Her mouth is moving but I'm not really hearing what she's saying. I notice phrases here and there like "Parenting Plan", "Split Custody" and "Marital Estate" - terms that when heard previous to the past few months, created in me a sense of sympathy - quickly followed by a ping of relief. Relief that it wasn't me going through one of life's most difficult changes. Though deep down I knew my day would come.
I look around her office and wonder how many other couples have sat across this large desk from her, some bitter, some angry, some - like us - just done. A purple folder lays open in front of me. Inside it are the forms that we will need to fill out in order to explain how we will divide up our family and our home. He sits next to me, listening intently and flipping through the forms as she describes what to bring to our next session, and I can't help but wonder how something as big as marriage can be disintegrated into nothing by something as simple as a few pieces of paper.
My train of thought comes to a screeching halt as I hear her ask the one question that still makes me close up inside; the one that makes my heart feel like a rock, and the tears well up almost instantaneously regardless of how hard I try to hold them back...
"So...have you thought about when you're going to tell the kids?"
OUCH. God fricken DAMMIT. I hate this part. The Guilt. It hurts my heart in a way I never knew possible. I grab a tissue from the box on the desk in front of me. This isn't going to be pretty.
There is a precious, innocent four year old girl running around somewhere right now, with nothing to think or worry about but which princess nightgown to wear to bed that night. And one dreadful evening, in the next two weeks, we will sit her down and tear her world apart. Turn it upside down on it's head and shake it out. Her life will simply never be the same. Her sweet little purple butterfly backpack, which before had only been used for vacations and fun trips to grandma's, is about to have a whole new purpose.
How are we supposed to have this conversation?? How do we tell this little girl that she is never again going to sit out on the deck at her house and eat hot dogs and strawberries with both her mommy and daddy? How do we tell her that there will no longer be an "our home". There will be "mommy's home" and "daddy's home". How do we tell her...and this is the one that gets me....that never again will she get to see both her mommy and daddy every single day. That some days she will wake up and get to see Mommy, and some days she will wake up and get to see Daddy. But many days... she will only see one of us. And how do we someday even attempt to describe to our sweet little baby boy what life was like for those short nine months that the four of us were a family...or that what happened was not his fault? The brutal haunting truth is that these years that we have lived as a family in this home will be an ever so faint and distant memory. Words simply can't describe how much that kills me.
"Would you like to hear my advice?" she asks gently as I try to catch my breath.
"Yes...please", I respond. He turns to look at me and appears to be surprised by the look of pure devastation on my face. He places his arm around my shoulder, then turns back to her.
"To a four year old...a day is a really long time. And a week is even longer", she begins, her voice slow and cautious. "At her age, it's best to tell her within a day or two of a big change. That way you can try to get her excited about her 'new room' and take her to see daddy's new house. If there's too much time between the day you tell her and anything happening, she could get confused."
I look over at him. He is convinced, almost pleased with what she is saying. He's looking at her, nodding, with the same expression as if he's saying to a waiter, "Sure, okay, I'll try the Prime Rib. That sounds good." I find myself getting pissed off and wonder how in the Hell this conversation is not tearing his heart into pieces.
They both turn to look at me.
"Okay" I respond, nodding.
I wipe my nose and notice the balled up white tissue that has become almost completely black from the mascara that has fallen down my face. I realize looking down that this dark raggedy tissue has sadly become a very familiar image for me lately.
"Okay, then. I will see you both in a few weeks. Try to be gentle on yourselves. I can see that you two are going to do just fine."
A few weeks...Never has what stood in front of me for the next "few weeks" seemed so insurmountable. I have a pile of books to read on this subject before having that conversation with her, I need to arm myself with that knowledge so I don't screw it up. But first I need to talk to my therapist about the guilt I feel about what I'm doing to her... achem, what is happening with our family. And oh yeah, these forms. I'll figure out what they were talking about later. And he's moving out. Will the kids spend the first night at his house - will I join them? Maybe I'll keep the baby at our house that first night. Oh no... are we out of diapers? I need to get the house on the market, and call the lender to get preapproved so I can start my home search. Will he take the kitchen table? Who gets the towels? He better not take the good ones. Oh crap I forgot to call the painters back. What if I can't find a house in a good school district? My head feels like it's going to explode.
And then, my mind shifts back to the conversation... one of the most difficult and certainly on of the most important things I will ever do. And suddenly I'm less concerned about all those things spinning in my head, because I'm overcome by the sharp, piercing, radiating pain in my heart.