Today, Good Friday, marks the seventh anniversary of one of the most significant dates in my life – the adoption of my daughter, Sarah. On Easter Sunday, 2012 I wrote about the resurrection of my family.
Much has changed since the government acknowledged that Sarah is my child – something I knew from the moment we saw each other. My seventeen year marriage ended, I lost significant persons in my life to death — and to the 2016 presidential election, and my career has had many ups and downs. While many of us think of our lives as a path to resurrection, what I have come to understand in being a mother, is that resurrection is not a once and for all thing. Every day, I find salvation in the moments I experience with Sarah. I recognize the ways my loved ones are resurrected in me. And I have found new appreciation for the joys life brings, even when they seem few amongst the ways we experience suffering and loss.
In the years that I have been blogging, this is by far my favorite post and I have been so grateful for the many wonderful responses I have received from it. It seems an appropriate time to revisit this incredible experience and once again, give thanks for the experience of salvation in my life, and proclaim the miracle of my family.
As I had written about in a previous post, my ex-husband and I had a very long struggle with infertility. After nine years, multiple failed rounds of infertility treatments, and much heartache, we decided to look at alternative options to grow our family. Once we had made the decision to adopt, I felt new hope. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and I knew a child would be coming home to us before long. I had a dream that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had come to me and told me that I would be a mother. She promised that a child was waiting that needed and wanted mg love and would arrive soon. I began praying to a shrine of Mary at a local parish near my home; she became my source of strength and solace.
Not long after being approved for the adoption waiting list, I embarked on a trip to Italy with my family to visit my father’s hometown and meet our relatives. It was quite an adventure and during our excursion I stopped in every church I passed to say a prayer to Mary. Half way through the trip I received a call that a child was matched with me. To say I was overjoyed would be a complete understatement. I tried to catch an earlier flight home but was unable. A once in a lifetime trip was suddenly of no interest as I sat around my hotel room looking at baby items, reading parenting info, and preparing for the homecoming of my daughter.
I met my daughter – Baby S – for the first time in January, 2011. She was 20 months old and from the moment I saw her, I knew we were destined to be together. I had been terrified on our way to meet her wondering what she would be like. Would she like me? Love me? Would she accept me as her mother? When I entered her foster home and came around the corner, we locked eyes as she ran toward me giggling; I picked her up and we embraced and I instantly fell in love. She was the child Mary had promised me.
After my daughter had been home for about a month, I was notified that there was a problem with her adoption. A biological relative had hired an attorney and was seeking custody. It was an incredible shock; I was frightened and found that I had no rights in the process because I was considered a foster parent until the adoption was finalized. After three months of having my daughter home a court ruled that she had been placed with me in error. Baby S was taken from my custody and my world crashed around me.
The grief I felt was unbearable and I questioned what kind of God would be so cruel. My family was lost, as was my dream of being a parent. I had given up on motherhood; after losing Baby S I could not imagine bringing another child into my home.
Five months passed when I received the unexpected and unbelievable call from the adoption worker that the relative was no longer able to care for Baby S; she had asked that Baby S be returned to my care. It was a miracle, my daughter was coming home to me.
From the time I received the call until Baby S came home, nearly three weeks had passed. Again, I was worried about seeing her for the first time. How difficult would it be for her to move again? What had her life been like for five months? Would she accept me as her mother? When she finally arrived Baby S walked into our home and into my arms. Our connection had never faded. She was my daughter. Mary had known it, and at that moment, I knew it.
Baby S has been home for a little over six months now. She has changed my life in so many ways and every day I wake up thankful to be her mom. While the grief I had (and Sarah too) endured was unspeakable, the end result was worthy. I have come to know Baby S’s biological family well. They are wonderful people and together we all share a deep love for Baby S and want what is best for her. We will have an open adoption, a true gift in so many ways. Had we not gone through this entire ordeal, we would have never come to know her biological relatives. I believe Baby S’s life will be better for it, as will ours.
I had been unable to share our wonderful news previously because our adoption was pending. However, on Good Friday we entered a courtroom with Baby S and her adoption was finalized. I wept as the judge who had removed Baby S from my custody a year ago stated that it was clear she belonged with me. It was the moment I had been waiting for; although Mary told me Baby S was destined to be my child, although I have known she is my daughter for sometime, the legal system has finally recognized this as well. So here, on this Easter Sunday, I am writing to tell you our family has been resurrected.
Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, activist, and mom. She serves as Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College and is co-founder of . She has written for the Huffington Post and is author or editor of five books including Jesus in the White House: Make Humanity Great Again and Women Religion Revolution. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives of women around the globe. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for peace building and spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Instagram: @GinaMessinaPhD, Facebook, and her website ginamessina.com.