(Back in the 1980’s, True Love Magazine had a monthly essay contest for its readers. The theme was, The Life I Live. Here is the winner of the April 1980 issue.)
When my husband and I were just married, I had the most wonderful feeling of everything being brand new. Together, we found a new apartment in a new neighborhood. We shopped for new furniture. Everything for us would have nothing to do with our lives in the past.
But there was one sharp reminder from the past that could not be ignored —my husband’s eight-year old daughter from his first marriage.
From the start, I kept telling myself there would be no problems because of Wendy. She was a quiet child with dark, wide-open eyes that gave her a look of great innocence. I wanted to be her friend, but I couldn’t help feeling that the love my husband gave her, somehow took away from what I jealously thought should be all mine. Wendy lived with her mother, but when she visited us on weekends, I felt that it was an invasion of our privacy.
When I became pregnant, I wanted all of my husband’s attention. I resented the time he spent with Wendy. He constantly told me he loved me, but that he also loved his daughter. It was a different kind of love, he said, and he hoped I would understand.
My husband was with me during my long labor, when our son was born. We were delighted with our perfect little baby. Then, when I was back home, I became totally involved in caring for this new little member of the family.When Wendy came over, my husband kept referring to the baby as Wendy’s little brother. Of course, I couldn’t deny their relationship, but something inside me kept insisting that it Wasn’t so.My husband seemed delighted when Wendy hovered over the baby, and tried to play with him,. But my attitude must have caused her to back off, and Wendy took less and less part in whatever was going on.
One day, my husband irritably told me I had become so completely wrapped up in our son, that I wasn’t aware of him anymore. I was shocked and angry. I told him he was stupid not to see that my love for the baby had nothing to do with him —it was different.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!” he exclaimed, and stalked out of the room.
I was still upset, when Wendy came over the following Saturday afternoon. She ran right into the baby’s room and hovered over the crib. “Hi, little brother,” she said, smiling broadly. Then, she quickly looked over at me, to see if I approved. Very soon, she went back to her usual withdrawn manner.
After a while, she put her head against her daddy’s chest. He put his arms around her. Suddenly, I saw her in a completely different light than I ever had before. If she was the cause of strained feelings between my husband and me, it certainly wasn’t because of any harmful intention on her part. She was just a confused little girl, who desperately needed her father’s love. I knew then, that I had been wrong.
I went over to her, and added my arms to hug her tightly. She looked up, and, with tears in her eyes, she relaxed against me. My eyes were damp too, and I heard my husband sniffing.
I looked at him. He was again the same loving man I had married. I understood now that the love he had for his daughter did not make him love me less. I felt very lucky to find that out, before it was too late.
I will always try to make him know, that no matter how devoted I am to our child, my love for him will just keep getting stronger.Then we stood around the crib—my husband, Wendy, and I—smiling at the baby and at each other. We are four, not three. Wendy will always be a part of the family—and I feel good about it.