Last night I was sitting on the living room floor in a sprawl of children gathered around John for story time. Since the littlest kids were happily sitting on either side of Dad, I pulled one of my 9 year old sons onto my lap for a cuddle. He doesn’t ask for it these days, but he doesn’t yet resist either, so I try to sneak cuddles in now and then when I can.

My 12 year old daughter who arrived from Ethiopia 6 months ago was apparently feeling in need of some mom-contact too, and came to lay her head on the bit of lap that wasn’t occupied by the 9 year old. I reached out to stroke her head, playing with the ringlets of hair just in front of her ears that always escape the braids, no matter how tightly I try to braid.

My heart was full of thoughts of her first mom. Though my daughter is doing really well here, she still misses her Ethiopian mom who is in Heaven. As I admired her precious face, and stroked the hair just as her first mother probably did thousands of times, I wished that somehow this child would see me not as a replacement or competition or as some poor substitute (all feelings I’ve had myself) but as a connection between her mom in heaven and herself. That somehow she would feel the love of her first mom coming through my fingers.

I don’t wish for my dear girl to forget her first mom. I hope she doesn’t fear that by fully embracing me she will lose something of her first mom. But I do wish that somehow by God’s grace she could feel a continuity. A love that exists as strongly on this side of the globe as it did in the country of her birth. I am privileged to carry on the job that her first mom began.

Our relationship is still very new, and I understand the moments when the everyday me is compared to the most shining memories of her first mother and I don’t look so good in comparison. This bonding thing takes time. But I pray that someday she will think of ‘mother’ and see two faces, both looking at her in love. And I pray that each touch from me will make her smile and remember not just my love, but the love we both have for her.


  1. This is just beautiful.

  2. I have the same prayers for my boys from Africa. I love how you phrased that— “two faces, both looking at her in love.”

    Me too sweet friend, me too.

    Thanks for writing a post that so deeply touched my heart today.

  3. With tears glistening I applaud you, dear Mary. May it be so. May it certainly be so . . . in His timing. Precious post. Thank you so much.

  4. Wow, Mary. I have a lump in my throat.

  5. i hope so too. i’m sure that she’ll continue to love you and your relationship will grow. 🙂 you’re a good mom, she’s lucky to have you.

  6. Beautiful.

  7. You express your thoughts so beautifully, thank you.

  8. Wow. So sweet. I think about my girl’s Ethiopian mommy too.

    Hey, drop by for a look at our new son who is finally ours.

  9. Me too, Mary.

  10. I am so glad her memories of her first mom are so sweet. And how precious for her that her second mom has such wisdom and concern.

  11. Very touching…..was just talking to a friend today about making memorable moments with our kids. How do we want to be remembered as moms? Glad for your reminder too.

  12. Lovely, Mary. Many of those same things I wish and think for my daughter (Step, but mine, full time since she was 6, and with her dad before that.)

  13. Beautifully said, Mary.

  14. Beautiful post.
    How old was she when her first mother passed away?

  15. You always seem to put my thoughts that I can not make sense of into words. I am also in tears and so touched. I am thankful your family has you and you have them. What a special place! Thank you for helping me put my finger on it once again.

  16. Mary, that is a BEAUTIFUL image of your baby’s mom’s love reaching from heaven down through you. Just beautiful, gosh I hope she reads that someday.

  17. apparently this is a mom-only post.

    i wont complain, i’ve seen way too little in life to really appreciate in its entirety what you have written.

    yet, the comments layed out hither made me sit up and think about my mom. and about the selflessness she displays. and about the offhand approach i inadvertently met out to her.

    made me miss her. thanx!

  18. Aw, Mary, you make me cry! (in a good way) [:-)
    Love, Rachel

  19. This post makes me think of a section in the book I just finished, The Shack, where “Papa” is explaining how She loves all her children equally, but in different ways. She says she is “especially fond of” each one and explained how love comes in so many different forms. Because the love we have for one person is different from the love we have for another does not make either expression better or worse. I think you explained this idea wonderfully here in this post. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Bring On Summer says:

    Have you ever thought of having specialist counselling for your daughter, to help give her the skills to understand that loving you isn’t turning her back on her first family? I work with children in very similar situations and the ones who get specialist support, get a much better understanding and are able to more forward without as much pain (on the whole). I know language might be an issue right now, but there are some wonderful counsellors (specializing in adoption, I would personally recommend) and even many from Africa.
    Truthfully, with older adoptees, adoptees grieving the death of their families, I really feel it is often overlooked, yet necessary. To admit to your new mom all that you feel is very scary and daunting – fear of rejection, abandonment, hurt, etc, so it’s more impartial. A good counsellor/therapist will also liaise with the parents so they gain a window into their childrens feelings and emotions and explore added things that can be done at home to heal.
    I think it is wonderful how much you obviously value your children’s first family.
    Best wishes

  21. Absolutely beautiful, Mary. I pray all those precious wishes are fulfilled…I know they are at the center of God’s heart too, so I feel sure they will be.

  22. Mary,

    This is so beautifully written.

    It makes me think of the child that we are hoping to adopt and mother that has been in her life thus far. I also pray a continuity of love shared for this little girl.

    I pray that your daughter will see the depth of your love for her while still remembering the love that was given her before you.

    Thank you so much for writing this post–

  23. tears are streaming….what a georgeous picture…and beautifully written as always. xoxo