“I am a mom of three. Three beautiful thriving children. The oldest from my first relationship right out of high school and my two youngest from my current marriage. Each one with their own very unique personality loved beyond measure by every member of their blended family. But it’s my oldest that says she is loved just a little bit extra. Because unlike her younger siblings, she has two daddies that love her. Her daddy here at home, and her daddy in heaven.
Emma was just 17 days shy of her 1st birthday when her daddy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Her first birthday was celebrated in the visitor’s room on the Oncology floor of St. Joseph’s Hospital. After months spent in Seattle while he endured a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy hundreds of miles away from our family and friends at one of the best cancer centers in the country, we returned home to Colorado, March of 2010 with what we believed was remission. But by October the disease had returned. Keenan was only 24 when cancer stole him from us on Christmas Day 2010. With our entire world ceasing to exist as we knew it, we struggled to push forward with our daily lives. My fear that my child would lose her father as I had, had come true. She was only two, but I feared that she would be scarred by the empty hole in her life left by her daddy’s passing. But the universe already had a plan. It would not take away her daddy without ensuring there would be another to give her the love and protection that only a father can.
Dominic had been part of my life since kindergarten, and we had been best friends all those years, through changes in school, living arrangements, and adult relationships. When Keenan passed away, it was only natural that I turned to my best friend for comfort and support. In time that friendship turned to something deeper and even more permanent. He was a central part of our lives, mine and Emma’s, and the time came when we began to identify ourselves as a couple, and by extension, a family. Never once did he view Emma as an added package or ‘someone else’s child.’ She was always OUR Emma. His family never referred to her as anything other than their grand baby and it was all done without diminishing the importance of her biological father or his family. It wasn’t all easy. I felt shame and anxiety over how others would view my new relationship, especially the views of Keenan’s family. How would or could they ever accept that the last living piece of their only son, was calling another man daddy? It was an anxiety I struggled with for years.
I’ll never know for sure when the change happened. Maybe it was our wedding day which was attended by my former in-laws. Or perhaps it was when mine and Dominic’s first, or second born as we say, began calling Emma’s grandparents, grandma and grandpa and very adamantly claiming them as her own. But in time we all became one big family and it didn’t matter whose genetics ran through our veins. Love brought us together. This one little girl brought us together. Dominic wasn’t just accepted as Emma’s dad, he was embraced. If he wasn’t able to attend a family gathering everyone would ask where he was and make sure I’d tell him he was missed.
As she got older the need to have conversations with her about her biological father became a struggle. How much would we tell her? How would I answer some of the questions I anticipated she would ask? How do you tell a child that their father passed away on Christmas? The one day that should bring them nothing but joy and pleasure. How do you tell them to not be sad? I knew there was no magic button to give me all the answers. I’d just have to wait for her to come to me, and eventually she did.
Then one day, I walked by their room to hear Emma talking to her little sister about her other daddy. She’d explain he was only her daddy, but she was sure he’d like her too because daddy here on Earth loved them both. When questioned by my youngest daughter about it, she assured her that her sister was correct. Emma had another daddy that was just hers, but that he liked all kids, and I was sure he was happy to see that Emma had a sister to love and protect. After her sister darted off to investigate what their baby brother was doing, Emma leaned in and said, ‘Good job Mommy. You came in just in time.’ I asked her why, and she replied, ‘I didn’t want Addison to feel bad that I have two daddies and she only has one.’
‘Why would she feel bad?’ I asked. ‘Well, because it means that I get 2x’s the daddy love.’
It was in that moment I knew I would never have to worry about Emma missing a piece of her heart. It never left her. Her love for both of her daddies fills her heart to the brim and flows over.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Maggie Albrow. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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