The child of our hearts

Jenna and Eric’s story

By Jenna C. Hoff

As my husband, Eric, and I sat alone, waiting in a social worker’s office in a town that was not our own, we clasped hands and prayed, knowing that in just a few minutes our lives as we knew them would forever and drastically change. A flood of emotions – excitement, trepidation and hope to name just a few – swept over us as we waited for the social worker to walk through the door with our new daughter, nine-year-old Samantha.

It had been a year since we had started our process to adopt an older child – a year of ups and downs, of joy and heartbreak – but finally, finally, finally we were about to meet the child we had longed for, prayed for and dreamed of for such a very long time.

Later, we were to find out that Samantha herself felt the same way. With a young child’s faith (and an unawareness of the terribly small percentage of older children in the foster care system who will ever be adopted), Samantha herself had prayed and asked God for a new mom and dad who would love her, cherish her and welcome her as their own daughter. Although she had lived through more pain and trauma in her nearly ten short years than most people ever will in an entire lifetime, she never lost hope that one day her life would be better.

At long last the door to the office opened, and Eric and I met our daughter for the first time. My initial impression of Samantha was that she was so beautiful, so perfect. I fell instantly, utterly, in love with this tiny little girl with a gigantic, impish smile. Most of all, an overwhelming sense of peace and joy filled the room.

In the months prior to the adoption I had struggled with great fear, laying awake many a night wondering what on earth we were doing. Were Eric and I up to the task of becoming first-time parents to an older child who (through no fault of her own) bore the scars and pain that come from a life filled with difficult circumstances? Was this really what God had called us to do?

However, within those first few seconds of meeting Samantha, my fears were put to rest. A miracle transpired, and in that moment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the child God had planned from the very beginning to be our own. Seconds before, Eric and I had been a young married couple, but God had suddenly transformed us into a family of three.

A year has now passed since we met our precious daughter, and what a year it has been. We have made so many special memories together: planting an “adoption tree” on our front lawn last spring; going on many playground, picnic and museum adventures; celebrating Samantha’s tenth birthday five days after she came home; and experiencing the blessing of watching our daughter blossom in the love she has received not only from Eric and myself, but also from our large extended families who have welcomed her into their hearts.

That is not to say that this year has been an easy one. In some ways, it has been the most challenging year of my life. All three of us have had to do a lot of learning, growing and changing as we have adjusted to our new life together. Samantha has some immense struggles, and there have been many difficult and painful days. Nonetheless, I can honestly say that I would not have traded the last twelve months for anything.

This past year has taught me many things, but most of all it has taught me about love. I've fallen head over heels in love with this little brown-eyed girl who was not born to me, but who is the “child of my heart.” Becoming Samantha's mother has taught me a new, less self-seeking kind of love that I did not even know existed. It's also given me a glimpse into the heart of God the Great Father. Here I am, just an ordinary old human mama who loves her daughter so much. How much more must our Perfect Father love us, His children whom He created?

Samantha is truly the “child of our hearts,” and every day for the rest of our lives we will thank God for bringing us together and making us a forever family.

Jenna C. Hoff is a former pediatric physical therapist turned freelance writer. She and her husband Eric adopted their beautiful daughter Samantha, now eleven, in 2010.