In 1990 I met my husband of 25 years, Kevin, and his two-year-old daughter, Kayleigh. I grew to know and love Kayleigh pretty quickly, although there were many reminders that I was not ‘mum’. Like when her first tooth was wiggly, or when she invited me to watch her favourite movie with her every alternate weekend – her mum and dad’s wedding video! I don’t know how many times I watched my husband walk down the aisle with his first wife, but I did, and some of my friends thought I was mad at the time. I knew that Kayleigh needed to watch it, and eventually her favourite movie became The Little Mermaid (which was a great relief for me).
Kayleigh was 12 years old when Kevin and I moved to New Zealand and she stayed with her mum in the UK. It was a very difficult decision for us, and we made sure we stayed connected through Skype and email and visits when possible.
It was around 2010 that Kayleigh sent me a card addressed to ‘bonus mum’. I was used to her calling me Rayleen, and so this was incredibly special. It became even more special when she explained how she came up with the name (see 'bonus daughter' opposite).
After immigrating, Kevin and I had two more children, Brad (who is now 14) and Kaya (who sadly passed away at the age of seven and a half in 2012). Despite the distance, the siblings were a part of each other’s lives. Kayleigh had a great understanding of her younger sister’s disabilities (cerebral palsy, epilepsy, scoliosis and feeding difficulties) and when she came over to NZ in 2006, she spent hours playing with Kaya and learning about her feeding and physio.
Kayleigh is now a registered nurse and midwife. I am so privileged to have been a part of her growing up and even now, I am so proud of who she has become – a strong-willed young woman who worked hard to get where she is. One of the highlights of our relationship was her wedding day and helping her get ready – me, (her ‘bonus mum’) and her mum. Rayleen
to the author of our winning letter next issue!
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