Termination of Parental Rights.
Those four little words are incredibly heavy and packed with so much emotion: fear, sadness, and confusion.
They are four terrifying words when you’re a parent. No one wants to make a decision like that, and most condemn someone for the decision.
What happens when you or your partner feel backed into a corner? Maybe he has made some not-so-great parenting decisions in his fight to co-parent. Maybe you and your spouse can’t afford the court battles any longer and are waving the white flag. Maybe you, as a stepmom, have tried your hardest to be the glue keeping everything together, and you just can’t any longer.
I hear you.
My husband made the decision to terminate his parental rights, and the termination process was just finalized for us. Amid all of the complicated, confusing, and overwhelming emotions, three major fears surface when considering termination.
This Stepmom’s Biggest Fear: The Fear of Being Forgotten
My first fear is that this beautiful soul who taught me so much about who I am won’t remember my love. I don’t have any biological children yet, so my stepson taught me what it was like to be a parent. I never thought I could love another human being the way I love him.
My second fear is that when he turns 18 (in 14 years) and can legally seek us out, he won’t. When my husband and I talked about the termination, this was a huge factor for me.
My stepson could decide we were horrible people who never loved him and would not want any type of relationship with us ever. My husband holds out hope that we can tell my stepson our story when he is older and can make the decision for himself.
My final fear is that his life will be better without us and without all of the fighting. A big reason my husband decided to go ahead with the termination was his own parents fighting for him in their divorce when he was younger. He did not want that for his son.
My husband knows how much he loves his son and doesn’t want to scar him the way he was scarred as a child. We both know the lack of fighting should give my stepson a better life, but there will always be that nagging feeling in the back of my head that we could have given him an amazing life.
Our New Reality
During this process, there have been so many things that bring out reminders of the pain and loss. Some days it is just a picture of my stepson, but other days, it’s much bigger.
Any holiday season is hard, but I think Christmas is the hardest. I watch so many friends and their families get together to celebrate, but my family feels like there’s something missing.
There will always be something missing. Nothing can change that fact.
I had finally discovered that the holidays were so much better with your kids. You get to see their faces light up as you share traditions your family passed on to you.
But this last Christmas without my stepson, my husband and I barely celebrated and didn’t want to be reminded that it was supposed to be a “holly jolly” season.
Even when it’s not a holiday season, there are still nearly daily reminders of my stepson. The next two painful scenarios are an almost everyday occurrence that I need to figure out how to navigate.
The first is when people ask how my stepson is doing. I don’t want to say “He isn’t my son anymore,” or “I have no clue. I haven’t been able to talk to him in a year.”
The second one is when friends or coworkers talk about their children and their milestones. My stepson is 4 years old. I won’t get to see him graduate. I won’t get to see him attend his first dance. I won’t get to see him through love and heartbreak.
Hopefully, someday he will allow us to be at his wedding, and we will be able to witness his own family growing.
Through everything I have found that I am much stronger than I gave myself credit for.
I must remind myself that we did what we thought was right for my stepson. I need to move past the decision that was made, or I risk living with regret for the rest of my life.
I have hope for him that he will live a beautiful life and that he remembers the love we have for him.
Termination is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. The pain and loss is terrible but, you can get through it.
I honor my time as a stepmom. I love sharing memories, pictures, and videos of the happy times, even when I am sad.
Through pain, there is hope. Through hope, there is love.
P.S. Are you feeling exhausted as a stepmom? You are not alone.