I don't know if I'm just going to crumble again.
Maybe I just need to give it more time?
I've also wondered if the way I'm feeling is some kind of protective maternal instinct to protect my own children. ie mentally I know I can't cope with 4 kids so my mind has detatched itself from the ones which aren't biologically mine in an attempt to make sure that my own are properly looked after? I know that might sound daft but sometimes that's how it feels
btw I'm not a cow, I don't want to feel this way, I just want us to go back to being one big happy family x
and un-MN'y hugs x
Perhaps, right now, being one big happy family isn't achievable? Just like if you had broken your leg, and you wanted to go back to running marathons because you love it - but your leg isn't up to it yet?
You are still recovering from your illness - one that can't been seen, or show up in any blood test - but you are still recovering; and you can hold on to the thought that one day, you will be able to run that marathon again, just not yet!
Stepparenting is hard - far, far harder than parenting in my experience - and you are on a journey of recovery during which the hard things may take a bit longer to reach - but don't give up!
I have no experience of step-parenting but have had PND to a similar degree as yourself. I found that anything not directly related to my DCs, my DH and, to a very much lesser degree, the house went absolutely out of the window. Even the housework was absolute basics so clutter built up.
I just couldn't, COULDN'T do anything else. It was survival. So I absolutely understand. I was also very wary of taking too much on even after I felt better. I still am, if I'm honest. It sounds like you have a supportive DP so hopefully he can protect you from the stress. Do the DSC have to stay overnight? Could you not all continue with things how they have been and just keep to the day visits? It sounds like it's quite early days in your recovery at the moment so I would be wary of change at the moment if you possibly can. Wishing you all the best.
Thanks for the support, I was half expecting to get slated for not being a 'perfect stepmum' lol.
Fourbears, yes when I was very bad I couldn't do any housework, I once even had to get DP to come home to wash the bottles. It sounds so pathetic now but I was getting all stressed at just the thought of having to do more than one thing at a time. All I could do was look after the kids. I was actually alright at looking after them but the second anything else was thrown in to the equation then I was an emotional wreck.
No they don't have to stay over yet but I feel bad that DP's ex is now offering to let him have them overnight and it's me who's now stopping it.
It's been about 6 months since I first got poorly so I feel like things should be getting more back to normal by now. I suppose it worries me that I just don't have any desire to see them or do things with them. I'm doing it but because I have to, not because I want to. I think often though the thought of it is actually worse than the reality. Sometimes I wont be looking forward to doing something with them and then we actually have a really nice time.
I think if we were to start the over night stays I can't then turn round and say "oh actually this isn't working out for me, we'll have to stop it again" because that's just not fair on anybody.
DP is very understanding but he doesn't totally 'get' it, but how can you if you've not been through it yourself?
Only a couple of weeks ago he was being very understanding about the fact that I don't feel ready to start over night stays yet and was so sweet and lovely about it but then this week he's been pressuring me to let DSC come camping with us this week. It's the first time we've ever been, it's going to be stressful enough with 2 kids, to take the DSC too would mean us having to take 2 separate cars, go out and buy extra airbeds and sleeping bags etc at the last minute, it means extra cooking on a 2 ring gas camping stove, it would mean more chance of baby being woken up in the night and I know she's gonna scream half the night because she's not in her cot (she hates sleeping anywhere other than her own cot).
But DP has just gone on and on about how he really wants them to come on this trip. In the end we've compromised that they won't come this time but if it goes OK then MAYBE on the next one.
So yes he can be understanding but if he really understood then he wouldn't have been pressuring me to let them come camping.
Sweetpea, do you have anyone who could maybe help explain things to your DH so he maybe can 'get it' and take the pressure off you a little? It's going to be counter productive to do things you aren't ready for too soon, and then slip back further in your recovery. Maybe one of the health care workers you deal with or someone you are close to who had been supporting you? I think you need to discuss coping strategies first with your counsellor etc. before you commit to something you are finding difficult because of your illness. Your DH isn't best placed to know when you are ready so he needs someone to explain that to him, if you aren't able to express it.
I'm no longer seeing my counsellor or the mental health nurses as I've been signed off from them but last time I saw my GP he suggested that I take DP in with me the next time I go and I've discussed it with DP and he's happy to come. My GP is fantastic, he's newly qualified and I think the new GP's must receive a lot of training on depression, he really seems to understand and care.
I do feel like I'm usually OK at talking to DP about how I feel and especially since I've started to feel OK-ish again I'm now pretty good at expressing my feelings. I used to just get mad and tell him to F off but now we're able to talk properly. But sometimes it's as though he's listening but not really taking it on and lately I've been wondering if I'm just being stubborn and unreasonable. But then I know it's not unreasonable of me to put my health and my kids first. After all, it's not as though my DSC aren't seeing their Dad or being involved in our family, it's just not quite as perfect as it would be in an ideal world.
Has your DP considered counselling for himself? It's very, very hard living with someone whose suffering from any chronic illness - and I can't imagine the conflict he must be feeling at the moment; he feels the same about all three of his DCs as you do about your own, but he knows it will cause you additional suffering if he insists on the opportunity to parent his DCs in a traditional way.
Perhaps your GP would refer him?
He sounds like he's doing his best to understand but it's difficult unless you've been there.
He loves his children as much as you love yours so it's natural that he wants them to have fun along with your own DC and the child you have together.
If you really feel you can't cope maybe suggest he takes them camping without you and your DCs.
If he's prepared to help out then having his children overnight may not be the problem you think it will be. It's his home as well and natural that he'd want all his children there.
I hope you continue to get better.
sweetpea, that sounds like a good idea, and maybe one you could suggest in light of your DH's hopes that his DC are going to stay over soon/go camping. Things you need to discuss with your DH/GP could be how you recognise when things are getting too much/triggering symptoms , how to express that so your DH knows you need help/support/intervene with the DC/DSC, and the things you need him to do when that happens. If your GP is involved with those discussions I think it might help your DH to understand what is needed from him so you both have the chance to see how you cope with things a little bit at a time. Like you say, he's still spending time with the DSC, the format of that might not quite be how he wants things but I'm sure you'll both know when that time arrives if he is involved in discussing the coping strategies and responses to you struggling, with you and your GP. And as china says, if the discussions highlight the fact your DH also needs some help/support, he'll be ideally placed to speak about that too, either with you or separately.
Good luck, I hope your recovery continues
"it's not them who I have a problem with, it's the extra stress that surrounds them."
"it's just not quite as perfect as it would be in an ideal world"
Sweetpead - I actually nodded when I read the two above comments of yours! I think most step parent's with a difficult "ex" can relate to the above! It doesn't make you a bad person, it's perfectly normal, from what I've heard/read and from my own experience.
Have you got family of your own or close friends nearby? As Morgause says, could your husband go camping on his own with his kids?
I can totally see why your husband is really keen for his children to stay and share your lives, but equally if you were convalescing from a serious physical illness, you'd have get back to normal at a rate that didn't make you ill again, and the same is true for depression.
I think if that was me I might even want to sit down with my husband and write a 'recovery plan' that found ways to integrate his kids into your lives in a way that was gentler on you to start off with, and also ways that he could protect you from his ex if she acts up again.
He sounds like a decent man, and it might really help to soothe potential anxieties he might have if he understands that a) you really are committed to your stepchildren in the long term and are thinking about how you'll manage that b) If you are hesitant now, it is because you are committed to recovering, not avoiding things.
Thank you so much everybody for your very kind words and your support. The past few months have been quite lonely in the sense that I haven't had many people who I can talk to who have really understood me. I am very close to my Mum and she is very supportive but she has never been a stepmum and the same for my closest friends too. And I don't really discuss my depression with many other people.
Anyway, we've just got from camping and it was great and it's done wonders for mine an DP's relationship, I really feel like we've managed to get a lot closer over the past few days so hopefully that will help with me being able to open up and help him to understand my feeling better.
Bunch I really like your suggestions about recognising the triggers etc, I think it would really help me to know that if things get too much I can just have a pre-agreement with DP that if I'm struggling I can just say or do a certain thing so that he knows to step in.
It's funny cos I've come back from our little camping trip all chilled out an even just reading the posts about the step kids and our future together gets me all panicky, I feel my anxiety rising as I'm reading.
It's also not helped that whilst we were away my phone broke so I've been sharing DP's and I've read the texts that his ex has been sending him. I know I should just let it go over my head and not care but I hate that she speaks to him like shit. I hate that she uses the kids as a weapon the way she does.
But then I read between the lines a little more and I'm sure she's still in love with him, on the nice texts she's being super nice and putting kisses at the end and then on others she's being a real cow to him.
She just seems to be obsessed with him, she's got people spying on us and reporting everything that we do back to her, checking things on facebook etc.
I just wish she'd F off and leave us alone!!! It's this kind of extra stress that the kids bring that I hate!
PS I have suggested that DP takes the kids camping on his own but after this weekend it has become apparent that it would be impossible with the tent we have as it's very difficult to put up (even with 2 adults!). But maybe in the future they could, tbh I'd quite enjoy a bit of 'me' time.
sweetpea If you can, I suggest you disengage from your DPs interactions with his ex; it won't help your recovery at all and from experience I know how stressful it is.
When my DP and his ex were at loggerheads I explained to DP that while I supported him, I could not be a sounding board where he could offload about his ex; and that included not seeing, reading or hearing about texts, emails, letters etc. I explained it was colouring my view of the DSC and that it wasn't healthy.
He found support elsewhere to vent about her which meant I had the capacity to support him with the practical stuff and we did parenting classes together.
China you're so right. TBH DP doesn't usually tell me anything about the ex because he knows that she winds me up, he only needs to mention her name and it pisses me off. But then sometimes that causes more problems. DP doesn't have much common sense (male thing?) and sometimes if he just told me what was going on I could suggest a resolution to their disputes.
You're so right about it colouring your view of the DSC though, when I read all these nasty texts she'd sent DP my first reaction was "I don't want anything to do with DSC, they're not worth all this". That sounds awful doesn't it? I didn't say that to DP, I just waited till I'd calmed down and then discussed it with him sensibly.
DP's phone is actually my phone, I took the contract out for him due to his crap credit rating so I'm tempted to just change the number and insist that all contact is made via email or through his Mum so that I don't ever see or hear the constant abuse/contradictions/utter BS text messages. Would that be going OTT?
No, not at all - whatever works for you!
You don't have to facilitate anything; he's a big boy and can deal with this himself - and if that means no phone contact, or a separate PAYG phone just for her to call/text, then he certainly wouldn't be alone in that decision!
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