There it sat on the doorstep, an innocuous, small, brown box holding something so small yet so emotionally heavy.

Inside was a Christmas ornament, an annual tradition that had begun years prior when my husband and I were dating. Each year, I would select a personalized ornament commemorating the year and our lives together to add to our tree.

This particular year was extra special, we were expecting our first child. Even though I wasn’t very far along in the pregnancy we already considered ourselves a family of three.

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The ornament I had selected was perfect, three sparkling red stockings with our names etched on the cuffs lined the banister of a staircase with a decorated Christmas tree tying it all together. I couldn’t wait to hang it on the tree when it arrived. 

Little did I know the weeks between ordering the ornament and it being delivered would change the course of our lives.

During this time we learned the pregnancy was ectopic. Immediately after seeing our little one’s heartbeat for the first time, I was rushed into emergency surgery to save my life and heart-wrenchingly end that of our baby.

It was during my recovery that the package arrived. I opened it with tears in my eyes, showed it to my husband and immediately put it back in the box, hastily tucking it away in a closet. That Christmas was spent in a joyless and cheerless haze.

The next year as we put up our Christmas tree we came upon the ornament and opened the box with waves of sadness pouring over us. It was a reminder that we should have been celebrating the holiday as a family of three rather than two.  

The ornament never made it on the tree. Back in the closet it went. 

Time doesn’t stop, and once again we found the Christmas season upon us. The day after Thanksgiving we lugged out our decorations to trim the tree. My glistening eyes settled on the ornament and then found my husband’s eyes. While tears still came, they didn’t sting quite so much.  

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Rather than the overwhelming sense of grief I had felt in prior years, I instead felt a sense of peace.

For a long time, I was mad at God, not understanding the purpose of such a loss. I couldn’t make sense of God’s plan at the time yet it all came together the way He knew it would. 

Although my baby lived in me for only a short period of time, my life was forever changed.

While we could never again conceive on our own, I knew I was meant to be a mom. With God guiding us my husband and I chose a different path to parenthood, adoption.

That Christmas was the first one we celebrated as a family of three and for the first time, the ornament was placed on the tree rather than put back in its box. The colorful Christmas lights caught the glitter of the stockings making the ornament twinkle. 

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We then placed our current year’s ornament next to it and held up our 6-month-old little boy so he could take in the beauty of the lights and colors. Finally, our family was complete, not in the way we had anticipated years before but in the way God had planned.

As the years have continued to tick by, I am grateful for the ornament as it offers a portal back to that special time in our lives. To a time when my husband and I stood on the precipice of parenthood full of hope, excitement, and love for our little one. A love that continues to live on in our hearts and is celebrated each Christmas with an ornament that still sparkles brightly.

Laura Niebauer Palmer

Laura lives in Austin with her husband and son where she enjoys writing, being involved in her local church and attempting to find the perfect chocolate chip recipe! She has written for Chicken Soup For The Soul, Scary Mommy and The Penny Hoarder along with sharing her adoption story on her blog.