A Chinese Government Office, a Resounding “Yes,” and the Moment my Daughter Became Mine

It’s one of the “Top 10” things ever spoken to me. “You’re a father.”  There is no class, no degree, no “carry this egg around for 2 days and you’ll know what it’s like” experiment that can prepare you for it.

It’s so crazy!

The weight that you feel when you first see that beautiful boy or girl is intense. To know that he or she is depending on you can buckle a man’s knees. But the love that accompanies the weight and responsibility is what will lift a young man to rise to the occasion.

I stood there with my wife as my first baby girl, Shelby, entered the world. Near the moment when she took her first breath, my wife yelled to me and the doctor that she was not having any more children.  

I froze. My coaching ceased. I was devastated.  

But then the doctor looked at me with utter shock and said, “In all my years of delivering babies, I’ve never heard that one before.” My devastation quickly turned into desperation. My dreams of many children around a Christmas tree opening presents began to crumble in those seconds.

“You’ve never heard that in all your years of dealing with this?” I asked in utter horror. To which he replied, “Just kidding! I hear it every day, many times a day!”

Not a good joke, but I was back to coaching my wife and watching the miracle of my child coming into the world. This time with a renewed sense of hope that this would happen again someday. And it did.  Two more times. First Gracie, and then Jackson. We arrived at the hospital as 2 all three times. And we left as 3. Each time my heart and capacity to love got bigger.

And then there was Emme.

We traveled halfway around the world to adopt her. I’ve never experienced anything like I did when I first laid eyes on her as she was carried around the corner. In China, a woman I never knew handed me a child who would steal my heart. But it didn’t happen in that moment.

Little Emme weighed 11 pounds as a 1 year old. When I saw her the first time, I was afraid she would die before I could get her home. She could not crawl or sit up on her own. She had never eaten solid food. She had no muscle tone in any part of her thin body. Her little tongue was hanging out of her mouth.

The following day, I held her in a dingy government office where they made us swear by Chinese law that we would never leave her, never hurt her, and that we would raise her as our own. My wife emphatically answered every question with a resounding “YES!” as I sat there, just holding her, hoping she would simply survive. And as the last “YES” came out of my wife’s mouth, God made Emme my girl.

I cannot explain it. There are no words to describe what happened in that moment.  All I know is that I loved her at that moment in the exact way I loved my others, and I would fight for her, protect her, love her, give to her as if I had stood next to my wife as she delivered her, just as she had done that first and fateful day I became a father.

I’ve never been the same since that first day of fatherhood. Fatherhood is not for the faint of heart. The highs are high, and the lows are low. Joy and heartache come with the territory.  And I would never go back.

Tell us what fatherhood means to you!