Thursday, December 1, 2011

Two years ago

Two years ago tonight was like any other night for me back then. Painful, and worse yet, uneventful. I was on the verge of losing all hope.

The day before, a Monday, we had been visiting my brother-in-law in New York City. We had spent Thanksgiving with my parents and had stopped to see him for a couple days on our way through.

We headed back to Richmond that cold evening in the dark and our future seemed just as dim. We had been trying to have a baby for more than five years and I was convinced it was never going to happen. We were hoping and praying to adopt, but our agency's waiting list was at a stand still. And with how terribly painful each day had become at that point - each day I wasn't living out my vocation as a mother - telling me that we'd maybe be picked to parent a baby in a year or two might as well have been forever.

Little did we know how drastically our lives would change course early that next morning.

Hours after we returned home (and had eaten take-out Chinese food in which my fortune read "It's always darkest before the dawn"), in the early morning hours of December 1, 2009, a little baby girl was delivered while we slept, many miles away at a hospital in Louisiana. She was a surprise at only 30 weeks into her birthmother's pregnancy and her arrival - which took, by the account in her hospital paperwork, just a few minutes - was as quick as she was small. She weighed in at just three pounds, two ounces.

She would spend the next four weeks, exactly, in the NICU, where, I can imagine, she must have surpassed all expectations. She was released six weeks before her due date (weighing more than her birth weight) and she was breathing and eating and nestling her way into the hearts of the nurses right from the start.

I know this because I have exchanged emails with an angel of a nurse. I won't give her name, but I will say it's a three-letter word that I hoped and prayed for, and what my daughter finally truly brought me. I love her name.

That nurse with the most perfect name - who was hoping and praying to be blessed with a baby herself - saw something in that tiny baby who didn't have anyone keeping vigil at her bedside, what I'm sure was in stark contrast to all other NICU babies that Christmas season. She looked forward to coming to work every day to nurse that sweet baby back to health, even singing to her and giving her a name that only she called her.

If I had to pick someone to take my place before I could be there, I'd want it to be someone who knew that longing that only we know. Someone who had so much love to give. I don't think it was a coincidence.

That December I begged God, like I always did, to grow our family. But this time I sat and prayed every single day in a rocking chair in our office - with its bright red walls defiantly saying "I am not a nursery" - precisely because it would be our nursery. I wanted to maintain some ounce of hope. I wanted to pray my baby into existence in the room that he or she would sleep in.

I had no idea she was already in existence. My prayers had already been answered, I was already a mother, and I believe my constant prayers that Advent were ushered right to her. I couldn't be at her bedside, but the spot where I rocked and prayed every day would eventually become her bedside. I don't believe that was a coincidence either.

We met her when she was five weeks old, weighing just under five pounds. She was a miracle, not only because she was completely and totally healthy despite being born ten weeks early, but because she had somehow, against all odds, found her way to us, a couple in Virginia who had lost almost all hope.

That Tuesday, two years ago today, seemed uneventful to us. As we went about our day, we had no idea that our daughter, the person who would change us forever, was breathing her first breaths.

It turns out that day was the farthest thing from uneventful. It was a life-altering, earth-shattering day, despite what we saw with our own eyes.

It was our sweet Clara Therese's birthday.


It was the day I became a mother, even though I had absolutely no idea. God was working a miracle as I sat and cried to Him. He was bringing into existence a special soul and Our Lady was nursing her to health, with the help of a dear NICU nurse who loved her in my place.


That Advent we watched and waited for Our Lord, and for a family, like we had done five Advents before. And despite the darkness that had set in, out Christmas was right around the corner.

Words can not express how much we love you, Clara, and how much joy you have brought to our lives. Happy two years, baby girl.


33 comments:

  1. That was beautiful! I have tears in my eyes! Happy birthday to your little one!

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  2. My eyes welled with tears as I read this. I am a NICU nurse and have done the same for many of my patients. Thank you for reminding me that I do make a difference. I too am waiting for a child, however s/he comes into the world. Your story gives me such hope. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Lovely! I have tears in my eyes!

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

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  5. tears and chills. Her story is one of the most beautiful I will ever know.

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  6. Absolutely beautiful. A strong reminder that God is working in our lives in ways that we could never imagine. Thank you for sharing this....it gives me so much hope.

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  8. What a beautiful, miraculous story. Happy birthday, Clara!

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  9. So crazy to see itty bitty Clara. When I think of her all I can imagine are her smiles and her big spirit. She was a miracle that was meant to be with you. Happy Birthday Clara!

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  10. This story will never, ever get old. Thanks for sharing and reminding me that God truly has a plan for us all.

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  11. What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful baby girl!!!! Happy birthday Clara!!!

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  12. This is the most beautiful post ever. Hands down. I'm all teary...

    It's also such a beautiful advent post. Waiting, yearning, praying, hoping, all the while not realizing God is weaving a beautiful tapestry out of your pain. Just beautiful.

    I really think you should consider submitting this post to, somewhere! It's perfect.

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  13. So beautiful! You have me crying. I love "your story"! Truly inspiring. I am so happy you are Clara's mama and she is your daughter. A perfect match! With hope comes joy.

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  14. What an absolutely beautiful post! I LOVE this story... Thanks for sharing!

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  15. I'm totally crying! Beautiful post. Happy birthday to Clara and all of you!

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  16. So beautiful. I love your family's story so much.
    Like others, I have tears in my eyes. The story itself is tear-worthy, but of course I am also crying from my own pain at this time... feeling like it was just yesterday that I was reading this story develop, but also feeling like it's been 10 years of my own life passing by since that day... and finally, realizing that I am exactly where you were that December, without the same outcome possible. Of course, I wouldn't want my story to be exactly like yours, or like anyone's. I want God's story for me to be what ultimately happens to me. But, I'm sure you well remember what it felt like to watch others' prayers being answered and wonder why not you...

    Of course I'm probably depressing the heck out of everyone, and I'm a horrible person for writing this here. I've deleted and re-pasted already 3 times ;) But ultimately, this is a community of hope for women desiring to be mothers, so I felt it appropriate to leave my feelings here, too. I hope you don't mind.

    Please also know how much I love watching your children grow, and watching how God has been painting the amazing canvas of your life, a life SO inspirational to me and so many. You are a wonderful woman, and a wonderful friend.

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  17. Thanks, everyone!

    Ania - From a parent who wasn't there to care for my NICU baby, God bless you! It's comforting to think of nurses like you loving on my baby who was otherwise all alone.

    And Second Chances, I think you said it better in your comment than I did in my post! I need to add that! Haha ;)

    TCIE - I totally understand. And I hope you know you can always post your thoughts and feelings here. I do believe a similar (but very unique) story is in the works for you, despite however unlikely it may seem. But the pain and confusion of seeing others' prayers answered is still very fresh in my mind so I understand.

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  18. This is so beautiful. As we're waiting, this gives me hope that somewhere, this is happening for me. Thank you so much for sharing this as it lifts me up. :-)
    Happy Birthday, dear Clara! You inspire a lot of people with your story.

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  19. Tears! So beautiful. Happy birthday Clara!!

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  20. this is THE sweetest blogpost I've ever read... God is so good!

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  21. I've never felt so much emotion reading a blog post or had so many tears as I do now reading this one. I felt so much like you at one point in my life. And sweet Clara in the nicu looking so much like our precious Mary Jacinta breaks my heart thinking of the sweet angel nurse taking care of your sweet baby, what a priceless gift to be able to talk to the nurse who took care of your girl. I can only imagine. We had an angel nurse ourselves who loved our Mary as we do and it meant so much. I am bookmarking this page to revisit it again, what a beautiful story.

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  22. It seems like yesterday!

    I love your story so much and never tire of reading it.

    C.S. Lewis wrote the book "Surprised by Joy" in 1955. It was about his search for happiness, which for many years eluded him.
    Several years after it was published, he would meet and eventually marry a) a loud and brash (!) b) American (!!), c) divorcee (!!!!) named...

    Joy.

    ;)

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  23. What a beautiful and thoughtful reflection! Your blog was the first one I started reading when I began considering adoption. I'm sitting in the same seat now... waiting. But... God's plans for us always surpass those we "plan" for ourselves, don't they?

    Happy Birthday, Clara!!! :)

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  24. Perfect post for her two year birthday!! Happy day sweet girl!

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  25. I have tears reading this. God is so good. You post reminds me that God has such perfect plans for us.

    Happy Birthday Clara! You have given us so much hope.

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  26. Beautiful! Thank you Jesus for Clara!

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  27. I have tears in my eyes! What a beautiful story!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

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  28. I am not sure if I have ever commented on your posts, but I really enjoy reading your blog. It gives me hope, so I have given you the liebster award. Go to my blog for more details.

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  29. Oh, you have me crying, dang you, lol! beautiful post. She is just gorgeous and Happy Birthday to a very special girl!!

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  30. That was beautiful. Happy Birthday Clara!

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  31. Man oh man, I need some kleenex. Such a wonderful post.

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