Not long after my daughter was born, I watched her sleep in her bassinet. She was so perfect and amazing and I was in awe that she was mine. But huge feelings of guilt kept washing over me, and even though I tried to dismiss them, they surfaced nearly every day and almost always brought me to tears. “I am so sorry Charlotte”, I whispered as she lay peacefully in a deep slumber. “I failed you,” I said as the tears ran down my cheeks.
The failure that I was speaking of had to do with her father. I knew that he would never be able to give her what I wanted her to have. He wouldn’t be the dad who snuggled his newborn when she awoke at night, he wouldn’t be there to celebrate the milestones and he wouldn’t be there to watch her grow. He was missing everything and he was doing it by choice.
All of my life I knew I wanted to be a mom. I had always loved children and it seemed as though they always loved me back. I always imagined having a big happy family, with a mom and dad and a bunch of kids. The kind of family that I was raised in. The kind of family that you would see in parks and at the beach. The kind of family I could not give my daughter.
Months passed and the guilt was always present. It was especially present during public outings when I would see other families. It hurt in the most profound way. I wasn’t just sad for me, I was sad for my baby. How could someone not want her? She had the most beautiful eyes and perfect little smile. I just didn’t understand. He was missing everything and as time wore on, I began to wonder how I would ever explain it all to my sweet little girl.
One day we were out in a department store. I was browsing through baby clothes and my daughter was curled up in her infant carrier inside the shopping cart. She would occasionally peer up at me and give me a dynamite smile and a light coo. I would coo back at her and it made her laugh. We did this for several minutes when suddenly I noticed out of the corner of my eye someone was watching me. I looked up and saw a mom with her own baby in tow. She smiled and said hello and asked how old Charlotte was. “Six months”, I said proudly, as I peered into the cart at my little darling. “My baby is the same age” she exclaimed, pointing at her little boy. Another small child wandered into the aisle and she said “and she’s mine too!” She was a sweet little girl with blonde curly hair and a pink coat. “I’m 4” she said, holding up 4 fingers. I made a big fuss over each child and she did the same with Charlotte.
A moment later, another woman came down the aisle. “Hi Mom,” she called. Her mom had another little girl in tow. This child looked like the middle child between the older girl and the baby boy. I smiled and said “Is she yours too?” But before she could answer, her mother said “No, this is her niece and my granddaughter.” I opened my mouth to comment on how beautiful she was but then the grandmother said “We just got custody of her.” I wasn’t sure what to say and there was a pause, but then the grandmother continued “Her father is my son. He and his wife have been battling drug addiction for years. They tried to get their act together when they had their daughter but it didn’t last. She came into our custody a few months ago and only weighed eighteen pounds. And she’s two years old. The neglect was unbelievable. We hope she is young enough to forget it and not remember them. They don’t know how to take care of her.” I looked at the little girl in disbelief. She looked like a very healthy and happy two year old, and I made sure to tell them that. They smiled at me and made one last fuss over Charlotte and then they were on their way.
It took me a moment to gather my thoughts. The sadness I had felt for that little girl was crushing my soul. She might not ever know her mother or father and she might grow up hearing that they did not have the ability to properly care for her. I looked down at my baby and felt tears in my eyes. But this time the tears were not tears of guilt. This time my tears were tears of love. I loved my baby girl so much and could not imagine ever doing anything to compromise her health or happiness. And that’s when it clicked for me. My daughter had everything she needed. A mother who loved her and who would make sure she was taken care of. A mother who would always be by her side to cheer her on and watch her grow. A mother who would love her baby and always put her needs first. A mother who might not have been able to give her the perfect family, but nonetheless, a mother who would make our little family experience love each and every day, and that in itself is perfection.
Those two women changed my perspective that day. They helped me let go of guilt and embrace motherhood to its fullest. They made me realize that my daughter was luckier than a lot of other children and that families come in all shapes and sizes. There are all kinds of different families in this world, but as long as we love each other and our children, then it doesn’t really matter how we are made up. My daughter brings so much joy to my life and makes me a better person. I thank God for her every day. She is my perfect little miracle.