Christmas 2012, we had a “boring” but blissfully happy nuclear family. I was 35 weeks pregnant with our first child, a daughter named Abigale. The following Christmas was even more fun as we were able to share it with our baby girl. Chris delighted in his daughter; they shared an uncanny bond. It was so precious to watch him help her figure out what to do with a present. (Yes, we want you to tear the paper, bitty baby.) In my mind’s ear I can still hear the sounds of their combined laughs. As a wife and a mother, could there be a sound more beautiful?
I had all these preconceived notions of what my life and my family were going to look like. I married the right guy at 20 after three years of dating. I had done all the "right things" before starting a family—gotten a degree with a sustainable career attached. We both had stable jobs, we lived in a home we were purchasing, we owned our cars (no monthly payments), we had a budget we stuck to, and we had health insurance. I gave birth to Abbi at 26 and we planned to have four or five children in total. We went to church and we tithed. We read the Bible, we prayed, and these things were not out of obligation but out of true devotion to a loving God. I won’t lie to you—I thought things would likely stay intact as they were. It was a false sense of security based on all my careful planning... I was trusting in myself.
Something that never crossed my mind was the idea that my children would not have their dad in their lives.
Yet death is no respecter of persons. Six months after my daughter’s first Christmas, I was discussing tissue donation with the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. I had an OB visit the day before my husband’s visitation and found out that our rainbow baby was another little girl. I chose to name her Aurora, the name Chris and I had picked together "if it was a girl".
“How had we gotten to this place?” I would wonder. Even someone who had carefully, so carefully, plotted out every detail of her life could still end up with fatherless children. That’s the thing, though—we are not in control of many things. We do so much better when we acknowledge that and let go of that which is not in our control…
This year has been a very different year for the girls and me. This year brought change I didn’t believe was possible. On March 1st I began dating a man that was clearly put in our lives for a purpose. Don loves me and I love him. He loves my daughters as his own and I love his daughter as my own. This is the real thing; the forever, sacrificial, commitment, day-in, day-out kind of stuff. This is a relationship where we work through stuff instead of sweeping it under the rug. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Seeing as I’m a solo parent, I don’t have a babysitter at my disposal for date nights all the time. Being a parent himself, (and also being that he genuinely loves my kids) we end up spending a ton of time together as a “family unit”. The girls are crazy about him. They call him anything from “Don” to “Donny-Don-Don” to, on occasion, “Daddy”. I will admit, the first few times they called him “Daddy”, neither one of us quite knew what to do or say. We both remained calm but gently corrected them, thinking they shouldn’t call him that, but only because we aren’t married. As time wore on, though, we both rethought this. We realized that this is not something either one of us was telling them to say. Furthermore he does, in fact, fill the role of a dad in their lives. It’s only natural for them to feel the love and see him “doing the things” and call him that. We decided jointly to just let it be from that point on, and that’s what we’ve done. They mostly refer to him as Don, but every once in a while it’s “Daddy”.
As we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ this year, all of this has had me very focused on the person of Joseph. He raised Jesus from the moment of birth knowing this boy was not his biological child. He loved the mother and he loved the child. He and Mary had other children, but I imagine from the way we see him depicted in scripture, that Jesus was loved no less after the birth of other sons and daughters.
I’m so thankful for the men who step up and love children they did not have to love. I’m thankful for women who do the same. And this year, I’m particularly thankful for Don and the way he loves and cares for all of us.