When Chris and I were married in August of 2007, I was one month away from turning 31. I was so excited to start my new life with him and these two sweet little girls of his, and to finally be a kind of mom to some children. I had wanted to be a mom my whole life, and when my twenties came and went without getting married, I started to worry about never having kids of my own. Kylee was 6 when we got married and Hayley was 4, and they were the cutest little flower girls, along with my niece. I had no idea what I was getting into. These two cute little blue eyed girls with freckles and brown curls and beautiful smiles would turn my life upside down in the ways only kids can.
At the time Chris and I were married, I wanted to have kids but I also wanted to go to graduate school. Grad school had been a lifelong goal of mine that was encouraged by my immediate and extended family, to be able to help support my family in case anything ever happened to my (then future) husband. Because of my desire to go to school, Chris and I decided to wait a little while to settle in and try to have kids. We started trying to have kids my 2nd or 3rd year of graduate school and we pretty quickly found out that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. When we found that out, my doctor referred us to a fertility specialist, where we attempted every fertility treatment except IVF, which we couldn't afford.
Although I dreamt of little blue eyed, brown haired babies and had spiritual experiences that I believed meant Chris and I would have children together, those dreams never came true. Chris and I went through intrauterine insemination multiple times, but for whatever reason, I was never able to get pregnant. There was no medical explanation of why, just disappointment and heartbreak month after month. I loved Kylee and Hayley (and I still do), I just longed desperately to have kids of my own that I could raise full time with Chris.
In a lot of fertility stories, including those of my friends, there's a happy ending - they adopt children, or they are suddenly and miraculously pregnant. Chris and I ruled out adoption without too much discussion. In addition to it being out of our affordability level, I felt like I was already raising kids that I didn't have any biological ties to. I didn't want to adopt - I wanted to have the experience of being pregnant with Chris's babies. For our story, there would be no happy ending, and I would become what I already was: a childless stepmom.
Being a stepmom is kind of a weird, in-between space. You're a parent but not a parent and don't you dare act like a parent to my children. You can't set rules or discipline the kids (in many cases). When my stepdaughters got sick, they wanted to be with their mom, not me. They had separation anxiety from her when they were little and had to come with us because they were, and still are, bonded to her. That bond between a biological parent and a child is so strong, and it's meant to be so that the parent takes care of their child and ensures that they grow up safely. I have a bond with my stepdaughters, but it's completely different than the one they have with their mom.
Being a childless stepmom means different things to different people. For me, it means that I couldn't pass down the depression and anxiety I've experienced. It means that I couldn't fill the role I was taught was my highest calling in the religion I grew up in. I never had kids with Chris's eyes and my hair, or kids I got to raise full time with the values and priorities that were important to me. It means that I never got to feel what pregnancy was like, I never had morning sickness (thank heavens!) or felt a baby move and kick inside me. I never got to teach kids how to do homework and make it a priority, play in sports and learn to play as a team, make medical decisions or take the kids to the doctor without a biological parent approving it.
Being a childless stepmom to me has meant a lot of grief and loss. It has meant that my heart broke a little more every time I saw my stepdaughters' mom get pregnant without trying. It meant heartbreak every single month when I got my period, knowing that I had failed another time at getting pregnant.
I have had wonderful times with Kylee and Hayley. We've been on a lot of trips together, made a lot of memories, bonded, and shared inside jokes and lots of laughter with them. I'm so grateful for them because with them in my lives, I get to be a sort of mom. It's also bittersweet because I don't get to have that bond with full time kids that I'm the mom of. I don't have kids who think to call me right away when something fun or exciting happens.
What does being a childless stepmom mean to you?
Sara Susov: Step Up Mentoring
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