Picking Wishes at Thirty-Nine

Birthday cake at Pambiche

Birthday cake at Pambiche

I closed my eyes to make a wish. The usual wish, the raggedy one I’ve been toting around like a blankie for nearly ten years, showed up right away. And while we are hoping for a sibling for our daughter, I gently nudged that wish aside. Because as much as wishing for a child would be wonderful (and perhaps, in the cost-benefit analysis IS the way one ought to spend one’s birthday wishes), I have a bigger one.

In the dark October air of the sidewalk cafe tables, my dear friend, my wife and my daughter sat around me. In that split second, eyes closed, I couldn’t see them but I could SEE them. Know what I mean? They were suddenly so present. I am the luckiest LUCKIEST woman in the whole world.

So I took a breath, opened my eyes, and blew. The birthday candle flickered and went out as I blinked back tears. I already have so much more than any one woman could wish for.

This morning while I was “mothering” (aka writing this blog post in my head while helping my 15-month-old daughter remove and replace half-chewed crayons from an empty 2-liter bottle of club soda) I heard myself say: we’ll always remember this, right? My daughter looked at me, perhaps for clarification, but probably because I was impeding her progress with the last sticky broken crayon. I angled the bottle, she pushed her crayon in, clapped in triumph and I grabbed her close for the quick squeeze she rarely permits without squirming.

I’ll always always be your mommy, I told her. We’ll never forget when you were little and we had this time together.

So maybe I’m a weepy mess because I just turned 39, or because the process of possibly finding a sibling is just so.dang.hard., or because the autumn sun is lighting up the red-orange dogwood leaves outside my living room window. Who knows? I blubbered and my daughter, ever the empathetic toddler, squirmed away and went in search of a book to read.

Photo by Denise Kappa

Photo by Denise Kappa

Before I became a mom, I used to talk about the gut punch of longing: the way that suddenly talking to my sister on the phone, I’d hear her child cry, and I’d go breathless, stunned by the sudden grip of yearning for motherhood that literally left me momentarily unable to breathe.

On a tour for her book, Lori Holden talked recently about the theoretical child you imagine while waiting to adopt, and how easy it is to focus on YOUR motherhood and not on the mythical child that is, well, mythical. Then the real child comes into your life, and everything shifts and changes. It becomes ALL about the child and very little about you, which is perhaps how it should be all along.

Longing to be a mom was super powerful but pales when set next to the full-body-ache I hold that our real daughter have a healthy, well-loved and full life. Some days, like this morning, I peer into the future and that long and windy road punches me in the gut because I have personally inventoried a few of the ways that life can disappoint, betray and shatter us.

I started this post because I wanted to try to describe the way that wishes change, and how mine is now only for my daughter’s health and blessedness. But now I think I’m really writing to remind myself: whatever I might fear or dream, I will never lose my daughter.

She’s already mine, here in my belly, where the love of her – the real, amazing, unpredictable her – holds my breath captive and my heart full. So maybe rather than wish for anything else, I just wish for this: to be present to this moment, this now, with all that I am.


What do you wish for? When is YOUR birthday? What was turning 39 like for you?

14 thoughts on “Picking Wishes at Thirty-Nine

  1. oh my. I have tears streaming down my face. so beautiful Beth.
    the last two years…birthdays were amazing, special, exciting and hard and emotional. I have heard that there is an inventory of yiur life that goes on around this age…and I think it may be true. I feel I have evaluateda lot of my life and had many changes in the last 2 years….this Dec will be the big 40…wow. I don’t feel 40.
    I have to say I don’t really remeber ‘wishing’ I think because of my past abuse and hurts…that I too often don’t allow myself to wish or dream. I have been learning to dream again through Eli. ok. wait. I just ran up and down the stairs with Eli to vlear his head before a test…and I had a moment of clarity…I think my dreams and wishes sit in the far back of my head and gut….they start to surface and then I think I push them back cuz I don’t want to be hurt, let down or disappointed.

    I do know what you mean about the Gut Punch. I am often so overwhelmed with love, hopes and dreams for him to be happy, blessed and live a wonderful life. I want to spare him pain and suffering from what happens in life sometimes. I know I can’t protect him from all of it. And I know that sometimes these things are part of what defines and refines us. But I pray I steer him in the right direction. That I push him up and build him up along the way and prepare him to stand up proud and strong.

    So if I look back and am honest. I am living a ‘wish’ right now. I get to be home with Eli work PT from home and homeschool Eli. I have a husband who loves the Lord, loves Eli and me. We have food to eat and a place to sleep and build a home together. These things were always my wish. And like you Beth….now I wish them for Eli.

    I love your vulnerability and willingness to share Beth. Lots of love

    • please don’t judge the spelling! I am on my cell and Eli is doing school work:-/
      oh and the tears were in the way:-D

    • Thank you for seeing me in my vulnerability and for sharing your own tender places, my friend.

      I had an ohhhhh moment of recognition reading what you said about not wanting to be hurt, let down or disappointed. YES. That is so much my experience, too. I didn’t connect it with being a survivor, but I think you are right: part of surviving abuse is learning to guard ourselves, to shield our soft spots…not just to avoid pain but to ensure that we can go on, that we won’t suffer irreparable harm. Thank you for the reminder that longing for something and reaching out for it is risky and requires courage.

      I am so glad you are living a wish right now. I feel that way, too.

      Lots of love!!

  2. This. Was. Beautiful.

    Though I’m not yet 39 (will be next August), my wishes have totally changed. My daily wish/prayer/hope is that my daughter will grow up knowing her own voice and respecting it, and that she’ll know that she’s fiercely loved by me and her b-dad as well as by her parents. At the same time, I keep thinking/wondering if I’m really allowed to wish/hope/pray that about my daughter. I call her my daughter and am protective of her being my daughter, but since I’m not the mother in charge of parenting like her adoptive mother is, I sometimes struggle with feeling like I shouldn’t be allowed to feel about her the way I do. It’s weird. Kids change everything, don’t they? 😉

    • Aww Monika! I hear you about not knowing if you’re ‘allowed’ to certain feelings because of adoption. From where I sit, my experience is that knowing that Lisa holds so many hopes and dreams for our daughter makes me full-heart-glad and proud. HOORAY to know that our daughter’s birth mom not only claims her as daughter but has fierce hope for her future. Of course, it makes it easier that Lisa and I want so many of the same things, but I think even the differences are good…that diversity of hopes and dreams just holds more space for our daughter to find her own path. Many blessings to you!

  3. I loved this post. It really got me thinking…

    I wish for my son, who is expected to arrive this week, to get here safely. I wish for the health, happiness and security of my family. I wish for peace on Earth. 😉

    My birthday is in July and I haven’t turned 39 yet. I can’t really imagine what it will be like but I hope I welcome it with open arms. I’ll let you know when I get there.

    • So many blessings on the imminent arrival of your son! Blessings for a safe and healthy delivery and energy and wisdom as you transition to being a two-kid family. Thanks for sharing your wishes!

  4. Such a good post. So important to be present in the now and appreciate how lucky we are. So it was a good reminder for me. (I also want a sibling for Nicky, but I also try and put that desire aside…)

    • Thanks Heather! 🙂 Finding “now” is always such a struggle for me, and such a relief when I remember…

  5. What a spot-on post about luxuriating in what you have and also daring to yearn for more.

    Happy 39th birthday, my friend! May your coming year be fulfilling in every way. <3 <3 <3

  6. Liz! glad i found your blog (we were connected at one point through IAC forum). lovely post. looking forward to reading more. – ellen

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