The Basics(Via nestwatch.org)
The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in nests of other species. A female cowbird quietly searches for female birds of other species that are actively laying eggs. Once she has found a suitable host, the cowbird will sneak onto the resident bird’s nest when it is away, usually damage or remove one (or more) egg, and replace that egg with one (or more) of her own (watch a cowbird laying an egg in a Northern Cardinal nest on NestCams). The foster parents then unknowingly raise the young cowbirds, usually at the expense of their own offspring. Cowbird eggs require a shorter incubation period than most other songbirds and thus usually hatch first. Cowbird nestlings also grow large very quickly. These advantages allow them to command the most food from their foster parents, usually resulting in reduced nesting success of the host species.
My handsome boyfriend is a good man, I've known this for many years now. He's a dad, an ex-husband. When I hear the story of how his marriage ended from he and his friends... it is painful. Sometimes I literally cry to hear of it, to think of it.
This is the man I love, and to think of him having suffered this pain is anathema, it is accursed. I wish he had never felt that way; I want to hold him to me and erase the hurt, I want to be a balm.
But if his pain had never happened, I would not be holding him to me. If his marriage had not been sabotaged, he would not be mine. I would not care for him so. If he had not been hurt, I would not have received the amazing gift he is.
Years ago, I read of second spouses that they'd "have to be pretty cold-hearted to not realize that their happiness is built on someone else's broken dreams." I benefit from his loss. I am a cowbird.
Some days, I wish I'd never read that.
Yet at the same time, it is a truth that constantly confronts me. I would have dealt with this discomforting reality whether or not I had seen it put so aptly, so succinctly.
I'm sure that many second spouses, step-parents, partners of previously married people feel this way.
Though these things are unavoidable truths, there is a difference between me and the thieving, sneaky, brown-headed cowbird.
I didn't break anything.
This is the thing that all people that surround, but are not involved in, a divorce have to remember. (It is the same when I think of my parent's divorce.) For me to feel guilty for participating in my boyfriend's life would be the same as me taking ownership in my parent's divorce.
Marriages get broken. Sometimes there seems to be no blame. Sometimes there is plenty!
A cowbird, much like Satan (that ruiner of hearts), comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have arrived after the destruction. Someday I may lay in a bed that previously belonged to another. But I did not usurp it like the little brown lay-er of eggs.
The InvitationHave you seen the videos that warm the cockles of the Internet, the ones where mama animals of one species adopt babies of another? It's the exact opposite of the instincts of our brown-headed cowbirds, and it is heartwarming! (Check out a sample here; a new mama cat nurses some ducklings. You read that right. Nurses. Ducklings.)
In order for second spouses, partners, or step-parents to not spend their time feeling like cowbirds, I think there is only one solution.
The difference between the cat in the video and the cowbird was invitation. The cat invited the ducklings into her box without eating them, destroying them.
I was invited into my boyfriend's life after a time of destruction. And I was invited. This is how we all tromp around in each other's lives, in each other's hearts, regardless of the type of relationship. Invitation.
The truth is that access to anyone's heart is By Invitation Only.
Some invitations of relationship are formal. (Party invites, gifts, proposals.) Most are not. And all are incremental. We invite each other into our hearts at varying speeds and on varying subjects.
During my time with my boyfriend, he has invited me into parts of his life, and so have his boys. But in all situations, attention must be paid. Am I acting the cowbird, or the contented mama cat?
We proceed with caution into each other's hearts.
And when we do, we do not break. We are a balm.
This is love.