I walked into your room the other night, well after you had gone to sleep. I could hear your quiet breathing and the whole room smelled like you. There’s something about the way my babies smell that makes me feel peaceful and comforted and deeply at home, and when it dawned on me that it was you who gave me that feeling, my eyes stung with tears because in that moment I knew I really, truly, finally feel like your mama.
Darling, these last 10 months have been a beautiful and hard journey, for both of us. And I know we aren’t at the place in life where I can say it is all downhill from here. (Does anyone ever get to that place in any relationship? I don’t really think so.) I know I’ve written some hard things about my journey to become your mama. And in the last few weeks, I’ve really been wrestling with that and wondering if it is right or wrong. You’re only 2 right now, and I don’t have a crystal ball to know how you will feel when you read my words at 15 or 20 or 43. But what I want you to know is that “the hard” has never been about who you are. You are the perfect daughter for me, just the way you are. You are far more than I could ask or imagine. You make me laugh and you make me want to scream and you make me cry and you make my heart nearly explode with joy – which is exactly what every daughter in the history of the world has done for every mama in the history of the world since time began. I watch you sleep, sometimes, and marvel at the combination of time and fate and circumstance that led to you calling these four walls your home and me your mama. Some of those things were beautiful and extraordinary miracles. Some are tragedies that may never fully be understood. But the fact that I get to call you my daughter is a gift, and I’m thankful good gifts are never based on just deserts, because I know getting to be your mama is far more than I could ever deserve.
But it’s still hard sometimes. For both of us. And one of the reasons I write is because I want that to be OK. I want it to be OK for the mamas and daddies who maybe don’t find vulnerability and transparency quite as easy as I do; the ones hiding in their bathrooms and closets wondering if anyone else feels the way they do. (YES!) I want it to be OK for me to be real and to continually take myself off the scary pedestal society-at-large sometimes puts adoptive parents on when they say things like, “Oh it was so GOOD of you to adopt.” or “I could never do that.” (I’m really no different, and I feel like I need to repeat that over and over to remind the world and the recovering-perfectionist in me that it’s true.)
But more than anything, when you are 15 or 20 or 43, I want it to be OK for you to acknowledge that it’s hard if that’s what you’re feeling. I’ve been around adoption a long time, and I’ve noticed the tendency in some older adoptees to hide their struggles and feelings from their families because they don’t want to hurt the people who love them the most with the perceived insinuation that they weren’t enough. I’m trying to raise you and your sister in a relationship where we can have open and honest communication in hopes that neither of you will ever fear coming to me with whatever you are feeling. And in most areas of child-rearing, I think our kids hear our actions more than they do our words, so if I only talked sunshine and rainbows about our adoption journey, I think it might be harder for you to someday tell me that you are really angry or sad about aspects of it.
The truth of the matter is, I can’t know how you will feel. And maybe someday you will tell me you wish I hadn’t shared our story for others to read. I promise if you ever told me that or if I ever felt in my spirit that you might be feeling that, I wouldn’t write another word.
But here is the lens through which I want you to read everything I’ve ever written or ever will write about our journey together. I love you. I am for you. I have fought hard for you and will continue to fight for you for as long as I breathe.
We have been in a battle, darling, these last 10 months, and there is no shame in that. I’m quite sure the seasons of battle aren’t behind us forever. But the thing about fighting together, side-by-side and hand-in-hand, is that we will come out more strongly connected on the other side. Even when it has felt like we have been fighting against each other, I know in the deepest parts of my heart that it isn’t true. We have been fighting FOR each other, and when I write out the hard and the ugly and the dark and the desperate of this journey, it isn’t because you are hard or ugly or dark or desperate. It is because this world is fallen, and the war-torn damage in each of our lives often looks hard and ugly and dark and desperate. And when you became my daughter 10 months ago, we joined hands and began a battle that may not nearly be over. But we will keep going, hand-in-hand. Because through this journey, God is turning the war-torn brokenness in both of our lives into something beautiful, and I can’t even fathom what the end result might look like. But I trust it will look like healing for both of us as we stand hand-in-hand as children of God – children who may have scars from the battle but who know what wholeness feels like.
I love you fiercely, sweet daughter. And I’m so thankful I get to hold your hand in this journey.
– photo by Tish Goff