I cracked a joke, and as I walked from the table, I heard her mutter to her friends, “Good thing I’m adopted!”

I forced myself to continue moving and tried to hide my rapidly blushing cheeks.

I volunteer at my daughter’s school when I can. Today I had library duty, and it’s an assignment I love. I am an avid reader, and I like being surrounded by so many words. I also get to see the kids interact with each other and the librarian. Lastly, it’s an hour commitment so I can be a mom but also still be me.

“Me” is a middle-aged married woman who is quickly realizing that middle age is a state of mind, not a number.

Some days I feel my age, and some days I feel 10 times older. Very rarely do I feel younger.

My husband and I lost our first daughter when she was this close to being born. At 37 weeks and 1 day of pregnancy, I delivered her still after the doctor could not find her heartbeat. I still do not know how we survived that anguish.

RELATED: My Baby Was Stillborn, But Still Born

We tried to get pregnant again, but what came relatively easy (and fun!) the first time around became much more difficult the second time. We tried it all before we asked for help. Then we tried it all with help, and the result was still the same.

No baby.

After rounds of medical treatments, injections, appointments, blood work, and more, we finally decided to adopt. In a way, it was the easiest choice we ever made.

Within a few months, in less time than a pregnancy, we passed all the tests and classes and submitted all the paperwork, and we were chosen to be the parents of a baby girl who was due to be born in less than three weeks.

We dusted off the Pack ‘n Play, checked the car seat’s expiration date, and slowly allowed ourselves to hope again.

Our daughter was born two days early (the last time she was ever early!) and was discharged to our care within a few days. We had to stay at a hotel in the state where she was born until a judge could sign off on temporary custody before she could legally become ours.

We brought her home within the week, and the crowds of people who wanted to meet our rainbow baby (a baby born after a loss that brings hope to those around him or her) never ceased to amaze us.

We have an open adoption, and twice a year, we meet with her birth mother for an afternoon to catch up, share stories, and let them get to know each other.

RELATED: The Kids We Adopted Aren’t the Lucky Ones—We Are

I am my daughter’s mother. I did not carry her in my body, but I carried her in my heart. I loved her before she was born, and when she laughs, I laugh. When she cries, my body aches. She is the sun and the moon and the stars and everything in between.

To hear her make light of her adoption hurt my very soul.

She is not wrong to tell her friends that she is adopted. I wish she had not done it at my expense.

I made a joke that her classmates enjoyed, but she did not. She wanted to assert her independence and grow up faster than time will allow. At almost 10 years of age, she is on track to where she should be.

Tonight, after I pick her up from after-school activities, cook dinner, check her homework, and make her lunch for tomorrow, I must decide if I want to tell her what I heard or if I want to let it go. She did not intend for me to hear the comment, and she did not want to hurt my feelings, that much I know.

I also know that my job as her mom is to keep her safe and protected. That means giving my daughter the space and time she needs to figure out who she is and who she wants to be.

Being adopted makes her special.

Her birth mother knew she could not provide for her child the way she wanted. Enter my husband and me . . . and our daughter makes three. We are so lucky to have found each other—all of us. Our journey may look different than other families, but I think it’s what makes us unique.

It’s probably time for me to work on some new jokes, though. 

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Samantha Koellhoffer

Samantha Koellhoffer is a freelance writer living outside of Philadelphia, PA, with her loving husband and their wise-beyond-her-years daughter. She has a background in Communications and Marketing. She writes to make sense of the world we all live in!

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