Girl meets guy. Guy and girl fall in love. Guy has a child.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I know this wasn’t the dream. You had a different picture in your head – the kind where the man you marry doesn’t have children. I know, I know. If you’re in the Church, then the nuclear family is emblazoned in your mind as God’s “ideal.” You wonder if God is okay with this; or if He could have even planned for this. That makes sense.

It’s okay to not be in love with this new dream yet. You have not dreamed your whole life about being a stepmother for goodness sake. I‘m in it and I’m still not in love with it all of the days. It’s okay to question, and it’s okay to acknowledge it is hard. That doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing – let’s remember that the best things don’t come easily.

Go ahead and get into counseling. Trust me, you will need someone. Find your Sabrina (that’s my lovely counselor who deserves a lot of awards). Probably a lot of your friends won’t understand, and a lot of them will tell you to run. Sometimes you should listen to them; it’s not a journey that promises a lack of pain.

I won’t give you advice about how much you should love his children beforehand, or what kind of personality you should have. I didn’t know how I felt about Nyra for awhile and, as I’ve mentioned before, my personality is kind of the worst fit.  There are no formulas; there is no manual for this.

Find your tribe. You will need other mamas to text to ensure you aren’t going crazy. You will need someone to tell you a story of the worst tantrum their child ever threw because it will help you breathe easily again.  If a mama makes you feel like less than because of how your child behaves, run away. This is hard enough to handle as a normal mama but as a stepmama? You will have enough criticism to deal with. If you can find another stepmama to talk to, you won’t believe the instant camaraderie you feel. These mamas will keep you going.

A whole new world is about to be opened up to you. Words like custody orders and drop off times – words that previously had no meaning to you will now become your life. This is a huge thing to adjust to- your life is now on a court ordered parenting schedule. If that makes you panic a little bit, that is okay. Me too.

Get on the same page as your husband, boyfriend or fiancé. But also recognize that you may not always be 100% on the same page. Isn’t that a fun balance? Make sure he is committed to putting your marriage first if that’s where you’re headed. If he is a good man, this will be incredibly difficult for him. Giancarlo couldn’t fathom putting our marriage before Nyra because everything was out of order. God revealed to him the best thing for Nyra was for her to live with two parents who loved Jesus and each other. And here we are, stumbling through this marriage thing.

But this whole new world opens up a hidden group of people you may have never noticed. Blended families are everywhere because brokenness is everywhere. You will learn so many people’s stories. You will see so clearly how God is using our pain and consistently doing what He promises- making us more like His Son. You will open your heart to a little person and be shocked by their love. You will be overwhelmed by how they need you. I remember when Nyra was a flower girl for the first time, having a meltdown and my husband wasn’t there – I was the one she wanted and needed. Stepmama, you will be so important in the life of this tiny human. Remember that you are doing holy work.

It’s not simple or easy, but the Way never is. Dear stepmama-to-be, you’ve got this.