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Other Mothers – Chapter 1 – My Story

Chapter 1 – My Story (Part 1)
The answers to all those questions many of you wonder about.
(Read Intro here)

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” – Mark Twain

Answering the question: Do you have kids? Has always been a bit challenging for me. Yes, I have kids but my story is complicated.

Yes, I have kids but my story is complicated.

I am a lesbian other mother. I raised three wonderful kids whom I did not birth. My partner/wife, Celia is the birth mom. I inherited the kids when I moved in with her. I was 25, the kids were 5, 3 and 2. Our relationship was a bit of a scandal, there’s even a book written about it: The Sum of our Days by Isabel Allende. Isabel is our kid’s grandmother, on their father’s side.Sometimes I sit back and wonder how I ended up in this unique, non-traditional family unit. It is amazing how choices you make when you are in your 20’s can significantly affect the rest of your life and so many other people’s lives as well. I was all over the place in my 20’s. I went from being on a fairly traditional path to a very non-traditional one. I was a

Sometimes I sit back and wonder how I ended up in this unique, non-traditional family unit. It is amazing how choices you make when you are in your 20’s can significantly affect the rest of your life and so many other people’s lives as well. I was all over the place in my 20’s. I went from being on a fairly traditional path to a very non-traditional one. I was a 23 year old, recent college graduate, engaged to a man, and was planning a traditional wedding that was going to happen in the beautiful Napa Valley. He was going to be a writer; I was going to be a social worker working with teenage runaways. We had discussed adopting underprivileged children, sometime in the future.

After we graduated from college we moved from Orange County (my home town) to Marin County (his home town). I had always dreamed of moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. We moved here right around the same time his step-brother and sister-in-law moved here from Venezuela. Since we didn’t know any other young couples around here we spent a lot of time with them. His sister-in-law, Celia and I become close friends. She was busy caring for and having babies. I loved babies so I spent a lot of time helping with the kids. After living with my fiancé for a few months, I started to realize marrying him was not the right thing for me. I called off the wedding and moved out. Celia and I stayed close friends. She and her husband even helped me out when I first left the relationship. In exchange for child care, they let me stay at their house for a while so I could get back on my feet financially. Celia’s husband often worked late so Celia and I spent a lot of time together in the afternoons and evenings caring for the children. We became even closer friends. After about 3 months, I moved out of their house and in with roommates. Celia and I missed each other terribly. We still saw each other regularly because we were both working for her mother-in-law (my ex-almost-mother-in-law to be). I was working there on top of my

After living with my fiancé for a few months, I started to realize marrying him was not the right thing for me. I called off the wedding and moved out. Celia and I stayed close friends. She and her husband even helped me out when I first left the relationship. In exchange for child care, they let me stay at their house for a while so I could get back on my feet financially. Celia’s husband often worked late so Celia and I spent a lot of time together in the afternoons and evenings caring for the children. We became even closer friends. After about 3 months, I moved out of their house and in with roommates. Celia and I missed each other terribly. We still saw each other regularly because we were both working for her mother-in-law (my ex-almost-mother-in-law to be). I was working there on top of my

After about 3 months, I moved out of their house and in with roommates. Celia and I missed each other terribly. We still saw each other regularly because we were both working for her mother-in-law (my ex-almost-mother-in-law to be). I was working there on top of my full-time preschool teaching job to make ends meet. One night we planned a girl’s night out with some other friends. We went bar hopping in San Francisco and drank a little too much. Celia called her husband, who was home with the kids and said she was going to spend the night at my house in San Francisco because she shouldn’t be driving home, he said of course. That is the night we realized we were in love. Nothing happened, we were just joking around as young women often do and kissed each other. After that kiss… our lives were changed forever. It was mutual and it was confusing. Neither of us had ever been with women before, she was married and I used to be engaged to her husband’s step-brother, and we were both working for her mother-in-law. It was a mess. We decided it, whatever it was could not happen but then the following week being away from each other was so painful we got physically ill (the power of young love).  We told Celia’s husband and his whole extended Latino family what was happening. We also told my ex. Celia’s husband took it better than my ex, he had to, kids were involved. The 3 of us went to counseling together, the 2 of them went to marriage counseling, I went to counseling, Celia went to counseling, the whole extended Latino family went to counseling, the kids went to counseling, my ex went to counseling, a lot of therapists got rich that year. Celia and her husband decided to get separated, Celia and I decided to stay together. It was a complicated, painful way to start a relationship.

Falling in love with my sister-in-law-to-be, realizing I was a lesbian, and being partially responsible for the breakup of a marriage and family was not fun. I am not sure what was more difficult, going through the drama of the divorce, coming out of the closet, the gossip, being in an interracial/cultural lesbian relationship with the two of us coming from different socio-economic classes or inheriting three very young children at the age of 25 when I was a preschool teacher, or all of the judgment, rejection, avoidance and abandonment from my friends and some of our family members, on top of serious financial struggles – do you know how much money preschool teachers were paid in the 90s? Not a living wage! Maybe it was just all those elements combined. Those were extremely challenging and emotional times. One benefit I did get from all the challenges was to learn I was a strong person. After I recovered from the pain, it was freeing to know I could be myself and rely on myself. I also did not want to teach the kids shame, so I stood proud. I was able to hold my head up high and look people straight in the eyes including our ex-mother-in-law who was successful, powerful and influential and who was not very happy with me for calling off my engagement to her stepson and being involved in the breaking up her son’s marriage.

People don’t understand; you don’t just come out of the closet once. You have to keep coming out again and again every single time you meet a new person. I came out of the closet before Ellen DeGenerous came out on national TV. In 1997, Ellen was the first TV star to come out in public and it was a huge deal! Ellen a famous, lovable person lost work for about three years because of her coming out, so you can imagine being an out parent in the 90s wasn’t exactly carefree and hip. And Laura Dern who starred in Ellen’s coming out show did not get another job for a year and a half just because she was on the “coming out” episode of the Ellen show. I recently watched the episode in 1997 when Ellen came out on the Oprah show. She was scared. She was brave. I came out before then, it was not easy.

Being 25, in the middle of a scandalous family drama and a lesbian made explaining my motherhood complicated, to say the least. I was buried in shame and guilt.

Some might say if I would have just done what I was supposed to do: married a man, had children with him and stayed married, my life would have been a lot easier. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work in should haves and supposed tos. Life is messy. It is challenging to navigate your way through a life of labels and boxes especially when your situation doesn’t fit in any of them.

I am not my kid’s stepmom; their stepmom is married to their dad. I am not the mom, their mom birthed them.

So what am I? I am the other mother.

I am the other mother.

 

Intro and Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – My Story Part 2

 

2 thoughts on “Other Mothers – Chapter 1 – My Story

  1. Pingback: Other Mothers – Introduction | Sally Kuhlman

  2. Pingback: Other Mothers – Chapter 1 – My Story – Part 2 | Sally Kuhlman

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