Four Years of Firsts

My girl, Happy 4th Birthday to You!  I didn’t know about you the day you were born.  I wasn’t there to welcome you into the world, and to see you take your first breath of Earthly air.  I didn’t greet your sweet face with a gasp of joy.  My arms were not the first ones to hold you.  I didn’t hear your first cry or witness the doctor say how precious you were.  I didn’t feed you your first bottle, change your first diaper, or pick out your first garment.  I didn’t lock you safely in your car seat and drive you home to your first crib.  Our home was not your first one, but our family is yours forever.

1st birthday!

Your first year was so special.  I celebrated your first taste of real food, your first embraces, your first steps, your first words, and, of course, your first birthday.  I cared for your first boo-boos and scared away your first fears.  I bought several pink outfits for the first time.  There were many firsts that you only had with me.  No, I wasn’t there for your first breath of Earthly air, but I was there for your first year.

2nd birthday!

Your second year came so quickly.  I listened as your vocabulary took off and saw how your shy spirit took a backseat to your ever-emerging confident self.  I noticed that your first friend was your brother.  You were not quite two when our adoption was finalized.  I penned your new name for the first time!  I took you on your first “girl’s day” shopping spree, and tucked you into your first big girl bed.  No, I wasn’t there for your first breath of Earthly air, but I was there for your second year.

3rd birthday!

Year three seemed to fly by so fast.  You learned to dress yourself, and I laughed at some of your first outfits you pulled together.  I took you to your first dentist appointment and applauded at how well you brushed your teeth.  You and I squealed with excitement at your first tube ride behind papa’s boat.  I noticed how quickly you learned to spell your name for the first time.  I was amazed at how easily you seemed to pick up on your first numbers and other preschool lessons.  I took you to your first dance recital, and wiped tears away while watching you twirl on the stage.  No, I wasn’t there for your first breath of Earthly air, but I was there for your third year.

Here we are at the start of another year of life together.  How many firsts will we discover this year?  I may not have been there to watch you take your first breath of Earthly air, but I am here now.  We are here now.  I love you so much daughter, and thank the Lord for gracing us with the blessings of you and your four years of firsts.

4th birthday!

Kids

Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music. ~William Stafford

Sunny Days and Ice Cream Cones

Working in child welfare for any amount of time forces the rude awakening of the troubles we have in our society and the daily struggles that too many children have in the United States.  There are children who are fatherless, motherless, or both.  Many are taking care of their baby siblings even though they are babies themselves.  Some can tell you how to prepare a crack pipe because they have witnessed it in their home.  Others do not understand boundaries or safety because they have never been kept safe.  Infants are born with the addictions of their mothers; or at least, the exposure of poor choices made while in the womb.  If you do not believe or understand this, then I encourage you to spend a day with a child abuse and neglect investigator.

It is deeply troubling when I hear people dismiss children as if they carry no purpose.  I have written about this before in my post Where is Your Treasure?

ALL children are vital to this world.  ALL children are precious in the eyes of the Lord.  He loves each one as if he or she is His only child.

They teach us to forgive quickly, to slow down, to laugh, and to dream.  They see things through the lens of innocence.  They have great purpose in this world.  Not to sound cliché, but they are the future and the potential fulfillment of all things good in this world.

When I took this picture of my daughter above at a family get together, I could not help but think about what the life of a child should be made of.  Their lives should be filled with love, silliness, warmth, and parents.  Their lives should be enveloped in family, memories, shelter, encouragement, and safety.  They deserve days filled with the warmth of sunshine, the laughter of playmates, and the sweetness of ice cream cones.

Motherhood Dreams

There she is. The picture above is from my daughter’s first dance recital.  It represents the ending of her introduction to dancing and, hopefully, the beginning of her interest in it.  It also represents something deeply personal for me.  It connects me to the dreams I had before becoming a mother.

As the recital was going on, I frequently looked around the room and noticed how proud the dads were of their little princesses.  I especially noticed the expressions of admiration and complete love the moms had while watching their little loves.  Watching their granddaughter dance brought back memories for my parents as well of when I was a young one twirling around on the stage.  Regardless of what may have occurred during the day, watching innocence on a stage brought us all back to what is truly important in life – children.

Children matter.

My eyes teared up while watching my sweet one dance around the stage.  I once dreamed of moments like this.  Growing up and into adulthood with the thought that I would never be a mother made me wonder about all of the precious little memories I would miss out on.  Things like watching a child walk for the first time, hearing the word “mama”, seeing excitement on Christmas morning, putting artwork on the refrigerator, passing on traditions, and watching recitals or various other activities.  My thoughts and longings were more than about not being able to have a baby.  I grieved over the possibility of not being able to explore talents, interests, and just life in general with a child.

I fretted over what my life would be like without children.  I wanted so much to pass on the good things I have learned in life and to steer a child away from the things that have caused me pain.  I believe that raising up children assures us that perhaps a little bit of us will linger on throughout life even when we have passed on.  If I never was able to do this, then there would not be any reminders of who I am after this life is over.  This is one thing about infertility that I am not sure a lot of people understand.  The simple act of watching a dance recital brought back the flood of emotions regarding my previous childless life.

Infertility is so complex and rears its ugly head from time to time when least expected.  But, in some respect, I am thankful that it catches me off guard.  I do not know if I would be able to run on the mountain tops with the full knowledge of how truly gifted I am to be a mother if I did not have the experience of being barren and walking through the valleys of infertility.

Thank You, Lord, for gifting me with the responsibility, hope, and simple joys of children.  Hold me accountable Father to Your will for my children.  Remind me, oh Lord, of my previous sorrow so that I will never take for granted the delight I now have.  Thank You, Lord, for walking me through the valley of infertility.  I praise You for running me along this mountain top of parenthood and for fulfilling my dreams.

PSALMS 127:3-5

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. 
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

JAMES 1:17

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

MARK 10:14

14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”

Glass door

Growing up I felt there was this glass door between me and the other girls.  I could get right up close to it, but never go through.  My surgery, being barren, not having a period…all of these things separated me from being  just like them.  This is something I kept to myself though.  It was hard enough being an adolescent.  As an adult, it has been hard work to remind myself that while I may be different, I’m still just as much a woman as any other female out there.

I think hysterectomies are difficult for women to undergo.  Mine happened at such a young age that I grew into womanhood already feeling as if I was not wholly female.  Women of any age might not feel completely whole after a hysterectomy.  If the surgery happens at a younger age, then it is more than just losing some organs.  It’s losing the ones that are vital to a women’s experience in this life.

As I have developed through the years, the recognition of the impact on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health became clearer with each milestone or emotional age.  I could tell that infertility was not going to get easier, but harder, much harder.  I stood by and watched my friends’ life cycle continue on.  From the announcements of their pregnancies, to the first baby bumps appearing, the baby showers, flushed cheeks, and swollen feet…  I was on the side-lines watching.  I often heard them talk about their pregnancies and tried to act like I knew what they were talking about.  But the truth is, I did not know and honestly did not care to know.  It would never happen for me.

Infertility creates such a distinct type of isolation.  People just don’t know how to react when one says “I can’t have children”.  Instantly, there is an awkward silence usually followed by some words of wisdom that may or may not be too wise.  It is sadly refreshing sometimes to be around other women who cannot have children.  The conversations tend to be more driven by genuine empathy and understanding for each other.  We don’t have to “be strong” and hide our emotions about it.

There are also those universal themes that tend to come out while discussing infertility with fellow women who are struggling.  First, baby showers are the worst things to attend when you cannot have children.  They can create a raw and digging pain that is usually held in until after the shower is over.  I venture to guess that a lot of infertile women cry themselves home after baby showers.  I know I did before I adopted.  I actually dreaded going to them.  I would “fake” my way through them, drive home as quickly as I could,  and then curl up on my bed in a sobbing mess.  The rest of the day following a baby shower was usually filled with emotions and apathy.

Second, it really hurts when people say to you “if it’s God’s will, then it will happen”.  Most believers agree that things happen in our lives that are within God’s will, but it does not take away the pain.  It may not be within the Lord’s will for any of us to children – biological or adopted.  Unbeknownst to people who say this, an infertile woman might start thinking “if I can’t have children then God must not want me to be a mom”.  This is an awful place to be at.  I’ve been there.  I’ve thought “perhaps God doesn’t think I will be a good mom”, or “God must not want us to be parents”.

Third, pregnancy and birth announcements are wonderful and sweet unless you will never be the one sending them out.  That may sound selfish.  I’m a little embarassed to admit this, but sometimes I would think “why does she get to have another baby when I can’t even have one?”  This does not mean that those of us who cannot have biological children aren’t happy for our family members or friends.  Sometimes, the announcements and the excitement that follows reminds us of what we cannot have.

Growing up, I always felt that maybe I was the only one out there like me.  In some way, this may have been true since I was so young when my hysterectomy happened.  But, now as an adult, I know my experience, though somewhat different, is one that is shared by many.  Being an infertile woman in a world of baby-bearing bliss is difficult.  It can be socially isolating.  It can cause tension between spouses, friends, and family members.  For those of you who may be struggling with handling your journey of infertility or adoption, don’t be too hard on yourself.   Just know that there are others out there on your side of the glass door.