I don’t think I will ever be the mom who believes God’s original and best plan for my daughter was for her to be in my home.
I realize that’s a controversial statement, and perhaps many of the people reading this will feel something bristle inside of them as they think about their own precious children who came into their families through similar roads. But I can’t believe that a loving God who designed all of creation to be whole and in harmony and in relationship with Him would carefully knit my daughter together in her mother’s womb with the intention that she be wrenched away from the very spot He placed her in the earliest days of her life. That was a tragedy. She was collateral damage in this war-torn and fallen world. I do, however, believe that a loving God redeems and restores all broken things, and I have no doubt that He orchestrated untold miracles to ensure that our paths would cross at just the right time and give me the unspeakable honor and joy of walking out life as her mama. But there is a tension there, and in recent weeks, I’ve come to realize that this tension between His original plan and His redemptive plan has wrongly settled in my heart as often feeling that I’m really not the woman He meant for this job.
She came out of anesthesia kicking and screaming… holding her breath without ever opening her eyes, she stiffened and clawed and then gasped and screamed. Then she’d hold her breath all over again and do the whole cycle once more. She was clearly fighting to wake up. “It’s normal,” the nurse kept saying to me over and over… looking at me with the unblinking calm of a woman who has seen far too many wide-eyed mamas panic as their children writhed and kicked and battled their way back to reality. “Just keep holding her,” she said. “You’re doing great, mama.”
I sat silently, holding her tight through the cries, wondering what I should do next and if I really was doing great. I immediately found myself slipping back into that place of thinking, “She doesn’t want you, Carrie. You aren’t going to be able to comfort her.” My sweet girl and I have had quite a journey this last year, and this feeling isn’t based only on deep theological questions about whether or not I was meant to be her mother. (Though it isn’t helped by those, either.) We have spent most of the last year fighting to come closer to each other; fighting for the type of deep bond I know is possible and that she’s probably never experienced. And so often I let myself wallow in the muck pond of How Far We Have Left To Go, rather than look back down the mountain and celebrate How Far We Have Come. And in my wallowing, I grow despondent and assume I simply don’t measure up for the task at hand.
As these thoughts ran through my head, she was still writhing and crying in my arms, eyes still clenched shut as if she couldn’t get her body to open them even though it was what she wanted most. I’ve had nightmares like that before, where I felt like I was fighting to wake up and unseen forces were holding me back. The nurse was talking to Alea, but Alea seemed very far away. I felt sad and helpless watching her… But all of a sudden it occurred to me to just start talking, too.
“Alea, can you open your eyes for mama? Open your eyes, baby. Mama is here.” I just kept talking, gently pushing her thick black hair out of her face, wondering if she could hear me. And in a moment the screams stopped. She took a deep breath and her eyes cracked open. I kept talking, “Good girl! Hi there! Open your eyes, sweetheart. Do you want to go home and see LeLe and Sissy and Daddy?“ Her eyes opened a little wider and she looked directly at me and nodded.
And I sat there stunned.
It was my voice that helped her find her way out of the darkness. I am her mama and she heard me calling to her and she came back to me. She wants me and she wanted to go home with me. And in that moment, something inside me shifted. Just because I’m unwilling to say that God originally designed for her to be in my family doesn’t mean that this isn’t where she is meant to be now. Just because she grew under another mama’s heart doesn’t mean she doesn’t belong in mine now. And just because the road is hard and I know we still have a long way to go doesn’t mean we are on the wrong path or haven’t made enough progress yet.
I know some adoptive mamas feel like it is hard to “share” their child with the first mom, even if that woman remains a stranger for all of their days. There are adoptive moms who feel threatened and defensive about their place as their child’s mother. I think I understand that a little; I can see how feelings like that might grow when our own fears and inadequacies take root and we begin to wonder, in the deepest parts of our heart, if that sinister and accusatory voice is speaking truth when it says we are the wrong woman for the job. But can we all agree to recognize that voice is not the Father’s? He does not shame, accuse, or condemn us. He does not glory in our shortcomings or laugh at our feelings of inadequacy.
His voice is the one gently calling to us to wake up to the reality of His goodness and mercy. Perhaps we’ve been fighting to open our eyes, but when we are fighting with our strength alone we quickly grow weary and our fears, brokenness and that accusatory voice listing all the ways we don’t measure up conspire to hold us back in the darkness. And so we writhe and we ache and we cry out; we get defensive and angry and scared. But He’s still calling, telling us He will help us find our way out of the darkness. He is our Daddy and when we finally hear Him calling us, our hearts know His voice and we go running, like prodigal daughters who know the safest place we could be is wrapped up in His loving, open arms.
And right now I hear Him calling me out of the place of wondering if I can ever be enough… the place of doubting that I can ever be what she needs since I wasn’t the one He gave her to in the first place. Just like it was my voice that helped guide her back to me, His voice is bringing me closer to His heart. And when I am near His heart, I trust that I’m enough because His mercies are new every morning and He fills me up. When I’m near His heart, I trust that He is the great weaver, picking up the broken strands – the lives disrupted by tragedy and set off course by this fallen world with its dark laws, cultural biases, and family brokenness — and ties them back together. He’s always moving, always weaving, always creating a beautiful tapestry that is stronger for having been made of so many individual parts. And I know in this beautiful work of art, there is room for both me and my daughter’s first mother… room for both our brokenness and our beauty, and the threads of both of our lives come together to make our daughter who she is. Friends, He is calling each of us out of our darkness. If we listen, we will hear him singing a song of redemption and restoration; whispering healing and wholeness over our lives and the lives of our children… He’s calling, and when we open our eyes we see His face of love.
- photo by Tish Goff