“I wish I had a brother or a sister.”
These are the words my daughter has said time after time throughout her life. To resist this request, to deny her the experience of a sibling, has not been a decision made lightly. It isn’t that I didn’t want more children, I most certainly did. But sometimes we choose the best option, despite our personal wanting.
My daughter, Shekinah, is an angel that came into my life during a very difficult time; I was 19 years old when I found myself pregnant with her. One summer morning, concerned I was late by a week, I took a pregnancy test, and hopped into the shower like any other day. It was like a bomb dropped the moment I stepped out of the shower, looked down at the stick and saw with perfect clarity: I was now a mother. The breath was knocked from my lungs.
I would then decide to marry the father of this child, as it seemed the right thing to do, despite the fact that I did not love him, I would not end up moving in with him, and I would spend the next few decades without him in my life, or in hers.
Our ‘marriage’ lasted eight weeks.
I sat on the front porch of my then husband’s home, talking frankly and openly with his long time girlfriend. She didn’t know he had recently married me, they had been together much longer than I had known him, and my choices were all swirling so rapidly—in a moment of utter clarity, strength I had never called on within me arose and a promise to my daughter rung like a bell into the universe—this would not be the life I would bring her into, this was not a suitable experience for my daughter.
Buoyed with the courage of motherhood, I filed for divorce the very next day. I cried a lot during that time. I was just out of high school, working for near minimum wage, and was living with a friend who wanted me to find my own place once the baby came.
I had no idea where to go, or what to do, but I knew because of the growing child in my womb, everything was going to be okay. I knew beyond doubt that I would provide a life for her where she was loved, respected, cared for and honored. Faith in her brought me peace without bound.
There are novels I could write about what miracles this girl brought about in my life, let alone hers. The greatest of these; her dad. Her biological father disappeared. Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.
My best friend from junior high, the man I first fell in love with when I was 12, the man I dated on and off throughout my teen years, the man I called when I just needed a friend to turn to—started spending time with me. We had lunch together one day just after I filed for divorce, where he asked how I felt about it all, what it was like to be pregnant and what I wanted to do going forward. He listened and held my hand. He was always supportive of me.
Over the next few months, we both acknowledged the love between us had always been there, the circumstances were considered heavily and soon, he invited me to move in with him. He had thought a lot about our relationship, our history together, about what it would be like to build a life together, about what it would mean to be a dad. He declared his love for me, and for my unborn child. He intended to take her as his own, which is exactly what he did.
He saw me through the next two trimesters of my pregnancy.
He went to Lamaze classes and doctor appointments. He constructed the crib for her nursery. He satisfied my strange food cravings. He rubbed my back on the nights I couldn’t sleep beneath the growing size of my belly. He held my belly and talked to his daughter. He did exactly what he set out to do. My heart could barely contain such blessings.
It all seems to miraculous on paper, so lightly considered, so wonderfully laid out. The weight of his choice has not once escaped me, and I wake up in awe and gratitude to this day, that he chose to walk this path with me. We have had our share of challenges, and when it came down to the option of having more children, he made it clear that he wanted to be a father to our daughter Shekinah, but he did not want to have more children. He wanted to be fully available for her.
When asked once, by a well-intentioned family member: “What about having one of your own?”, his response was an immediate and sincere: “I have one of my own. She is everything to me.”
There has never been a time he was not there for her.
He is the epitome of love and fatherhood. He has adopted her, played with her, disciplined her, done homework with her, cried with her, lectured her, has fought with her and for her, has held her, has struggled through teenage years with her. He has given her his attention, affection and heart. He is by far, the greatest dad I could have imagined. He is a miracle in my life to this day. He has shown me, has given her, the experience of a dad I never could have imagined for her.
My urges to have more children would have been a wonderful experience for me and for Shekinah. And I would have had to separate this family to try to find someone else who wished to sire more children. It came down to a choice of breaking apart my miraculous family, just to try to expand it some more…and somehow in the bigger picture of it all, that seemed like the most selfish and cowardly thing I could have done.
So here we are, parents of an intensely beautiful 17 year old angel. Siblings are a delight she will not experience, but she knows, without doubt she is loved, she is chosen, and she is honored.
Sometimes family appears when there is nothing but faith to believe. Sometimes our losses are just seeds of unimaginable blessings yet to blossom. My love for this man is forever entwined in the love for our daughter, and the unity of our family.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: courtesy of author