One of my earliest memories is looking up at my mother after she had tucked me in and asking her if she would tell me a different bedtime story. After all, she had been telling me the same story every night for as long I could remember.
It always started with these words: “Once upon a time, there was a mommy and daddy who wanted very much to have a baby of their own.” It wasn’t a fable or a fairy tale but the story of our family and how I came to be a part of it. Because I had heard the story repeated so often, adoption was never a mysterious or uncomfortable topic. I learned from the beginning that I was meant to be with my family—I had just come a different way.
The bedtime story included details of my parents’ life as newlyweds. Doctors had advised them that adoption would be the only way they would have a family. The tale also included their progress through adoption paperwork and interviews and a surprise phone call that came much earlier than they expected. The woman on the line told Mom, “We have a baby girl waiting for you to take home for Christmas.”
At that point, the story always got exciting and included the pandemonium of Dad leaving work and racing to the store to buy diapers, pink clothes, and a 1970s movie camera that would blind our family with its bright light for years to come.
Mom’s story always ended—never without a few tears—with the day she and Dad arrived at the adoption office. A woman brought the “most beautiful baby” they had ever seen, and my parents knew immediately that they would love me forever. All of their once-distant dreams were coming true.
I slept soundly through that first night in my new home. Mom told me she kept checking on me and kissing me throughout the night, just as she continued to do as I grew. Because of this story, I never doubted my beauty inside or out, and I never doubted my parents’ love for me.
Our family moved from that home before my first birthday. Then, some 35 years later, I had the chance to return to that city with my parents. They drove me to the hospital where I was born, to the church on the hill where I was blessed, and to the little brick apartment building where they brought me home to be a part of their family. The details of my bedtime story swirled around me during this visit with all-new realism.
I watched my parents kiss on the sidewalk outside that apartment—just as they had done as newlyweds—with a different kind of appreciation. I imagined them bringing me home with humility and gratitude and a strengthened resolve to be an eternal family. Suddenly their emotion wasn’t something to roll my eyes at, as I had sometimes done growing up. It was something to be cherished and emulated.
My appreciation for lessons taught at bedtime increased as I realized they made the plan of salvation a part of my everyday thoughts. I knew I lived in heaven before I was born. I knew Heavenly Father gave agency to all. I knew redemption was possible for the people whose choices not only affected them but created a child as well. I knew Heavenly Father had a plan for me, and that His plan mercifully provides second chances for everyone involved in an adoption. I feel gratitude to the woman who carried me and made a decision that may have been unpopular with some. I imagine my birth mother as a pillar of strength, and I pray she has been blessed for her sacrifice and hope for the future for all of us.
The story of miracles for our family continued when Mom discovered that she was pregnant with my brother, who came to be my best friend. More siblings arrived, defying the logic of doctors and specialists.
My parents are all I—or birth parents—could have hoped for. They provided the necessities of life as well as family fun. They taught me to work, to learn, and to discover my talents. They taught the gospel through their words and example. I learned to overcome disappointments and obstacles, just as they have done. And most important, they gave me a glimpse of how Heavenly Father loves me as His daughter.
My bedtime story has a happy ending that isn’t really an ending. New chapters have given our extended family more opportunities for adoption and an appreciation of God’s guiding hand during this short tale of mortality.