I was only a few hours old when the biggest decision of my life was made. One that set me up for heartbreak and resilience in ways that no baby should ever have to endure. One that I desperately would’ve chose differently given the chance. And yet, it was just the beginning of my story. I’m not sure if my birth mother made the choice to give me up for adoption before or after the final push that 25th day of April, but this choice was the first of many that would change my life in ways I never would have imagined.
That’s the thing about life - we have all these dreams and plans, and some go the way we want, but most of the time they don’t. I would have never written for my three year old self to be molested behind my own home by the neighbor boy. I would have never written for my eight year old soul to be bullied so badly by the people I grew to call friends. I would have never written for those abusive words to be said day in and day out under that roof for 18 years… words that tore me to shreds and led to lonely nights crying to a God I wasn’t sure I believed in for something to change.
Change. Change I so desperately needed that happened to be rooted in a hope I could not see. But somehow, somewhere, that change lived deep inside of me.
Something had to change. And the way my outside circumstances kept stacking against me, I realized the change needed to happen within.
Like the palm tree, I didn’t need to prepare for the storms that would be coming my way, I needed to simply surrender and move with them because I was made for this. Some palm branches might break off, but my roots would stay put, and my body would dance with the chaos happening around me.
So I began dancing with the storm. When Hurricane Divorce struck at 23 years old, the force was so powerful that I felt like I would snap in two. But somehow, when the sun began to shine again I found myself still standing. I took it upon myself to begin traveling this world and found a home within the Ugandan community who so beautifully welcomed me with open arms. If I knew what I was getting myself into, I most likely would have said no. If I knew a sweet little girl would die in my arms, I often wonder if I would have looked the other way. When I sat there holding her body, sitting at the base of an actual palm tree on Kisinja Road, my heart broke but my soul felt relief for her. She was finally free from pain, and experiencing joy that we all can’t help but look forward to. I knew where she was and I knew she was happy, and for that reason I could find comfort in the fact that her soul was no longer here on earth, but her sweet legacy would live on forever.
Living on forever. It’s the act of moving forward when all we want to do is stay still, curled up forming our own shell of a shield to protect us from this world. But there is something to be said for standing tall and facing whatever comes your way. When we are ready to live our story, we are ready to experience the beauty. Beauty that can sometimes be wrapped in grief, heartbreak, trauma and loss.
I should have ran from Kisinja Road. I should have never walked back into that orphanage’s gate but I did, and those doors are what led me to my now husband. That gate led me to my beautiful, Ugandan daughter who made me a mother through adoption. The same street that I experienced so much heartbreak is the same street that I live on today.
Where death and darkness once lived, light and love have overcome.
Overcome. Pushing through to experience the promised calm after the storm and all the beauty that comes with it. With each decision that comes our way we have the opportunity to bend or break. What has once hurt us can also deliver the most incredible blessings filled with redemption.
Adoption was the first challenge I faced just minutes into my life, and it is what also made me a mother 28 years later.
Divorce rattled everything I knew about love, yet I chose to try again, knowing true love could permeate any scar tissue left behind. Miscarriage was something I had always feared would sneak into my story, and it did. It still hurts like hell, but swaying through this disaster with a glimmer of hope led us to the 15-month-old baby that currently lays by my side. The God I doubted, and at times hated, and somehow believed once hated me, is now my everything who happens to be the author of a story I would never dare write on my own. This is a story of a palm tree named Mary who knows she is strong enough to endure any storm, because she is so deserving of the beautiful rainbow that awaits.
Photos by Summer Staeb