The Other Side


While being a part of a blended family gives us the opportunity to show a picture of redemption and reclaimed beauty, there are moments in which the brokenness of the past is still interwoven into our story.

For the rest of this post, it is important to know that I have been on a journey the last few months of finally recognizing and facing the fact that I live with a bit of anxiousness. It started after my first husband left in the form of small panic attacks and then transitioned to what I now call “episodes” when I feel overwhelmed. I wanted to believe that when my life began to come back together, these episodes would cease, so much that I was blinding myself to their presence. The truth is that they are a remaining byproduct of a scar I now carry. My amazing husband has spent countless hours listening to me and helping me understand that there is no reason to be ashamed or self conscious about this scar still remaining. We both carry scars from the past that we are learning to navigate together.

The most annoying part about my nervousness is that I don’t always know what is causing it. Sometimes, as far as I can tell there is no reason for me to feel anxious, but suddenly there it is. That happened to me this past week.

Again I say that sometimes being a part of a blended family means the messy gets seen rather than the beauty. Our youngest two children just turned 4 in April, but one did so on the 1st and the other on the 25th. Yes, two blended siblings turned the same age in the same month. There is a set of actual twins in the family but we call these two youngest girls the practically twins. God blessed them with a twin they weren’t born with! Since they both just turned 4, they both needed their 4 year well check at the doctor at the same time. The child that was once “mine” has a biological dad that lives here in town and is a part of her life. He comes to doctor appointments when he can and this particular time he could be there. That meant that I would be there with 4 of our blended kids (the others were still at school) and he would be there as the dad of a fraction of them. David had a meeting at work and could not accompany me.

As the appointment time got closer, I felt that tell tale sign begin. My heart rate began to go up. I wasn’t sure why. I still come in contact with my ex on pretty much a weekly basis but here I was on the verge of an episode. I began to text with David and he pointed out that this wasn’t exactly the same as the way I usually have contact with him. Being in the same place with him and children gives a picture of a big happy family and for some reason, even though I knew no one there really knows us or cares, the thought of that was giving me unease. The closer the appointment got, the faster and stronger my heart began to beat. On the drive there, I talked to God and tried to relax. A little refocusing in times like those is always helpful, but let’s be real: I had my most talkative child with me who wanted to tell me everything about her day at school, and one of the 4 year olds who, like most of the children, is a constant source of, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Focus, calm, and quiet are not things I am able to indulge in very often. By the time I actually arrived at the office building, my hands were shaking and I could feel my heart in my throat. As I checked in the child that is newly mine and shares my last name, I tried to explain that the other child in the waiting room that checked in at a different time and does not share my last name is also mine and I wanted to go back with her as well. The confusion I was met with and looks on the receptionist’s face only added to my rising unrest.

I went and sat down in the waiting area which now consisted of just me, my ex, and 4 of my children, two of which were also his. Again, I texted my husband, “Here. Super uncomfortable. Can feel my heart pounding fast. No idea why.” He immediately called and I so wanted to answer, but I also knew the last thing that would help was knowing my ex knew how I was feeling. I didn’t answer and explained why in a text. Then the girls names were called.

We went back and awkwardly navigated the halls together and so not together at the same time. Then came another confusing conversation with the nurse about why I wanted to do one child first and then the other so the first child could leave with her dad who wasn’t the other one’s dad. Ugh. Thoughts of “Please don’t judge me. Please don’t judge me.” filled my head. A wrench was thrown in that plan though because one of the four year olds was looking to the other for support in getting through the scary to them appointment. They needed each other. They are sisters after all-practically twins.

At one point there were no nurses or doctor in the room. I was closed in a 10×12 foot room with this same group that was earlier spread across the much larger, open waiting area. There was the chaos that usually comes with children enclosed in a small space with nothing to do, mixed with the complexities of both of us playing parent to two of them and just me playing parent to the other two of them. Complexities such as: two 4 year olds doing the same thing (together), one of them being told by their dad to stop, then me having to decide whether I am going to ask the other to stop. Or the self-consciousness that comes with parenting the children that are not his in front of him.

I made it through the near hour of sharing the same space and emerged very ready to leave and move on from this oh so fun experience. Then check out happened. I sat down at the desk, now back to just me and the two kids I came with. The receptionist I had spoken with earlier (remember? The confused one) came and stood behind the one I was now speaking with. She said, “Weren’t you here with a different group of kids earlier this week?” I told her that I was and that I actually have 7 kids in total. The sitting receptionist asked if the girls from the appointment today were twins. I have explained my beautiful blended family so many times before and always to a response of shock mixed with delight. I started to explain, as I have so many times, and before I knew it, messy was coming out of my mouth. “Well, not exactly. They are three weeks apart. We are a blended family. We do have a set of actual twins, but we call these two the practically twins. Well, the two that were here. One is gone now. She left with her other dad. That wasn’t my husband.” I realized before I was done I was getting two blank stares rather than the amused and delighted faces I usually get. I sat there wondering if further clarification would help or only make things sound messier. I wanted to scream that I didn’t have a bunch of “baby daddies” and that my family was beautiful and a lot more normal than it seemed, but no words seemed right. Then the sitting receptionist said, “Well, as long as you can keep it all straight.” Ugh. So much for “Please don’t judge me. Please don’t judge me.” I was so ready to go.

As soon as I was back in the van I started to feel my heart rate go back to normal. I was on the other side of the experience now and my tension subsided. I looked in the rear view mirror at two of the girls I have gained as daughters and thanked God for my big, messy, beautiful life. Later that night as I recounted the whole thing for David, he looked at me, smiled, and said, “That sounds like a blog post to me.” He’s right-this is a reality of our family. The other side. Like the back of a cross stitch where you can see all the lines of thread crossing and intersecting in a disorganized fashion. That jumbled mess is necessary in creating the beauty on the other side. I want to share both sides, because this is our family. This is our beautiful chaos.

Ashley Karaffa

Ashley is mother to a blended family of 10 and appreciating the beautiful chaos of it all. She enjoys creating systems - because how can you survive a family with 8 kids without systems - and spending time celebrating her family.


  1. Anonymous on May 1, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Breaks my heart that you have to go through those moments.
    I remember them. We can never change the past or people’s perceptions. I want you to know you have done an amazing job of keeping it together through everything and still able to offer grace to those who have hurt you! At the end of the day your relationship with God, David and the children is all that matters. Your in a much better place than you were a couple of years ago. Wear those scars proudly and thank God for your wonderful family!

  2. Blended Hope on May 2, 2018 at 12:43 am

    It’s always interesting to explain to people the whole “how many kids” you have situation. I hate it. And then the questions that follow “which ones are YOURSSSSS.
    Ugh, I hate it.

    You are doing a great job, keep it up mama❤️

    • Ashley Karaffa on August 3, 2018 at 1:19 am

      Right?! All of them! They are all mine! All God given <3

  3. Mandy on May 24, 2018 at 6:26 am

    Thank you for sharing this transparent view into the messiness of life and God’s grace in the midst of it. Your blended family is beautiful, and I hate that you have to deal with stranger judgement. But I think that while your exposed “back cross stitch threads” (that we all have, easily visible or not) may bring judgement from some, at the same time, others may be all the more prone to see God’s hand in your life from the obvious grace and redemtion He is stitching together. ❤️ Press on! 👍😊

    • Ashley Karaffa on August 3, 2018 at 1:18 am

      Thank you so much, Mandy <3
      That is my hope!

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