What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Anonymous.

No one talks about what happens to the stepparent after divorce. Or did this awful thing just happen to me?

7 ½ years ago I met a wonderful boy. He stole my heart within minutes of our first hello and I was in love by the end of our first date. It was a good thing too, because I was also in love with his father. From that day on, we were inseparable. Within months I was a staple at his baseball games, his friends all knew my name, and I was joining them on a family vacation. I had some doubts about his father and my gut kept telling me something was off, but I silenced it because I loved the little guy. He was being raised by his dad and his mother had not been a part of his life since he was six months old. I was the first real girlfriend his dad had and I fell easily into the mother role.

He was 8 years old and starving for attention and love that only a mother could give and I was happy to do so. I was practically living with them by 9 months and we were engaged shortly after. I signed his permission slips, sat with him for hours over homework, brought the team snack, and was room mom for holiday parties at school. Each night, I’d put him to bed, him asking what we were going to talk about that night. We’d lay while I told him stories, most of the time falling asleep beside him. We talked in great depth about me adopting him after the wedding. He said he wanted a big party to announce it to the world. We laughed but agreed readily. But after the wedding, there was no adoption. I asked and asked and my husband would tell me there was no rush.

Then we got pregnant and I was adamant about completing the adoption before the baby was born because I didn’t want my sweet boy to feel left out. My husband didn’t see the need. Throughout my pregnancy my boy and I grew closer. He was 12 and in junior high by then. I still put him to bed each night, even if I had already gone to bed myself. We talked for hours about what it would be like with a baby in the house and for the last couple months, we sat in the nursery together each reading separately because we deemed it our favorite room. A couple weeks before my little girl was born, he came home from school running up the stairs to find me home from work early and taking a nap. He crawled in bed with me and woke me to make sure I was okay. He asked if I was going to die because sometimes people die when they have babies. The fear on his face brought me to tears. I held him in my arms and assured him that I was healthy and wasn’t going to die. He kept a very close eye on me after that.

After his beautiful sister was born, my marriage began sinking. There had already been some holes but they were multiplying and growing and I couldn’t stop them. I clung to my kids, but put on a brave face for all the world to see. He was old enough to know things weren’t going well and he felt like he was in the middle. We still had our bedtime routine and I was still his first confidant, but he was torn. I’d invite him out with the baby and I, but he’d look to his father only to say he should stay home. All of a sudden the house was divided, girls versus boys.

My husband and I filed for divorce, things got ugly as they usually do, then came the calm before the storm, and BOOM my little boy was gone. I never in a million years imagined that I would not be allowed contact with my son if his father and I got a divorce. He is my son, has been since the minute I met him, and then all of a sudden I’m told I cannot see him anymore. The courts said that I had no rights and the decision was his father’s to make. So out of anger, my husband did the one thing he knew would haunt me forever, he told me he didn’t want me to have any kind of relationship with my son. He used him as bait to get what he wanted out of the divorce and custody of our daughter. I didn’t take the bait and the hurt, sadness, and longing that I felt and still feel to this day, 2 years later, is unmeasurable. There is not a minute that goes by that I don’t think about my sweet boy. I’m sure no one has told him that I fought to be in his life but lost. That I didn’t abandon him, didn’t choose his sister over him, that I love him and still refer to him as my son. People ask me how many kids I have, I always answer two and that my son lives with his father. I don’t tell them that I didn’t have a choice. I have hope that when he’s older, he’ll reach out to me and we can reconnect, but I’m sure it’s a longshot. If I don’t understand how something like this could happen, how could he? Why don’t stepparents have rights? I hope someday they do.