‘You don’t know me anymore.’ I thought he’d be an amazing dad. I was confused by the man in front of me.’: After divorce, mom and dad co-parent successfully, ‘The split was best for all of us”

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“If you would have told me three and a half years ago I’d be a single mom raising her child under two separate roofs, I never would have believed you.

Sascha and I met my freshman year of high school. I still remember having the BIGGEST crush on him! He was the older, cooler, bad boy I never thought I’d have a chance with. But, it all changed about a year after I graduated.

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It was back in the MySpace days when social media was just taking off. One day, I got a message from him asking how I was doing and wanting to know if we could get together. Of course, I did what any girl would do, and I texted my best friend… ‘OMG! You’re never going to believe who’s asking me to hang out!’

Fast forward a few months later and we were dating, and by fall of 2009, we were married.

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I was ready for a baby right away, but Sascha was pursuing his engineering degree and thought it would be best we wait until he finished school before starting our family.

Life happened and Sascha’s schooling continued to get delayed. By year six of marriage, I was BEYOND ready for a baby and OVER the timeline we’d initially set.

We finally agreed there would never be a ‘right time’ for us to start our family and decided to start trying. The journey to getting pregnant was not as easy as I had anticipated. After eight LONG months of trying, I was finally pregnant.

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We welcomed our beautiful baby boy, Kurt, into the world in January of 2017, and life truly felt complete. At least for a little while.

Adjusting to life as parents was a lot for both of us, but with Sascha still working, going to school full-time, AND adding a newborn in the mix, it started to feel like the already heavy load was now more of a burden to him.

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Don’t get me wrong, our marriage was far from perfect before Kurt made his arrival. But, we’d been through so much during our seven years of marriage I didn’t think there was anything we wouldn’t be able to withstand. That was until I saw the weight of everything on him.

I remember Kurt crying uncontrollably one night and Sascha feeling so defeated… ‘He’s not hungry. He’s not wet, so he must be tired! Why won’t he just go to sleep then?’ It was as if his logical mind couldn’t make sense of our newborn baby and his behavior, and it was more than he could bear.

By June of 2017, it appeared we were finally starting to adjust to our new normal.

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I was slowly recovering from postpartum, Kurt was mumbling his very first word, and things seemed like they were heading in the right direction, until one night everything changed. What seemed like a small disagreement turned into talks of divorce, and it felt like my entire world was flipped upside down within minutes.

Sascha said, ‘I feel like you don’t know me.’ He wasn’t happy anymore and hadn’t been for a while. He said he knew I wasn’t happy either, but I would just stay in the marriage because I felt like that was the right thing to do. Especially since we had just had Kurt.

A month after talks of divorce, Sascha decided to move out and move in with some friends so he could sort through things. He was only seeing Kurt once every week or so, and I was so confused by the man who was in front of me.  I always thought he’d be an incredible father, but it felt like he couldn’t handle all of the stress and sacrifice that came with being a father and husband.

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I remember talking to a guy friend and sharing how it felt like Sascha was so disconnected from our family, and he told me most first-time fathers go through this phase. It’s hard for them to bond and adjust to a newborn’s wants and needs, whereas mothers start creating their bond with babies the moment they enter our womb. He said, ‘Give him time. He’ll come around.’

For the longest time, I held onto the hope we’d be able to work things out and be the family I’d always dreamed we would be. I wanted my family more than anything, including Sascha’s and my happiness.

After months of trying to work on our marriage, and struggling to understand why Sascha wasn’t bonding with Kurt the way I expected him to, we finally decided moving forward with the divorce would be best for all of us.

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If I’m honest, I was worried about what the divorce would do to our family dynamic, and I wondered if Sascha would withdraw more or if this would snap him back into reality. Luckily, just like my life had changed in a matter of moments months before when we started having talks of divorce, they did the same this time too, but it resulted in Sascha wanting to see Kurt more.

It was as if, in that moment, things shifted and Sascha was able to focus on what was truly important — building a bond with Kurt and being the father I always knew he would be. It’s been almost three years since we divorced, and the bond Kurt and Sascha share now is far greater than anything I could have prayed for.

Courtesy of Raynisia Nagel

We have split custody, so we each have Kurt 50/50, and we work together when it comes to discipline and the behaviors we want to instill in Kurt. We spend time together as a family, and sometimes, we even take family pictures together. A lot of people admire the way we are able to get along and do things together, but it also gives them a false hope we’re going to end up reconnecting. There are also people who don’t like how we were able to move past the hurt and pain and get along the way we do so well!

The greatest lesson we’ve both learned through this entire journey is if we put Kurt first, everything else will fall into place. Putting Kurt first means biting our tongues at times, being kind to one another, working together, and doing what works best for OUR family.

Our family dynamic won’t look like everyone else’s dynamic, and once we let go of trying to look and act like everyone else, we were able to discover our own family dynamic and things have only continued to improve for us. If there is hope for us, then there is definitely hope for you too, friend. Be encouraged.

The best advice I can give to others is to first forgive the other person, and then forgive yourself. You can’t move forward if you’re holding onto the past. Everything that transpired in your past is what got you to this very moment, and you get to choose if you’ll let it make you bitter or better. Both are going to impact your child(ren), but one in a positive way and the other in a not so positive way. The second piece of advice I would give is to always keep your child(ren) at the forefront of every decision you make. It will cause you to put your pride aside, bite your tongue, and be kind to one another. Your child(ren) will witness this, and they will be better for it.”

Courtesy of Raynisia Nagel
Courtesy of Raynisia Nagel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Raynisia Nagel. You can follow her on Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more amazing co-parenting stories here:

‘No, we are not a same sex couple, but we do share a daughter. Not only did I gain a daughter, I gained a brother and a best friend.’: Dad’s celebrate co-parenting with impromptu photo shoot

3 dads, 2 kids: How these epic ‘bonus parents’ make co-parenting work because they ‘owe it to our children’

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