My little girl turns three on Saturday. We're not big birthday party throwers, or celebrators for that matter, but this birthday feels like kind of a big deal because it'll be the first birthday where she's actually aware she's having a birthday. In fact, she's VERY aware of that fact and has been talking about it for days now.
Birthdays can be an interesting thing when you have an adopted child. I have no memories of the day she was born. I can't tell her stories of what it was like to carry her in my tummy, what it was like when we went to the hospital, what she looked like as a baby. I can never give her that and that makes me sad. It breaks my heart.
Some of you have an idea what it's like to love a child who didn't come from your own body. Some of you understand the strange, unnatural position a woman is put in when she is a child's mother...but then again she's not. And how loving this child is the same as loving your biological children, except kind of different. Some of you understand.
For those of you who don't, I won't try to explain except to say I have no regrets and my daughter has taught me something very important. She has taught me love really must come from God, because it is bigger than people, bigger than time, bigger than distance, bigger than me. Only God could be big enough and strong enough and loving enough to invent something as hard as adoption, and make no mistake, He was the first to do it. He adopted us wretched, reckless creatures as His children long before we ever thought to do the same.
My love for my daughter is the same as my love for my biological children in that it is real and beautiful and deep, but different in that it brings into clear focus the truth that love is a choice. A choice to love someone and keep loving them until you no longer have that choice because they have become a part of you, even if they weren't born that way.
Our daughter's been with us a little over a year and a half now and I'm only beginning to realize how deep my fears are that no matter how often and consistently and tangibly I choose her, she won't have to choose me. My boys, well, too bad for them but they don't have a choice. Sure, they can reject me and run as far from me as possible, but they'll carry a piece of me wherever they go. The only thing my daughter would have to take with her would be that deliberate choosing of her that I perform every day, day after day. Choosing to love her, to claim her.
So I will keep doing it and doing it and hope she will choose me too, someday when she understands the truth and is able to make her own decisions. But my love for her does not hinge on whether she does or doesn't make that choice, because I already have. And that's real love, isn't it?
This may all sound a bit strange to some of you. There's nothing I can do about that. But as my daughter's third birthday draws near, I think of her beautiful skin and unruly hair, her deep dimples and contagious giggle, and I know what love is. And it's not feelings, or circumstances, or chance.
It's a choice.