After You Were Granted Joint Custody

After You Were Granted Joint Custody
By Rachel Tanner

Today I watched a video of a baby laying his head down on a doctor’s arm and it reminded me of your son. Of one of my almost-stepsons. Of the long nights spent listening to both kids cry and throw fits over the din of videos we threw on in the background to try and lull them to sleep.

They weren’t used to our apartment yet.

They weren’t used to you yet.

But they were used to me, because I reminded them of their mom. Because my body was built for births and bath times, and yours was only built for fury.

I wasn’t sure what kind of stepmom I would be. My bones worry-shook continually for the weeks leading up to the first time I met them.

What if they hated me? (They didn’t.)

What if I’m a bad stepparent? (I wasn’t.)

Do I have what it takes? (I did.)

Could I love someone else’s kids like my own? (I could.)

The first time I knew I’d be fine was at my brother’s wedding rehearsal. I held your youngest in my arms, cradling him comfortably, as if he’d grown inside me. He was asleep and he jerked and in the instant I realized I was falling, my body wrapped itself around him instinctively, cocooning the soft parts of him with the hard parts of me. He woke up already on the ground, seated safely, in the halo of my bloodied elbows.

I still carry those scars.

About the author

Rachel Tanner

Rachel Tanner is a writer from Alabama whose work can be found in Anti-Heroin Chic, The Atticus Review, Tenderness Yea, and elsewhere. She tweets @rickit.