Este post esta disponible en Español: De hijastro a hermano major.

Deciding to have a baby and growing a family is no easy task. Preparing for such a change no matter the age is a task that can go really well or can go south fast and furious, creating lots of drama along the way. I mean, have you seen the YouTube videos of kids reactions when finding out the news that they are about to have a sibling.

As a step mother I had so many questions. I didn’t know the proper steps I needed to take to ensure Kiki felt included, loved, and prepared for the change. I worried, perhaps too much, and had way too much anxiety about it but that’s just how I am.

I worried that he wouldn’t love his brother as much as he would if the baby came from the same mom and dad. I worried that he would think I would love this baby more than him because he (Kiki) is not  biologically mine.  I worried that he would feel left out. I worried period.  

I promised myself to work extra hard to ensure he would never feel left out, never feel as an outsider, and most importantly, I wanted him to know that biology does and will not ever matter in our family. I wanted to make sure he understood that he is fully loved, included, and forever my son.

Our journey was never a picture perfect story even though I felt It started like one and ended like one, but in between it was one heck of a roller coaster ride.  

It started with a Christmas card when Kiki was 4yrs old, “Dear Santa, I want a brother this Christmas”. At that time we were not married, I was focused on building my career and not ready to have a child yet, but we thought it was cute that he asked and simply brushed it off.

Fast forward one year, the following Christmas, the same plead to Santa. “Please bring me a baby brother or sister”. At this point he didn’t care if it was a boy or girl, he wanted a sibling. We asked why, and he said he wanted to have someone to play with. Our excuse, play with the neighbor, he is also an only child, he’s your age and your friend. You can be like brothers.

When we started trying, we figured they would be a few years apart but not too wide of a gap that they could still play with each other. If you read my infertility story, little did we know that it was going to take a long time before that wish would become a reality.

Another Christmas comes around and I’m sitting with Kiki writing his letter to Santa. Once again he asks about a brother and I say “just ask Santa”. His answer: “but I keep asking him every year and he doesn’t bring it”. I felt awful, and heartbroken because at that time we had already started trying and things were just not happening. Deep inside it was my wish for Santa too.

Years pass, surgeries come and go to treat this mysterious infertility and his wish for a brother fades away while mine keeps growing stronger. Time passes and he no longer wants a sibling. He was older and had gotten used to playing solo or with his friends and having our full attention.

You see, Kiki and I had become very close through the years, especially since I had started working from home and pursuing my freelance career as a digital marketer.

While sitting on his bed during one of our nightly talks, I mentioned to him that we were going to the doctor so that we could have a baby. I did not expect the reaction I got at all. It was total rejection, panic, even anger.

“Having a new baby in a stepfamily can be a happy time, but it is also one that can trigger all sorts of unpredictable feelings and responses in a stepfamily”. – Familylives.org

The days pass and all throughout the inseminations, doctor appointments, and procedures we kept mentioning the idea of having a baby.

I was in full panic mode that he was so against the idea now. I kept trying to peek into his world during our nightly talks and ask questions as to why he didn’t want a brother anymore. I needed to fix this. All I would get was excuses such as “the baby will use all of my toys” or  “I am already too old for a brother to play with”.

I had to get to the bottom of this, I even asked my psychologist to help me figure it out, and I asked for support from my “village” (my mommy friends from the neighborhood who are my sanity, my support system, and my sisters). The more we asked, the more we noticed panic in his voice. A panic that told me the issue for not wanting a baby brother or sister was deeper than just a baby playing with his toys. A panic he couldn’t really vocalize, but deeply felt.

The night before insemination number three, we had just finished dinner when Kiki asks for a cup of water. All the cups were in the dishwasher being washed so I hand him a wine glass and asked him to be very careful because it’s glass, Kiki was just excited to pretend to be a grown up.

At that moment, I told my husband it was time. I needed an injection to get ready for the procedure the next day and I wasn’t going to give it to myself. I am too chicken to do it so it was his husband duty to perform such task.

Kiki is watching what’s going on and totally freaks out. He goes into full panic mode, not because he is afraid of injections, but because this meant a baby was closer to reality and he just didn’t want one.

He is watching while drinking out of the glass and he is holding it so tight that he somehow bites it so hard that he breaks it – with his lips still touching the glass! He cuts his lip, he’s freaking out, and crying in a full panic with blood all over his lip.

After cleaning up the broken glass, checking his lip, and having a pep talk before putting him to bed, I can’t help but feel sad and guilty and full of anxiety about his feelings. He has gone through so much, and I have always been his safe place. I felt I was taking that away from him, but we wanted a baby, we wanted to grow the family. We wanted to give that gift of a sibling.

Fast forward to December and my neighbor who had infertility issues herself has a baby. Her older son, who is about the same age as Kiki is super excited and starts talking to Kiki about how they are both going to be big brothers soon (I am not pregnant at that time because insemination #3 didn’t work).

I’m not sure how many conversations or what was said between the two of them but it changed his perception. It changed everything. His attitude towards the idea of having a sibling was now positive and he actually started getting excited about it. Thank heaven for neighbors!

Finally a few months pass and God gives me the miracle of pregnancy.

Our nightly conversations continue, and instead of me trying to figure out why he doesn’t want a brother and how I could change his mind, our conversations turned into planning, daydreaming and excitement about who the baby will look like, what kind of outfits we’ll be dressing him in and how life will be with a new baby.

He still had a lot of feelings bottled up inside, and during those nine months those feelings he had hiding deep in his heart started to come out.

He did in fact worry about not being biologically mine and the fact that this baby is.

A fear of abandonment also came to light.

Comments would come up randomly during our walks, or at night, like how lucky Manny is inside my belly and how he wished he was the one inside.

I aimed to calm every fear, every comment and every doubt with love and assurance and plenty of hugs and kisses. I made sure to include him as much as possible during the pregnancy. I read a lot about how to prepare Kids for siblings and even then I still wasn’t sure if I was doing enough or saying the right things.

Almost one year later I’m happy to say that it melts my heart to see that Kiki and Manny have a beautiful brotherly bond. They see each other and smile with a smile that you don’t see them give to anyone else. I love that Kiki is older and is a great helper and that Manny, even at his 10 months already wants to be just like his big brother.

I still have to work on calming those fears and feelings every so often. I still ensure him that he is my son no matter which oven he was cooked in, especially when he compares his baby years to Manny’s. I constantly remind him that we have built a strong loving relationship and the love we have for each other is what makes us family and it’s what makes me his mom.  

Step-mothering might have never occurred to me as I was growing up, and it might not be the easiest job, but I can honestly say I love the family we have created, and even though we have to work daily to ensure everyone feels accepted and loved for, this is us, this is our journey and we make it work.