I’m Their Second Mother

She birthed my daughter in the dirt. There was no room at the inn for this young mama who fought to keep the baby she feared she shouldn’t. Why bring a child into the world who might inherit the same disease that would take her out of it?

Her body stretched and contracted on Africa’s floor to give way to the little heart that would one day be mine to steward. She held the cord that connected her to her baby in her hands for an hour on the side of a dirt road while someone searched and found one who could cut that once-lifeline in a way that would ensure that her disease wouldn’t pass on to this child.

The babe who kicked playfully against her insides and partook of what little nourishment she had would one day wear clothes I’d picked out for her and call me “Mommy.” The cord would be cut, again — with an ocean now between them.

I’m my daughter’s second mother.

I always will be.Baby-Feet-MJ


“I think about her all the time,” another one of my daughters told me in a vulnerable moment.

I watch her hide behind her eyes and get lost in a storyline that doesn’t include me and I know she’s fashioning a childhood she can’t remember and one of which I don’t have pictures or stories.

“What did she look like, Mommy?” she asked me on another day. The question behind her question was what will I look like, one day? For my three daughters and one of my sons, imagination fills that gap between who I am and who is the woman who formed their birth marks.Mandies.UgandaPhotos-1

Early into our marriage we had dinner with friends — the first we’d known personally who had both biological children and children they’d adopted. Our friend said this: “Adoption emphasizes the understood, but often not lived, reality of all parenting: these children are ours to steward.”

I didn’t know I would one day live this.

I scratch their backs at night and tickle them, silly. I lay out their clothes on Sunday and clip their fingernails and brush their teeth. I tell them stories and teach them to read and sing to them when their little hearts struggle. I spend my mornings in prayer for them and they fill the space of our just-before-bed conversations. But sometimes they fall asleep dreaming of another mommy.

So I share them.

I share them with women whose secret moments of love, whose hidden outpourings of sacrifice, will never be “liked” or tagged or even remembered, by anyone on this side of heaven. I share them with women whose bodies formed and sustained my children and whose ears heard that groggy infant-cry that broke the air outside the womb.

In truth, I want to be the only one whose hair wisps form my children’s perspective on aging beauty and who gets to behold their every developmental mile-marker. I want to be their only life witness. When the lights are out, I wrestle with this sharing.DSC_0475

But He shared them with me, first and — as is and will be with all of my children — they are only mine to steward. To hold, not to cling. He is their first life-witness. He beholds their every moment. He made them to fall asleep dreaming of Him and one day He might call them far away from where I live, or from what I might think they should do with their lives, or to someone I wouldn’t have pictured them to marry.

To catch and release.

Adoption makes more prominent His reality of parenting.

They are His. And He shares them with usDaddy


Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

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  1. says

    Oh Sara. I knew even before I starting reading that this was going to be beautiful…
    And that the tears would surface.

    And it’s so true…that adoption has taught me much about His love (for them and also for me).
    So thankful you have joined the writing team here…
    And I’ve always loved the title of your blog. It’s so true that God can bring sweetness out of our sorrow…
    Love, K

  2. Tricia Goyer says

    Thank you for sharing, Sara. This is beautiful. We have 3 biological children, 1 adopted with an open adoption, and 2 from the foster case system. I feel the same about the last two we adopted–sharing them with a mother they’ll never know–and so thankful for their lives.

  3. Jos @ Joyful{in}Chaos says

    Oh wow. As an adopted child who is adopting (and has adopted), I understand both folds of this. And my heart connected with this post in a way I can not explain. Thank you for tears of relief, release of emotions I didn’t realize I was holding back….Thank you so much…

  4. says

    This is beautiful. I am the biological mom of two grown children, but still, this article hit home. Our kids are God’s first and are here for us to steward. What a blessing that is. One of my kids is far away from us (emotionally and physically), but I am trusting her Abba Father to watch over her. He loved her even before she grew inside of me. Thank you for writing this…I have also forwarded it to my niece who is in the middle of the adoption process. I know she will be blessed by your words.

  5. pam viviers says

    Hello all I just want to say that I am a adopted child and they are wonderful parents to me I have seen my really parents and tried it out to live with them in their different homes and did not like it at all. I am now married and have a son and I am pregnant with my second child. I would like to one day also be able to adopt a child and be the best mom I can to all my children I am a person that loves children. And this story really touched me.

  6. Sara says

    I agree with Lona, as a step mom I related to this completely. Such a beautiful depiction of second mommy love.


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