To the one who taught me to fight.
“Love isn’t less valuable because it’s fought for. And it isn’t less valuable because it comes easy. Remember that.”-Sweet Words from a Beautiful + Best Friend
I pretty much cried my way through the first nine months of my second daughter’s life.
I’m just going to jump right in and admit that.
I’ve been sitting on her story for almost two years now – longing to tell it, but not knowing how to do it justice; not sure how to invite you into the beautiful glory of something that was simultaneously so painful.
I still don’t know that I can tell you exactly what happened.
Adoptive Postpartum Depression [let’s not argue; it’s real]. A deep, deep love for her birth mom and a deep, deep grief at the thought of her loss [something that nothing but experience could have prepared me for]. A pterodactyl-level loud cry [sorry baby, but it’s true]. Long nights without sleep [don’t take these for granted, single people]. A politically polarized time in history that was invading my classroom and making eighth-graders hateful in ways I never could have imagined [I’ll stop including after thoughts]. Neighbors + friends who were supporting political leaders that demonized individuals who looked like my children. The traumatic diagnosis and loss of my husband’s father. An incredibly hard foster care placement that I thought we could manage and we clearly could not.
These and so many other things – some in my control, and others far beyond.
I only know this – I was a wreck. And wrecked. And wrecking others. And it was nothing that any of us deserved. And it feels weird and shameful and embarrassing to start the story of someone I love so much in this way, but somehow I’m believing it will all make sense one day.
I know that when I first laid eyes on my baby girl, I loved her. I know that my heart grew every inch necessary in the hospital room. I know she became mine in a way words will never be able to describe and I wanted nothing more than to give her the world.
But something was different, and I wasn’t ready for it.
On the morning we met our first daughter, Diamond, I knew instantly that she was ours and we were hers. [You can read her story here.] I have since chosen words from Iain Thomas’s book to describe the moment: “Then my soul saw you and said, Oh there you are. I’ve been waiting for you.”
In the days, weeks, months, years to follow, I’ve never doubted. Not once. It wasn’t flawless, but it was natural, “normal”, easy.
In the end, this isn’t about her; it will never be about a competition between my two girls. But Diamond’s story set the precedent that defined my expectations, and I had no idea how different the experiences with my two daughters could be.
And still . . . here comes my Millie girl, even as I write this. Bounding around the corner with fast feet and fire in her heart, an energy like fireworks constantly exploding, coming in at full force – just like she has been every day since she was born.
Her name, Ameliana Amadi, means striving defender; one who rejoices in hope and freedom; a redemptive work of the Lord; a pillar of stone and strength. It was the name both her daddy + I AND her birth mom chose – separately, to find out one morning at Denny’s that we had dreamt up the same name. [I should tell you more about that kiss from Jesus another time.]
She is our second daughter, adopted domestically, and deeply longed for before she ever took a breath on this side of heaven.
She is a radiant live-wire. A passionate and feisty fireball. Extreme in every way.
We knew she would be, even before she was born. It was prophesied over her, and her first mama said she could feel it in her guts as baby was constantly ramming around.
Our girl loves to laugh and seriously has the biggest smile of anyone I’ve ever met. She is something fierce and wonderful. But my heart ached for months at an inability to connect with her. And the shame that spiraled from that was just as fierce as she was.
“I wanted you. No one has ever wanted something as much as your father and I wanted you, darling. You’re about as far from an accident as anyone can get.” [Fredrik Backman]
I copied that quote onto the tear-soaked pages of my journal in April 2018 – four months after Millie was born. And it was true. Really, really true. I wanted her more than life itself.
Yet, I went to bed every night, broken. Pleading with the Lord for breakthrough. Weeping with Him for His blood to cover the words that fell from my mouth that I never meant to say. Asking for new mercies to meet me in the morning and the strength to love my girl like she deserved to be loved.
And I’d wake up every morning, weary. Already defeated. Cloaked in the shame of things I’d said in the night, my husband’s correction, and the lies of the enemy.
I hurt in a way I’ve never hurt before, and I yelled at the Lord more times than I can recount, “Where are you?! Why aren’t you showing up? Why aren’t you breaking through? Why aren’t you changing me when I long so deeply to be changed?”
He felt distant, and the doubt settled into my skin.
“Though they were all equipped warriors, each with weapons, when the battle began they retreated and ran away in fear. They forgot the promises of God.” (Psalm 78:9-10)
This seems to be more about me than it is about her, but I suppose that’s the inevitable truth, isn’t it? Our stories become one with another. I hope you keep reading.
Because even when the Father felt far, I know it was the Spirit’s whispers that kept me moving. One of those whispers came in this sign, appearing over and over again in my Facebook and Instagram feed. “I choose you. And I’ll choose you over and over and over. Without pause., without a doubt, in a heartbeat. I’ll keep choosing you. “
It became my anthem. Words whispered to myself every morning, afternoon and night.
I don’t yet know the warrior our Millie will be, but I do know she will be one; and I know she taught me [is teaching me] to be one, too. Teaching me to be fierce. Teaching me to fight.
As I anchored into that choosing, the Spirit began to speak another truth yet to unfold into my heart. While Diamond will need to know she was loved immediately, Millie will need to know that she was fought for; there’s purpose in this. I don’t know why I feel so hesitant to share those words with you [except that the enemy’s shame became so heavy for so long], because I believe with all of my heart that they’re true.
I don’t believe the Lord forced grief upon us. I don’t believe He made her a “difficult baby” to teach us a lesson. I don’t believe He made me say the words I wish I never said. I don’t believe He made my heart to ache in brokenness and shame.
But I do believe He redeems all things. I do believe He uses what the enemy intends for evil for His good. I do believe He’s faultless and without surprise at our shortcomings. And I do believe that He loves my baby a million-bazillion times more than I ever could.
So if His heart for her is good [and His heart for me is good] and if He chose me to be her mom and her to be my girl, then there must be purpose in what seems to be so painful. There must be purpose in choosing us for each other.
The words of my friend began to echo again. “Love isn’t less valuable because it’s fought for. And it isn’t less valuable because it comes easy. Remember that.”
I remember. I will choose. And I will fight. Because I need her as much as she needs me.
I’m reading back over all of that now, and I’m learning things even as I write it.
“Being fought for” is one of the things I’ve needed more throughout my life than anything else. There’s some kind of joy in this, that again I cannot explain, that I get to give my daughter what I’ve always needed myself. That I get to be for my girl what I’ve longed somebody would have been for me.
My healing is not her responsibility; the weight of it is not on her shoulders. But He’s writing my redemption through her. I’m lucky I get to love her.
And also, there has never been a moment that Amelia hasn’t been fiercely loved.
Yes, even in my wrestling and our hardest of days, she was loved by me [and her dad and our families]; but I’m talking before us, beyond us. Because the mama who chose life for her and grew her in her belly loved her [loves her] with the strongest of love I couldn’t make you comprehend even if I tried.
It was a love that chose. A love that moved boldly. A love that sacrificed. A love that is strong. A love that is binding. A love that has stayed invested. A love that will always be hers. [This is another story for another time – the one of an incredible woman I get to share my daughter and motherhood with. And one day, I will tell it. But not today.]
There is so much more between THEN and NOW, and so much more I could say about her story [our story], but instead I’ll end with this.
Because of her, I know what another layer of love looks like. Because of her, my heart is capable of loving in ways I never imagined it could be. Because of her, I know that grief and celebration coexist. Because of her, I know that my feet can be set to dancing, even as I weep. Because of her, I better understand the beauty and the brokenness in adoption. Because of her, I know that something doesn’t have to be “normal” to be beautiful.
Because of her, I am greeted every morning with the absolute greatest smile. Because of her, I laugh more than I ever thought I would. Because of her, we have more dance parties in the living room and games of tag in the backyard. Because of her, I see the protective and adoring heart of her big sister shine. Because of her, I see a life inside of me that I forgot was there. Because of her, I see others released into worship in way they might not otherwise have been.
Our Amelia – our fierce and fearless trumpet girl, our live wire and firecracker, our one with the leaping feet like a mountain goat and the twirling body of dancer upon injustice – she has always been loved.
And for every day forward, she will always be fought for.
Because she is worth it. A million times over – she is worth it.
He is the Author and Finisher of her story, and I can’t wait to see what He writes.