Days like Today

Tonight I had the incredible blessing of watching my 4-year-old daughter perform in a Christmas dance recital.  I helped her get ready by putting on her glittery leotard and pulling her hair back in bun.  I smiled as she gingerly walked onto the big stage, and giggled as she twirled in her fluffy white tutu.  As the evening went on and I watched the children dance, my mind escaped off to that place of sadness for the mom’s and dad’s of the little princes and princess’s who were not tucked into their beds tonight.  The shooting tragedy in Connecticut today has invaded my thoughts, and it was hard to get the families whose lives were abruptly interrupted off of my mind.

Christmas presents will be left unopened, family pictures will not happen, visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house will be filled with tremendous heartache, and parents will forever feel the silent emptiness of loss.  Gingerbread houses will go unmade, Christmas stockings will mournfully hang by chimneys, Santa will not be visited, and the sounds of laughter will not ring out on Christmas morning.  It is absolutely heart-wrenching to think of the precious lives lost today.  These children were just going about their day handing in homework, counting down the days until Santa visits, and telling their teachers their big plans for the weekend when darkness entered their lives.

The sad truth is that violence against children occurs year round and all over this world on a daily basis.  We discard them as if they don’t matter.  We ignore them as if they are not important.  We use and abuse them as if their little hearts and bodies will just “get over it”.  Scripture speaks of children being a reward, and yet, we take our time with them for granted.  I absolutely believe that we will not escape the Lord’s passionate and protective love for His children.

It is days like today that I hugged my Kindergartner and ballerina a little tighter.  It is days like today that I repeated the words “I Love You” to them often.  It is days like today that I am reminded that our children are not ours.  We are gifted with them for a while.  Some stay longer than others, but ultimately, they are the Lord’s children.

It is days like today that I long for His return.

Any questions?

After my son’s adoption in 2008, a neighbor asked me, “Are you concerned that you didn’t connect with him since you did not carry him?”  I was only briefly stunned by her question.  I knew that I needed to think quick and give her an answer.  After all, she asked me in front of a group of neighbors during our block party and I did not want to be standing in the middle of an awkward moment of silence.  I replied, “No, not at all.  Loving him is very natural…as if I gave birth to him.”  All she responded with was “Oh”.

When I told my husband about the conversation, he said, “She didn’t carry or birth her husband.  Does that mean she is not bonded or connected to him?”  (Good point honey, good point)  He has always had a great way of simplifying things.

Her question has stuck in my mind through the years.  I really cannot blame her for her lack of knowledge about adoption.  After all, she had only given birth to children.  She had never experienced the incredible richness of becoming a mom through adoption.  I am still not sure what she meant by the word connect.  Perhaps she meant to say “Are you worried that you have not bonded with him because you did not give birth to him?”.

Looking back on our short conversation, I wished I would have said to her the things that have been revealed since becoming a mother through adoption.  I have realized that my expecting was not in months, but years.  My labor was not in hours, but years as well.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my imagination, my prayers, my hopes, and my dreams.

I carried them in that quiet space where it is just myself and the Lord.

Foster and adoptive families usually get asked all kinds of random and often insensitive questions.  When we were going through the licensing process to become foster parents, someone said to me, “You are not going to take one of those meth babies, are you?”  Was that a question or a directive?  I was not quite sure.  The truth is that many newborns who come into protective services in the state I live in have been exposed to prenatal drug and/or alcohol usage.  To call them “meth babies” though felt very cold and calloused to me.

Here are some more questions that I have been asked:

  • Are your kids “real” siblings?
  • Are you scared that their “real” parents are going to take them back?
  • Are you sure it is okay to tell them that they are adopted?
  • Do you plan on having your “own” child in the future?
  • Do you know their “real” parents?

I answered the first two questions with a “no” and a “yes”.  No, I am not scared their “real” parents are going to take them back….that would be considered kidnapping.  Taking them back is not an option.  Adoption is legally binding and permanent.

Yes, I am absolutely sure it is okay to tell them they are adopted.  It is a travesty for children to not know their history and to be lied to.  It damages every ounce of trust and relationship built through the years.  It also gives glimpses of the thought that adoption is something that should be kept secret, as if it is shameful.

As far as the kids are concerned, they are real siblings.  Trust me, if you spend any amount of time in our home, you will notice that they fight like cats and dogs, yet are inseparable.  There is nothing fake about their relationship as a brother and a sister.

The last two questions can be answered by this fabulous quote I found.

“Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.  Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.  Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else’s child.  Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all your own.”  -Rita Laws, PhD

 Any questions?

Visions of Pregnancy

Before the adoption of my children filled my home and my heart, and before the Lord’s revelation in my life, I used to wonder what I would look like if I were pregnant.  Here is another excerpt from my memoir in a chapter where I talk about the deep longing that existed when walking around with the feeling of emptiness.  I cannot believe I am admitting this, but…deep breath…here it is:

I secretly envied my pregnant friends.  I wanted what they had.  The joy, excitement, and love they shared with their spouses throughout their pregnancies were clearly obvious and I was jealous of it.  It felt really childish for me to think “why can’t I be like that?”  Or, “why does she get to have more children when I cannot even have one?”  It was almost shameful for me to think that way, or at least I felt ashamed of having those thoughts about them.  I love my friends and I love their children and I know it is wrong for us to covet what others have, but I honestly did.

Just once I wanted to know what it would feel like to carry a baby in my body, or hold a baby and believe that he or she was mine.  Every so often, I dreamed about being pregnant.  I do not know what made me feel worse – the dream itself or waking up.  Often, I stuck a ball under my shirt, stood in front of the mirror, and just stared at myself.  I surveyed the shape from every angle.  This was the closest I would ever come to seeing my “pregnant” belly.  I always thought I would have made a cute mom-to-be.

It is a mistake to assume that women who cannot have biological children never wonder what their pregnancies would feel like.  Most of us, although sympathetic to those going through it, would give anything to know what morning sickness was like, or to have the moment when a slight kick is felt from the inside.  We would give nearly anything to have an ultrasound done that reveals the life growing inside of us.

Most of us have dreamed about pregnancy.  Most of us have had visions of ourselves pregnant.  Many of us still do.

I never, ever told anyone close to me that I used to stand in front of the mirror daydreaming of being pregnant.  It was embarrassing and I felt as though I should not have even considered it.  But, why not?  Why not wonder what it would feel like to be pregnant?  This is not wrong, silly, or senseless.  It makes perfect sense to me.

If your path to pregnancy is jagged right now and you find yourself hiding away in front of a mirror staring at your belly, it is okay.  Do not be embarrassed.  Do not feel as though you should not be doing this.  Give yourself a break and daydream all you need to.  I get it, and my guess is that nearly every one else who is struggling with infertility or barrenness gets it to.

May His vision of you fill your life with love, peace, and understanding.

.

Six Years of Happy

Happy Birthday Bubby.  I love you so much more than I will ever find the words to express.  I am incredibly grateful to the Lord for choosing us as your parents.  I know I have said that over and over, but I suspect I will not stop saying it until my life on Earth has ended.  Just thinking about the person you are growing into, all of your strengths and sweet quirks, makes my heart leap with joy.

The night before you came to us, I prayed that the Lord would provide us with the opportunity to parent a baby.  We woke up that morning not knowing that by the end of the day, our lives would be forever changed.  He answered my prayer immediately.  We quickly rushed out the door to head to the hospital after getting a call from the local child protective services saying “can you be there in 30 minutes?”  Your first year was full of hope, tears, joy, fears, and the overall feeling of being a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We were caught between loving you desperately and the commitment we made to help your birth mother get you back.  We were sworn to protecting you; yet, we had to rely on others in your life to make the decisions on what was best.  We were broken down and humbled by the plight of your birth mother while glowing in the enchantment of who you were and by the Lord’s gifting of you.

I was so happy to have him for his first Christmas.

Your second year held the mixed up feelings of grieving for your birth mother and her loss of you while experiencing pure joy at your adoption.  Before your adoption, we did not know how long we would hold you.  We said “love you forever” as often as we could.  On that fateful day in May, we were given the blessing of you being ours forever.  So much was revealed to us during this time of life.  Your curly hair, sweet smile, and boundless energy kept us amused.  People were drawn to you.  Your charm and talkative nature took flight.

The outfit he was adopted in. We “tried it on” just a few days before his adoption to make sure it fit. Of course, he looked perfect in it!
sweet curls for a sweet boy

Year three…well…let’s just say that year three was a wee bit challenging.  Your God-given strong-willed determination was your shining accomplishment!  You  started to see more of the world with curiosity and fierce independence.  Music also became something you were quite fond of.  You welcomed a baby sister!  You announced it.  You told us that you would be getting a baby sister before we even knew.  I can only imagine how your little mind must have been spinning when your baby sister arrived on our doorstep.  You took it in stride.  You noticed your friends’ mommies had babies in their bellies; and yet, you never questioned why your sister was delivered to our door by a nice lady with brown hair.  You just seemed to understand that your mommy does not grow babies in her belly.

Age 3 with sissy
He was so excited to have a baby sister!

Year four was the year of music, Legos, and all things super-hero.  You often dressed up, grabbed whatever sword you could find, hop on your big wheel, and ride through the house in an attempt to beat the bad guys.  Sometimes you even sang songs about being a super-hero.  One of the sweetest things you said to me was “Mommy, you are my super-hero.”  When at home, you seemed to always have a drum stick and your dulcimer in hand.  Your songs were also about rock stars, Jesus, Christmas, God, and of course, mommy.  You performed just about every night for us.  You would jump out of the closet, proclaim yourself as a rock star, spin around, then sing and strum away.  My favorite song went like this:

I’m a little rock star…for Jesus…for Christmas…for God…and my family.

Here he comes! (I promise he has some form of clothing on)

Year five seemed to slip away so fast.  You took your first airplane ride, went to a strange new place called Disney World, rode rides that overwhelmed your senses, and shook with excitement when meeting Buzz Light Year!  Painting became a hobby for you and we discovered your natural ability as a gymnast.  You graduated from preschool, got glasses, spent extra time with your Papa fishing on the lake, and started Kindergarten.  You started referring to yourself as a “school-ager”.

He was so excited to meet Buzz!

Sometimes, I just sit back and watch the videos of you throughout the years.  My eyes well up with tears at just how special you are and also at how swiftly time has gone by.  I wish I could back and push a button to slow down time.  I wish I would have kissed you just a bit more before night-night, or let you sing me one more silly song, or picked you up one more time when you said “holdu holdu“.  You are starting to show your growth in the way you get just ever-so-slightly embarrassed if I try to kiss you around other kids.  But, at the same time, you still reach for my hand and put your head on my lap when it is just the two of us.

God has blessed us so much by choosing us as your parents.  You continue to amaze us, challenge us, stretch us, refine us, and love on us daily.  You, my son, are a precious wonder.  Happy, happy, happy birthday my sweet one…love you forever…

Thank You, Lord, For Giving Us Six Years of Happy

Out of the Mouth of Babes

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

My daughter and I were setting up a room in a local church where I was scheduled to train foster parents on grief and loss.  The room is mostly used for youth so the decorations were different from the usual church auditorium.  Coming out of the stage and across the ceiling was a gigantic sculpted tree that was grey in color.  I could see where a child might find it a little frightening; although, I know that was not the intent of the designer.

My daughter said to me, “I’m scared. That tree is scary.”  I comforted her and told her that there was no need to be afraid as mommy was with her.  Again she said, “Mommy, that tree is scary.”  This time I told her that mommy and God were in the room with her so she did not need to be afraid.  When I told her that God was in the room she said, “No, He isn’t.”  I gently said, “Oh yes He is. God is with you wherever you go so there is no reason to be afraid.”

By now, I could tell she was quite agitated with me for saying that God was in the room. She put her hands out in an exaggerated manner and shook them while she said, “No He is not.”  I asked her “Where is God then?”  She looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes and sweet expression and said “God is in my heart.”

At that moment, the hustle and bustle of trying to get the room set up while tending to a clinging, somewhat argumentative 3 and 1/2-year-old melted away and I was reminded of how pure child-like faith is.

Do I walk around as if God lives in my heart?  Do I remember on a daily basis the implication of accepting Christ in my life?  Do I treat others in a way that truly reflects the love of Christ?  I love that God uses children to declare His truth and to gently humble us in ways that are so unexpected.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  Psalm 8:2 (NIV) 

Love You Bigger Than Outer Space

(Okay, okay….so I know the picture of my children above is not necessarily related to the post, but I just had to include it!  It is one of my favorites…)

Since the time my son was old enough to carry on a conversation, he and I have engaged in an ongoing “debate” over which one of us loves each other more.  The conversation goes something like this:

Me:  “I love you so much.  Do you know how much mommy loves you?”

My son: “How much?”

Me:  “Bigger than our house.”

My son: “Well I love you bigger than our city”

Me:  “I love you bigger than all the oceans”

My son:  “I love you bigger than the whole Earth”

Me:  “I love you bigger than all the planets”

My son:  “I love you bigger than outer space”

He loves this game with me.  The smile on his face reflects the joy he gets when we are talking about how big our love is for each other.  Children just have such a way of truthfully speaking their hearts to us.  Good or bad – if it is on their minds, they will speak it.

My 3-year-old daughter whispers “You are beautiful” in my ear on a pretty regular basis.  I do not know where she got this from, but it so sweet and touching.  These three simple words from her instantly give me a sense of gravity.  It is not so much about whether she truly believes that I am beautiful.  It is more than that.  She seeks out opportunities to tell me her thoughts and to examine my reaction.  It also reminds me of the greater need to let her know just how unique and beautiful she is.

My parenting journey started around six years ago, and even still I am amazed how the Lord has worked everything out for my life.  Adoption has brought so much goodness and love.  Each day brings on new challenges and discoveries.  Every day I am reminded of my Lord’s provision in my life and His answering of my prayers.

The sweetest words I have ever heard are “I love you mommy”.  These words are engraved and resonate in my heart.  Each time I hear them is if it is the first time.  I despaired over these words for so long that I do not take them for granted now.  I never really thought I would ever hear a child say this to me.  I love hearing them profess their feelings towards me.  I don’t expect it, but it sure makes me feel good!

My children may say the words “love you bigger than outer space” or “you are beautiful”, but, the Lord too says these things to me.  In Him, I am beautiful, and so are my children.  It humbles and blesses me to know that God’s love for my His children is far greater and bigger than outer space.

My Inner Momma

“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 113:9

I’ll admit it. I was once scared to be a parent. I believe this fear may have started after my hysterectomy at age eleven. I suppose that a part of me wondered if I would know how to care of babies and little ones since I did not have the capability to carry a baby in my body. That seems sort of ridiculous, but it truly was a concern of mine.

The notion that my natural maternal instincts exited my body when the organs did is something that was never too far from my thoughts. I’m not really sure why and perhaps it was because of my young age, but I just assumed that the female organs went hand in hand with the ability to be a good mother. These thoughts stayed with me throughout my growing years and even right up to the moment when I became responsible for caring for a child.

I was not quite sure if I really knew how to mother a child. Babies always made me a little nervous, and I never really volunteered to babysit or care for children. It could be that most women feel this way before becoming a parent. I don’t know for sure. The sense of my own ability to instinctually be a mommy had been damaged somehow. I believed that I did not have what it took to be a mother and for some reason, I was not meant to be one. I feared that I would have to work harder at it and it would not come as natural.

Reality hit me the moment I became responsible for a life other than my own. My first care of a child came when we accepted temporary guardianship of my nine year old second cousin. Immediately I just knew I was meant to be a parent despite my medical history and the insecurities that followed. Something awoke in me. The inner momma that had been suppressed by life experiences began to speak, and I liked the sound of her voice.

I went from being aloof about trusting my parenting abilities to craving becoming a parent. Parenting became this complex, tiring, and joyful yet completely fulfilling experience. During this time, I started picturing myself as a mom. Growing up, this is something I never was able to do following my hysterectomy. I barely allowed myself to visualize being a mommy. I had moments when I would dream up my fantasy child, but truthfully, I never saw those dreams coming to fruition.

My husband and I knew that if we did not at least try to become parents, we would risk regretting it much later in life. I needed to parent. While raising my cousin, I felt more alive than I ever had before. The experience of caring for him lit the fire in us to become foster and adoptive parents.

Once we started fostering, it seemed that the most natural part of foster parenting our children was actually parenting them. I know that sounds so strange. The legal system does not lend itself to feeling natural. The placement of our kids was not normal in that we went from being childless to instant parents with just a few phone calls. Driving our son to visit his biological parent, handing him over, and then walking away always felt so surreal. Visits by case workers to our home every few weeks to make sure we were safely taking care of the kids felt invasive even though we appreciated them for doing so. Compared to all of the other experiences foster care provided us with, parenting them was definitely more organic.

I never knew really how easy mothering would come for me. My instinct to nurture never really left. It was not damaged from the surgery. It was not taken away with the organs. It just needed time to blossom. The inner momma in me found her voice, grew her wings, and took flight on the most amazing journey available to us on Earth….the blessed journey of selflessly putting ourselves second in order to care for and love on children.

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

It is hard being a kid these days.  Their actions are usually fairly age appropriate, and yet, they are told to work on their “behaviors” on a pretty consistent basis.  I really do not recall as a child being reminded to “make good choices” or being told “you need to work on that behavior”.  I was disciplined and taught the correct way to interact with others, but it was done from the perspective that children will be children.  My actions as a child were not taken so seriously and certainly were not thought to be truly indicative of the adult I would end up becoming.

My son is precious, but boy he is a pistol!  High energy, fearless, creative, smart, and strong-willed are a few of the words that define him.  Let’s just say he has had his fair share of “behavior management” in preschool.  I often wonder how his perception of himself has been shaped by the continual reminders in the preschool setting to make good choices, earn rewards, “stay in the green pocket”, or any other motivational system put into place to keep kids in line.  I’m NOT saying that I disagree with these things as I know they have their place in helping children.  I just feel we expect children to be little adults far too often.  My son told me one time that he gets stressed out about school…seriously.  He’s not even in Kindergarten yet and has already felt stressed by the expectations of the academic setting.

Back in 2010 when he was close to four years old, we were painting together at the table.  He had been having a difficult time socially, didn’t mesh with the teacher, and was actually asked to leave the preschool.  In an effort to comfort him, I said “You know mommy loves you very much.” He said, “I know”.  Then it hit me.  I told my kids all the time how much I loved them, but far too often I failed to tell them why I loved them and what makes them unique.

In that moment, I grabbed the paintbrush, piece of construction paper, and started to paint a flag for him.  When he asked me what it was, I said “It is your flag.”  He giggled as he was not really sure what to make of it.  After I was done, I explained the meaning of it to him.  The blue represented his favorite color.  The middle letter in the flag is the first letter of his first name.  Above his name is a pink stick figure which represented the fact that he is a good big brother to his little sister.  The cross in the corner was because he loves going to church and singing about Jesus.  The orange dog symbolized how much he cares for our pets.  The bike below the dog was there because he loves riding his big wheel and really anything that has wheels.

The music note was for his love of singing and enjoying music.  The happy face was because he makes so many people smile and laugh.  The star represented the fact that he loves outer space.  And, the heart, well, it was not only because of how much he loves his family, but because of how much love he has brought to our home and to our hearts.

After explaining this, my curly, blonde-haired cutie could not stop grinning from ear to ear.  He grabbed it, ran to his daddy, and said “Daddy!  Look at my flag!”.  I know I am not the best artist and the flag is quite elementary, but it did so much in that moment to lift the spirits of my child and show him the reasons why he is loved so much.  Afterward, we went to his bedroom and hung the flag on his bulletin board.

Two years later, the flag is still there.  It still serves as a reminder to him of the unique factors that make him who he is.  I am not a perfect parent and I certainly fall short many times on having the best words at the right moment with my kids.  But, there are those times when the right opportunities come along to make an impression on my kids that will not be about their “behaviors” but, more importantly, about their beings.

That simplistic paper flag that is tacked to my son’s bulletin board holds a deeper meaning than it appears.  It reminds my son of the time his mommy painted his flag.  But, most importantly, it serves as a visual reminder for me to show through my words and my actions that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14

Give You the World

My children, if I could give you the world, I would. I would grab hold of the Earth, squeeze out the sourness, cruelty, hatred and pain, and then wrap it up in a tight bow and hand it to you. I would take an extra measure to carefully hand pick all the beauty and wonder that makes up the land we call home.

I would make sure the leaves of the trees are so fresh and green that you could smell them. The flowers would always be in bloom and the ocean would be filled with lavish fish that reflect the colors of the rainbows. The mountains would stand real high for you and the valleys would invite you to come explore them.

The sands of the desert would spell your names when you walk by. The tall grass of the plains would blow just enough in the wind to make you think they are whispering to you. The snowy and icy parts of this world would be comprised of the perfect snowman-making kind of snow. The jungles would be ripe with magnificent flowers made up of all your favorite colors. The animals would fill your eyes with splendor.

If I could go ahead of you each step of your lives to clear the path, I would. I would make it to where you never had to feel the sting of pain, the loss of love, and the agony of despair. Or if you did, it would only be the kind of pain that stretches and grows you into more whole beings. Your good dreams, the ones that leave you breathless with joy in the morning, would come to life and every spark of imagination would light a fire in you to create, live, and be anything you want to be.

You would find friendships in all places. Kindness would be the only word used to describe your interactions with others. Everyone would greet you with a smile and tell you how much you mean to this world.  Empathy would be common-place and you would always have a shoulder to cry on. You would never struggle with addictions or anything else that diminishes who you really are. Faith, hope, and love would wrap around your bodies, encompass your hearts, and defend your minds.

I suppose I’m just like most mothers. I want to believe that I will always be just one step ahead of you leading and loving you along the way. I hope that the fond smells of home and the love you feel will never be far from you. I pray that visions of you dancing, laughing, and playing will always reflect in my eyes.

My children, if I could give you the world, I would.

Mother’s Resilience

During Mother’s Day weekend, one might expect me to write about my adoption experience and the incredible love I have for my kiddos. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on my own mother. Mom is quiet, doesn’t seek attention; yet, strong. She is stronger than she gives herself credit for being. She is also faithful and fiercely loyal. It was not until I became a momma that I realized her resiliency, courage, and unselfishness.

To say I was blessed growing up is an understatement. My childhood home was often filled with the smell of sugary sweetness from mom’s baked goodies. It was fairly common to have homemade French toast waiting for me when I woke up. I did not just have a mother; she was a “mommy”. Often, she would be waiting after school to walk me home, after having made a sweet surprise that would greet me when I got there. Fresh brownies, hand-made ice cream sandwiches, and sugar cookies drizzled with icing that spelled out my name were all part of the wonderment of my mom’s love through her baking. I would collapse onto the soft couch with a morsel of something delicious, feeling the love and comfort of home. It does a child good to feel as though she is the center of someone’s universe.

My mom, though reserved, was also very much liked by the kids in the neighborhood and dance studio. Girls would stay the night with me and thoroughly enjoy the vast array of mom’s meals and desserts. I just assumed every mother was like my mom. Although on a tight budget, I never went without anything. She often bought second hand clothes for herself, so I would have the best. My hair was always fixed, clothes clean and ironed if needed, and shoes matching… Mom took pride in taking care of my needs.

Life was pretty normal for us until my illness at the age of eleven. Now, I’m not talking just a little sick. I’m talking going from running in the countryside while visiting my uncle at his farm to facing certain death. A week passed by and all my mom or the doctors knew was that I was dying from massive infection. Exploratory surgery had to be completed to try and figure out what in the world was going on with me. They suspected cancer, but were not certain.

During the surgery, mom escaped off to a room and sat by herself for about three to four hours pondering the thought of losing me to cancer. She tried to prepare herself for the grim news. “How can it be?”, mom must have thought. It was so out of the blue. With the exception of the previous surgeries (appendectomy and adhesion’s), I had been healthy, active, adventurous, and full of life. How do parents truly prepare themselves for hearing the worst possible news about their child?

Once the surgery was over, mom was told devastating news. The doctors had to remove my uterus, Fallopian tubes, and right ovary. It was not cancer though. They had not figured out what type of bacteria it was or how I got it, but if left in, I would have died. Not long after she was told, she and my dad went off to a room by themselves and let out a wail. I wonder what this sounded like. It must have been one of those guttural sounds that come from deep pain…not just the ones you can hear, but ones you can feel. Yes, I was alive, but the impact of what had occurred was life-long.

Sometimes I close my eyes and picture mom and dad huddled in a sterile white hospital waiting room. They must have been holding on tightly to each other. I wonder if they were shaking out of anger, fear, or exhaustion…perhaps all of them out the same time. My seemingly normal life had just come to a screeching halt. It would never be the same. But, neither would theirs. Their daughter’s tragedy; their own parenting experience forever indented with sadness.

Three and half weeks passed by while I was in the hospital fighting the infection. Mom was there all of the time. She put on a brave face, smiled at me through her pain, and held my hand during those long days in the hospital. Her daughter went from being vibrant and energetic to lying in the hospital bed with one foot in this world and the other in Heaven. Yet, she never let me see her scared.

Mom was also grieving as she knew what the surgery meant for the rest of my life. It was more than just a brief illness that I would hopefully recover from. She grieved for the fact that something very special was taken away from me. People would try to tell her things or come up with “reasons”, but she was still trying to figure what the purpose of it all was. Yet, she knew it was important for my life to go on and for me have a sense of normalcy. This must have been difficult for her. She carried this burden by herself so that I could get back to being a pre-teen girl. I was not aware of the full gravity of the situation, but she was.

Mom fought to regain life for me. She made sure I went right back to doing the things I loved; dancing, socializing with friends, etc. However, the surgery did not just affect my life. Through my tragedy, she had to bear witness to and experience the impact of infertility. She too had just been dealt a huge blow. She would never have a biological grandchild. This must have saddened her. Yet, there she was strong, silent, and smiling.

Mom might say that I am the one who was the most resilient during that fateful time in my life. I definitely had the fight in me to survive. Yet, she’s the one who had to navigate raising a daughter who was unlike any other girls. She had to walk through life parenting a daughter who would never experience the joy of announcing a pregnancy, the surprise of finding out the gender, and the moment of seeing her child be born. My mom would also never hear the delightful words of “You’re going to be a grandma”. She would never be able to await anxiously to find out the gender. And, she would never have the opportunity to sit in a waiting room for hours before gazing upon her grandchild for the first time.

But, mom is also the one who modeled how to face the darkness with courage, how to look to the future, and how to seize control back from something that was totally out of control. She’s the one who held in her fears so that I would not absorb them. She’s the one who told me “if you want to achieve something, put your heart into it”. She’s the one who went right back to being the mommy who made home made goodies that brought great comfort and sacrificed her wants so that I would have the very best. She’s the one who never allowed herself to be victimized by this; thus, teaching me to not be a victim of my circumstance. And, she’s the one who didn’t run away from her faith in God.

So, mom, thank you for being resilient. Thank you for modeling to me that when life deals you a blow, you just get up, dust off, and walk strong. Thank you for showing and telling me that I was the most important thing in your world. Thank for you giving me security when the floor fell out from under me. I know your grandma experience started out different from others, so thank you for standing by and supporting me while we were foster parents, and for the love you give my children.

See mom? The Lord does work all things for good for those who believe in Him. My story didn’t end with infertility. Oh, it may have altered it. It may have brought doubts, anger, and tears. But, my story is now filled with love, hope, grace, faith, and your sweet grandchildren.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you…Caroline