I wrapped a gift for you today. We took your big brother and big sister to
pick it out. I slid it under my bed for the future.
Today is your first birthday (or what we currently have as your birthday but
that’s another story). There are no candles to blow out and no cake for you to
eat. The birthday banner is still tucked in its drawer.
You aren’t here. Not yet.
I sure wish you were.
Today, I am mourning. And today, I am celebrating (at least I’m trying to).
I am mourning this birthday without you -- your very first one. I am mourning that there will be no first birthday pictures, no off-key birthday song, and no rocking you to sleep tonight while I think about the past year. I am mourning that you are in a transition home and that I don't know if there is any celebration for you today.
I am celebrating for the promise of future birthdays when you will be here to blow out candles and open gifts and to run around laughing and celebrating with your siblings. I don’t take the gift of hope for a future lightly; there are mommies and daddies who don’t have it.
I am mourning all that I have missed already, all the big milestones and all the simple ordinary moments that will have made you into the one-year-old we will bring home. I am sad because I will be able to tell your big brother and sister about the first time they laughed and rolled over, but I won’t be able to tell you about when you did those things.
I am celebrating the moments I won’t miss and the memories we will make together and the years to come: holidays, first bicycle rides, late-night conversations, proms, laughter, tears, pillow fights, and college applications.
I am mourning all that you have lost and all the hardships that you have come through in the short little span of your life. I am mourning because our gain came from someone else’s loss, and that we live in a world where such things as poverty and hunger and grief exist.
I am celebrating that God in His wisdom can make something beautiful out of tragedy and that through it I will get to be your mother, I will be the one you call Mom and the one who gets to kiss your boo-boos and argue with you over eating vegetables and tuck you in at night and wipe your tears when you are sad and laugh with you when you are happy.
I am mourning for you the loss of your background and the knowledge of where you came from -- the loss of living in the country where you were born and having the same color skin as your family, the loss of knowing how to fill out the form at the doctor’s office that asks for your family medical history, the loss of your culture, the loss of hearing about how you have your grandma’s eyes and your dad’s chin, and the story about the moment your mom first felt you kicking in her belly. The loss of knowing your biological family in an intimate way.
I am celebrating the future Aida I will know and celebrating because while your past is a part of you, it is not all of you. Celebrating that we get to walk beside you when you grieve all that you lost and that we will be here to help you sort through all the little pieces that remain and try to make sense of it all. I am celebrating because you may not look like the father you are gaining but you might share his laugh or pick up his mannerisms. You will get to wrestle with him and hear his prayers for you and sit in his lap and one day know how much he longed for his second daughter to come home. And I am celebrating because you will gain an amazing brother and an amazing sister who pray for you every day, talk about you all the time, and keep your photo by their bed. Get ready, sweetie, I’m not sure they will be able to contain their excitement when you finally come home.
I am mourning for all the other orphans you leave behind: for the ones who will not have a home and family and who will spend their days in an orphanage or in foster care and will spend their adult years trying not to become what the statistics say they will.
I am celebrating that you will have a home and a family and you will not live in poverty or in a transition home or an orphanage all of your childhood; I am celebrating that you are one less orphan out of the 5 million reported orphans in your country.
I am mourning because I know that our first interaction will not be of you running to me and hugging me and thanking me for coming to get you, but it will involve distress in your eyes and fear in your heart because we will smell weird and talk weird and look weird and threaten the only world you know. And I mourn because I know the moment we’ve been working for and wanting so badly -- getting to take you home -- will be one of the most difficult moments, because our baby won’t want to come home with us.
I am celebrating because we will work through it and it will be hard and challenging and exhausting but worth it. Oh, so worth it.
I am mourning because this year I didn’t hang an ornament on our tree that said “baby’s first Christmas,” and because this year I opened your gifts, and you spent Christmas day in a transition home millions of miles away from us.
I am celebrating because next year we will know what size you wear and what toy might make you laugh, and we will add your stocking to the others, and you will actually be in your chair at our table as we walk through advent each day and we will rejoice together over what the season celebrates.
I am mourning because just a few weeks ago, I read about your favorite foods and the number of your teeth on a form.
I am celebrating that soon I will know what to cook you for dinner and that I’ll be able to count your teeth for myself.
I am mourning because there are lots of people where you come from who have never heard the Good News and will never find freedom and peace and joy in knowing Him.
I am celebrating because we get to share the gospel with you, we get to tell you about Jesus and whisper His promises in your ear and pray for His name to be written across your heart.
I am crying for you today my darling: tears of sorrow and tears of joy. And I remind myself, “Weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning.”
Someday someone might try to tell you that you are “lucky” that we rescued you and changed your life. But I hope you know the truth we already know … HE rescued us, HE pulled us up out of the pits and adopted us. And we are just two flawed people clumsily trying to live out the grace we have been given, doing what parents do and loving our child, our daughter, our gift. We are “lucky”. We are changed already … because of you.
Happy birthday, my sweet Aida. I am praying you home.