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The Unexpected Importance of a Stuffed Penguin: A Letter to My Soon-To-Be Adopted Daughter

I will never forget the first time that I met you. It was Christmas Eve morning. You were a tiny 3-month-old baby, all chubby cheeks, propped up on a couch with no idea of how drastically and tragically your life had just changed. My first instinct was to swoop you up into my arms and hug you tight, but I didn’t want to scare you. So instead, I gave you a tiny stuffed penguin to play with. That penguin still sits on the bookshelf in your bedroom.

At the time, I had no idea that today I would be anxiously waiting to complete the adoption process to legally call you my daughter.

Our relationship did not happen overnight. It was slow, each decision deliberate and full of meaning. I knew that I had to earn my way into your life. I had to earn your trust and show you that my arms were a safe place to be. And I can’t lie — it was really hard sometimes. Your daddy was your whole world for a long time and I was a complete stranger. But over time, as the tubbies and play times accumulated, you decided to let me into your world. You made room for me and it made me happier than I could ever possibly explain.

You were too young then to remember those days now. As far as you can recall, I am just Mommy. Such a small word with such a huge meaning. It took me a long time to feel worthy of that title. There was a time when I wasn’t sure if I would ever be a mom. I just didn’t know if I had what it took or if I would be good at it. I didn’t feel like I had enough confidence to lead someone else through this crazy world when I could barely get through it myself. Now I know that I can. And I thank you for making me realize how much strength I have. I thank you for loving me every day, despite my flaws.

family, adoption, Sarasota

Courtesy of Photos by Rob Futrell

Loving you was not a choice. It just happened. I never questioned it. 

Our time together is full to the brim with memories, yet it has gone by in the blink of an eye. Life before you seems unfathomable to me now. We don’t share the same blood, but we do share a bond that is deeper than DNA. Every memory is etched in my mind and my heart. Your joy is my joy. Your pain is my pain. Your life is my life…and I can’t imagine my life without you in it. 

Some people say that I was your “angel,” but the truth is that you were mine. You have taught me to love and accept myself in a way that I never thought would be possible. You have saved me in ways that I never thought would be possible. I understand now what it means to truly be selfless. To live life with someone else at the forefront of your mind. It’s a huge responsibility but it’s one that I will gladly take on in exchange for being a part of your life.

I am completely humbled to have the opportunity to be your mom.

It is the greatest honor that I will ever have. And I am fully aware that I have this sacred opportunity because someone else no longer does. I am so grateful to her for bringing you into this world. Although I never met her, I think of her every time something special happens to you…your first time riding a bike, swimming without your floaties, losing your first tooth. And I hope that one day, when you know about her, that you also think of her on the special days in your life. Because just like your dad has room in his heart for both of us, I know that you will too.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly deeply seeing you.

-from The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto by Brene Brown

I can promise you that I will not always be a perfect mom. I will mess up sometimes. I will say the wrong thing. I will get overwhelmed. But I can also promise you that I will always love you. I will always be your champion. I will always be your safe place. 

I am so incredibly grateful that you came into my life. And I am so happy that we still have that penguin. Sometimes you grab him off your bookshelf and play with him, having no idea how much that crocheted ball of stuffing means to me. He was the beginning of our love story. Someday I will tell you all about it…

family, adoption, Sarasota

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