When I think of my previous life, the one where I was married to my children's father, I actually think back on it fondly. It takes me awhile to recall just why we got divorced. I usually don't dwell on it long enough to get there. I mostly look back and remember how wonderful the first few years of my 20s were when we were together. I do it in part to remember where I started, to remind myself of where I am now. One of my favorite parts of being married to my ex-husband was how our bed became a sanctuary for us, for our daughter, and then for our son when he joined our family. It was where most Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent. We'd all wake up next to each other and just lay there cuddling, taking each tiny moment in fully. Having a family bed just became such a natural part of who we were as a family. Laying together, telling stories, giving out kisses, having little arms wrapped so tightly around our necks. It always felt perfect.
The road leading up to our divorce seemed so hidden at first, so small. Even though their were cracks in the foundation around us, it felt like divorce would just never truly happen. When we'd talk about, my ex and I would start conversations like, "If we were ever to get a divorce..." and end with, "But that will never happen." Because we didn't think it did. Yet it became more clear over time that we both wanted different things. When my ex and I decided to divorce, we talked about the issues in front of us: where we would live, who would keep the house, what the schedules with the children would look like, what our friendship would become. The conversations never included what would happen to our traditions. Maybe because we were overwhelmed or perhaps because we weren't ready to let go of things yet. At least, that's what it was like for me. And one of the biggest losses for me was the time we spent together, just the four of us, safe in our family bed.
The realization hit me: we'd no longer share that space as a family. Ever. Suddenly, all of the sadness flooded back to me, and I couldn't remember... I couldn't remember the last time we'd all cuddled together in that bed. I tried so hard.
The first time I realized the life I once had was no more was while at my ex-husband's house for Christmas. I watched his partner in the kitchen — the one that still felt like it was mine even though I hadn't lived in the house for seven months — and it was so, so difficult for me. I was a stranger, standing in a house that had once been mine. Then, I thought about her in the bed I'd once shared so many nights and mornings cuddling my children in. Even though it wasn't the same bed, I felt so hurt. It wasn't even the fact that it was her. It was just the fact that it was no longer mine. The realization hit me: we'd no longer share that space as a family. Ever.
Suddenly, all of the sadness flooded back to me, and I couldn't remember... I couldn't remember the last time we'd all cuddled together in that bed. I tried so hard. I was upset at myself for not remembering. I know I probably assumed that it would be my life forever. Waking up next to my children and their dad. Making pancakes really late in the morning because we were too distracted by each other to care about eating. And it hurt. It hurt like hell that I didn't remember, that I couldn't go back, and that it was no longer was something I could have.
There were no little arms or legs wrapped around me half of the week. There weren't long mornings spent talking and making plans for the future. I was starting over with someone else. We were building our own traditions, and that was terrifying for me.
After that Christmas, I fell into a fog. I was planning on asking my current partner to marry me in a few months, but I suddenly had a fear I would never have a family bed again. That I would never have a family like I did before. I felt guilty that I took something so dear for granted. I longed to return to it, despite having moved on in my life. I sat on the bed I'd been sleeping in for the last half of the year crying because I felt like I'd lost my family. Our bed was such a big part of who we were, such a huge part of who I am. It was an anchor, a second home. I believe we were all happier because of the time we spent together in bed. Happy just to be together. To love each other. I realized that I didn't have that security anymore.
Moving out of my home, the one I shared with my ex, was something I didn't feel completely ready to face for months. I couldn't sleep in my new bed because it felt so foreign to me. I knew it was what I wanted and what I needed, but it was a big change. There were no little arms or legs wrapped around me half of the week. There weren't long mornings spent talking and making plans for the future. I was starting over with someone else. We were building our own traditions, and as exciting as it was, it was also absolutely terrifying. I was afraid of creating new experiences only to lose them again if we ever went separate ways. And I wasn't sure I could bear it. So when my children would come and stay, I'd let them climb into our new bed — the one I shared with my new partner — and let them lay for as long as they wanted. I think I held them too tight at first, but I don't regret that. Having them there, even if it wasn't the same as before, felt like a little piece of home had survived. That we'd somehow made it. I promised myself, and silently them, that I would remember these moments. The new ones. The ones that would soon feel natural to us, the ones that would soon feel like home.
And just the other morning, I watched my partner tickle the children when they came into our room to wake us up. They started playing together and the kids were thrilled. It was in that moment, I thanked everything that our first family bed experience had given us. And I remembered how thankful and lucky I am to share in this experience all over again.